The Pursuit of Happiness

Musings / Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

That was a lovely Will Smith movie. The Pursuit of Happyness. I watched it some three years ago, and it still stays in my scrambled eggs kind of memory. I am reminded of it as I write this post – it was a touching movie about the triumph of the human spirit. The other day I was driving with a very good friend of mine as the passenger. As I navigated Jayanagar’s wide avenues, I asked my friend a question : Are you happy? He paused for a while. I turned right, down a narrower road with Ganesha idols lined up on the side. “It depends on what you call happiness,” he answered. I shook my head, swerving past a buxom lady’s swinging arms on the narrow roads. “It’s a simple question. Are you happy? Yes or No only,” I said. My friend looked ahead, I glanced at him. He has what many would consider a perfect, happy life. Great job. Boss of his own work. Enough money. Well traveled. Kid and wife to add to the family picture. Good enough friends. What can he possibly lack? He must be happy, surely! “No,” he answered as I waited at the signal, ignoring the unnecessary honking of a billion horny people. “No?” I asked again, rather surprised. “Well, yes. Considering where I would have liked to be at this stage in my life, in terms of some dreams I had, some goals, some plans, no. I am not happy.”

Then he changed tack. “You are happy, right? Everyone envies you.” I almost crashed into the nearest scooter. “Me?” I asked in disbelief. “Yes. You are independent, traveled so much, a career you have made on your own, no obligations, the freedom to just be. Why wouldn’t you be happy?” I laughed. I didn’t know I could be the object of anyone’s envy, really. I thought most people would only pity me. “Oh poor thing you know! Spinster!” (They do use that word in India!). “No child, no marriage, nothing.” Tut tut. But yet, here I am supposedly envied by a lot of my friend’s friends.

And to think about it – we all think we can be happy once that happens. Once this falls into place. Once I do this. Once I become that. If life is such a long process of doing and being, I think happiness gets very tired, and wanders into the distance. And then, that’s when we go around pursuing it, forgetting that happiness is too fleet-footed. Too proud an emotion to keep waiting while we wander around doing other things in life. Happiness is kind of like me. Impatient. Restless. Wanting to be owned. Cocky in its knowledge that it is the best emotion in life, and cheeky with that arrogance. Happiness is too complicated to grasp, because it is so simple to have. And really, why should that be so difficult. But it is. I know. Let me try not run behind happiness. Although I think I have become better at running!

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