In India people have different standards for being happy than we do

happiness in india and the WestHappiness is what makes the world go ‘round. It is the biggest desire of everyone. Being happy is fundamentally everyone’s goal in life, the only issue is how to become happy. It is what people want and is universal. Or is it? During my travels in India I felt a peculiar thought creeping up my spine: how and why is it that not everyone is running around on a pursuit of happiness, like I’m used to at home?

Happiness is a very abstract word and means a lot and at the same time nothing. What is happiness? Nobody seems to be able to tell you. Whether it is a state of mind, a feeling, or something else. But it is clear that it is a goal, something we can achieve, and there seem to be a couple of requirements for reaching happiness. For a deeper discussion about what happiness is, see the philosophy section on my blog. Now I want to focus on how the way we all seem to pursue happiness is different from that in India. For it seems that the way we know the word ‘happiness’ generally doesn’t seem to exist in India.

In the Western society we have an idea of what will bring us happiness, and generally this is a comfortable and spacious place to live, possessing a number of objects which mostly include electronics, such as mobile phones, a television, a computer and often a car. In order to get all of this we need a well-paid job. Apart from the material things, we need a circle of good friends, family, and a dynamic life full of music and festivities. If we get all this, we are supposed to be happy and we can walk around with a smile on our face, feeling great. In India however, people don’t seem to think this way. Nevermind that the country is poor and the people are not able to have a lot possessions. Walking around in India, you see people doing their daily stuff, whatever that is. Or they are just standing or sitting around in a large group of people.

Happiness in india and the westWhatever they do, one thing is universal. They all seem to smile, be relaxed in whatever they do and just be at peace with themselves and the environment. It is as if they don’t even need the word ‘happy’ in their vocabulary in order to feel good and peaceful. To them it is not an abstract term that they all have as their life’s goal. They just are. One of the places where this became very clear were the slums in New Delhi. This is a more or less secluded area, where there is not much more than wooden bars holding up corrugated iron. We see this as something awful, something dirty and poor, where the people have nothing and are living an inhuman life. The general thought is: ‘Oh my, how can people live like that?! Wouldn’t they want something else?’ Well, maybe they do, but they seem to be perfectly fine with the way it is. They just sit around, get their food (I don’t know how they do it, but they live, so they must get their food from somewhere), do some maintenance here and there and children are happily running around, screaming and chasing each other. There’s no sign on the people’s faces of unhappiness or discomfort. It’s hard to describe, but they just are. Whatever that is. They are at peace with their situation and lives. I can imagine there might be an occasional complaining about something, but there is definitely no grudge. I would go so far as to say that they don’t need the word ‘happy’ in their lives: they are fine with how it is. No grudge, no remorse, no wishing for more than what they have even, if you will.

It seems that in India people don’t have the constant desire for more, bigger, better, grander. The word happiness, if it exists at all in their languages (which I bet it does), has a different meaning to them than it does to us. What it exactly is, I cannot say, like so many things in India. What I can say for sure is that it is not a goal in life, it is not something created for us, and it is definitely not a basically unknown state of mind that has certain requirements. We in the West like to go forth between the past and the future, and point out when and where we have been happy, and when we may or will be happy. Maybe the Indian version of happiness has something to do with the present. Maybe being happy is equal to being. Just to be. Not to wish for anything else, not to have big desires for which we would give something dear, but to find these grand desires in the things that we already have and as a result be grateful and at peace. Maybe it is acceptance of what is instead of hoping for what may be.

http://www.diegomallien.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/India-1.jpghttp://www.diegomallien.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/India-1-150x150.jpgDiederik MallienTravelling and CultureIn India people have different standards for being happy than we do Happiness is what makes the world go ‘round. It is the biggest desire of everyone. Being happy is fundamentally everyone’s goal in life, the only issue is how to become happy. It is what people want and is...Bezinning op het controversiële - Tijd voor een nuchtere beschouwing