There is so much wisdom in every person you meet. You can’t live every life style, but you can learn so much from meeting and talking to people who’ve lived a different life than you. A 19 year old Indian medical student, an old married couple who lives three flights above you, a religious guru who you also call ‘Mata Ji’ (mom) – all of these people at different stages in their lives have some completely different insights about what happiness in life is. But there is one uniting factor among them – their attachment to their home.
Every Indian that I ask says that their country is not a happy country. They point out the gap between the rich and the poor, they point out the corruption and the instances of poverty. But interestingly enough, they all say they wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. India is home. Home is what makes Indians happy. With their big joint families and their festivals and family celebrations, home is where Indians hearts are. India is where Indian hearts are.
I asked some people in my community a few questions about happiness. Their answers shed a light into what makes India, a unanimously unhappy country, the happiest place to be.
Do you think that India is a generally happy country?
The whole of India? No. There is such a divide between the haves and have nots here. There is corruption and much of the poor are deprived of their basic needs – how can you be happy without your basic needs? But, it’s all relative. It depends who you ask. A happy person might say yes, India is a happy country. But to me, no. India is not a happy country.
India is not a happy country. We are contented, but over tolerant. We tolerate a lot of nonsense in this country. But the country is not happy.
No. But it’s different for everyone. I don’t think most people are happy here though.
Do you think you would be happier if you moved somewhere else?
No. Home is home you know? Home is where the heart is.
No. This is the place I am meant to be.
No. India is my home.
What do you think are the main ingredients for happiness?
There are no ingredients to happiness, happiness is within you, it’s in your mind. If I was younger I might say happiness is a boyfriend, marriage, clothes and things. But I guess as you get older you realize that is not happiness. It’s all about optimism and positivity.
To be happy I need to make others happy. I need to have peace of mind. I don’t want to have to look over my shoulder – not so much striving and protecting, just being calm.
What takes away happiness?
You know that saying “They know how to kill my happiness” – I hear youngsters say this but at our age, nothing disturbs us. If you’re not happy just change your surroundings. If I’m unhappy I take a trip outside with my friends and everything is fine.
Being lonely is what makes people unhappy. You don’t have to be literally alone, but if there are people around you who don’t love you and whom you don’t love, then you can’t be happy.
What country do you think is the happiest on Earth? What is it about this country that makes it happy?
I don’t think that any country is happy. There is this word that we have in the Geeta, ‘bakaleya’ and it means store house of miseries. Krishna calls the modern world ‘bakaleya’. This new material world that we have isn’t designed for happiness. If someone is happy, it’s flickering. It’s gone the second that they want something else, it’s all about the material things and that does not bring real happiness.
Is happiness in New York the same as happiness in Tokyo? All cultures value happiness, but not to the same degree. What is Indian happiness? Do you identify with that value?
Indian happiness today.. I guess it’s security, it’s materialistic wealth. Isn’t everybody on the quest for money? You can’t live on spirituality all the time.
Indians love humanity. We are a very humane people. We don’t like to disappoint or annoy people. We are a peace-loving people, very sensitive and touchy. We find happiness in each other.
Indian happiness is family. We love our families. I would never leave my family. I have to see my mom every night before I go to sleep, that’s just how it is. I want to move to the UK in the future, but if I move, I won’t just up and leave. I’ll take my mom with me. That’s what every Indian does. Every Indian that moves to the U.S. for work either figures out a way to bring their entire family over later, or they come back to India after a few years. We are nothing without our families.
Do you think that money has a large impact on happiness? Can money buy happiness?
Absolutely. Money can buy happiness. Not always, but as a rule, money can buy happiness – there are exceptions though.
It can’t buy happiness, but it has a large impact. It can give a lot of comforts in life. In India, the material wants are so many so I think money could bring happiness to many people here.
Are you 100% happy with your life?
Yes. I mean, life is not all hunky dory all the time, but life means ups and downs, that’s what life is. I am happy though.
Nothing is 100%. I’m not happy with the way………. Well, I’m happy with myself. I just flow with the eb of time. I try to find my happiness in whatever I do. Happiness is not external.
What are the things standing between you and complete happiness?
Maybe a lack of energy, I am not as healthy as I used to be. There’s less family life now that our kids have grown up and started their own families. We miss them.
I guess it’s the desire to always want more. Even when I get what I wanted, there’s something else that I’m wanting next.
Is it possible to be happy enough or to reach your happiness climax? How do you know when that is?
There’s no limit to happiness. You can be happy with the smallest of incidences, yet the biggest incidences may not make you happy at all. It’s a state of mind.
Happiness is within ourselves. Once you find that inner happiness, you can be happy wherever you are.
I’ve always struggled with being ‘happy’. I move every couple of years and I have a pattern of happiness that I usually follow.
It goes like this: I decide that I am unhappy where I am. I get excited to be moving somewhere new. Once I move to the new place, I don’t like it there either. I think of my old home and miss it terribly, even though I ‘hated’ it while I was there. I think ‘I would be so much happier back there or somewhere else’. Then I move again, and miss the place I just left. It’s a cycle. I think the problem is that I never really understand that happiness is a choice. Like my host mother said, happiness is not external. Once you find inner happiness, you can be happy wherever you are. Then, you can find home wherever you are.
That is the Geography of Home. Indians have got this one figured out. Home is the people around you, home is where you feel connected to your community and to the spirit of where you live. India is home for me now. Home for me is what I tell my rickshaw drivers everyday “Lulla Nagar, Kondwa Chowk”. Home isn’t just a place on a map, it’s where your heart is.