Finding Happiness


Musings / Sunday, June 24th, 2018

One of my good friends in the US sent me a mail last evening that began like this:

“M—-s back is feeling better, but she is Goin g to have surgery on it in a few weeks, we were rear ended and our car was totalled, the guy didn’t have insurance, our insurance paid us less to settle the issue then they said they would, trying to dispute that now. Even the mommy duck that was sitting on her eggs in the front yard gave up and left.”

And in the end (I am leaving out the entire mail):

“Thanks for listening to all that. I hope all is well for you. Please tell me something happy. I could use some happy news right now.”

I sent a rather glib mail in response. Yesterday was a day of not being able to eat, I had had a throbbing headache, and all I wanted was to send T, my friend who wrote to me, some good vibes quickly before I went to sleep. I could feel his anguish all the way from Lake Michigan where he lives. And life eh? When things go wrong, they seem to go all wrong. “Even the mommy duck that was sitting on her eggs in the front yard gave up and left.” The ‘even’ in that line made my heart break. T, here is my happy story. My story of “happiness” from yesterday. May it soothe the duck’s feathers and your own. 🙂

Surrendering to the tragic realities of life

Yesterday, T, I came home to a family that was saddened. My father’s cousin’s daughter was shot dead by her husband of 24 years. The news was all over on the media, especially since the husband had tried to kill the children as well, and my Dad had just come back from his cousin’s house. He was visibly shaken. “Give your Dad extra hugs,” N had sternly messaged me in the morning. We are not big on hugs, my Dad and I. But I sat in his room and listened to the sorry story of a marriage formed on love and broken up by despair. I felt sadder when I learnt that the daughter had been telling him that she had wanted to visit my apartment once she knew it was close to one of her husband’s resorts. Bear with me, T. I know that this may not be the happy news you want to hear. “Do you remember her?” my sister asked. I didn’t. But I remember her father. I remembered how he used to come to our home and he would always wonder at the number of books I read. I can’t imagine his pain now.

After we spoke, I came over to my room and tried to read. A little while later, my Dad gets me two papads (You all know how much I love papads. Yes. I am still a fitness freak), and one guava cut up into pieces, laced with chilly powder on a plate and hands it to me. That act of love – that one utter act of care from a man who must be grieving inside – made me crumple with happiness.

Sometimes, you can find happiness even in the darkest of times, if only we do remember to turn on the light, as JK Rowling wrote once.

Sharing quiet moments

Much of our happiness, we think, comes from something external. We are told it is internal. I agree. Happiness is not a state of unruffled calm where everything goes our way. I think happiness is finding calm even when things don’t go our way. And even more, joy is when we don’t commit to any way – when we liberate ourselves from wanting life to be one way or another.

And sometimes, happiness is a quiet whisper. It had been a while since I had been home in the afternoon on a weekend. Afternoons are when my sister and I sit together and read. She with her thrillers, and me with the books that she says she will never understand. The kids outside screech raucously. We grumble at them. But usually, we just read together. That’s what we did. We just read.

Walking in the rain

Bangalore’s delicious weather was beckoning me. I thought of going for a run but my business phone’s network was not working. Frustrating? Yes. But the journey to rectify it was beautiful. My friend and I took a walk. It was cloudy and overcast and a few minutes later, it started to rain. I love the feel of rain. I rarely take cover when it rains. But with two phones in my pocket, I had to. We stood under shop awnings, watching the rain turn roads into rivers, and talking about deep meaningful things in life like the percentage of effort required to beat my pace in running 5k given the stride length of a 6 feet man. Deep.

Conversations out of the rain

“Did you eat?” my Mom asked when I got back. I shake my head. Today is not a good eating day. I wonder if I have jinxed myself. Why was this wretched nausea back on the same day I thought I was in a good eating phase. But then. “Did you take your shots?” pings my Skype, the only instant messaging app I use and specifically for two friends. Idiot, I think! Of course! I had forgotten to take my injections for two months now. Forgotten to take that antibiotic course for two months. No wonder. How did this person remember to check after me when she has been running around to a police station the whole day? I wonder. I feel utterly blessed that I have this friend in my life. Precious would be an understatement to describe her. Happiness? Right there. When you feel grateful.

I end my day with a call to a friend in The Netherlands, discussing randomly deep things like soccer, conversations with strangers, and the difficulty in making friends in Europe.

My head is still pounding. I struggle to sleep.

Yes, I was stressed, tired, unable to eat, my phone didn’t work, and I had a migraine. But there were also chocolates of delight next to the irritants. As I lay my head down, I am surprised at the bouquet of blessings I received through the day. I was surprised at my own response to a mail I never thought to receive. I was surprised at the trickle of joy that threads through our lives when we pause to take note.

I send all that joy to you as well T. Like clouds floating down from the sky. Like whispers that serenade a bit of magic into your Sunday. Like magic crystals of sunlight that reflect the waters on your beautiful lake.

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