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Happiness Guaranteed!

Happiness Guaranteed!

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Happy street vendor

In this introspective narrative, the author Dr. Puja Banerjee Barua reflects on the paradox of happiness observed in a family of street vendors, juxtaposing their apparent contentment against societal expectations of material wealth and educational attainment.

A beautiful sight met my eyes the other morning. In the unlikeliest of places. I saw a family of street vendors, dressed in rags, interacting with each other, lost in their mirth and completely oblivious to the world around them. Not only were they poor and underfed from their appearance, but were also unclean and unbathed, for God knows how many days! They belonged to a new class of stragglers who had recently begun to find their way into our city from the neighbouring states and one could commonly find them selling their wares (inflatable toys, ball point pens, even ear buds!) at traffic crossings and under flyovers. One look at them and you were left with no doubt about their dilapidated condition, and yet…yet……

How could those dirt and grease stained faces be lighted up with so much of joy?! How could they be frolicking with scant care for anything else when it was obvious that they did not have access to the very basic amenities of life?! And it was not just the kids who were gambolling in utter glee. The adults too were happily interacting amongst themselves.

In my bid to take in the whole scene, l nearly forgot that l had someplace to reach. I was captivated by the total lack of worry on their faces. Here they were..in an unfamiliar city, no shelter, no proper clothing, no assured meals, not even a place to wash up and clean themselves in….and yet they were happy, radiating joy and some kind of strange contentment. How?! The answer eluded me.

Wasn’t it people with good education, respectable jobs, clean homes, access to decent clothing and nutritious food, who were supposed to be happy? Didn’t all the above guarantee happiness and satisfaction? Then why were these deprived people so happy, like they had no need for anything else ? Like they had nothing to want for, nothing to achieve?

Who are the fools here? Them or us? Are we moving along the wrong path in our attempt to attain happiness? Are we looking at the wrong things? Are we searching for happiness in the wrong places? Or are they so emotionally depraved that they are insensitive to basic, routine needs? Too blunt to appreciate the finer nuances of a good life?

So many questions flooded my conscious….and honestly speaking l had no answers!

Does education and the following exposure to ‘higher’ thoughts and ideals complicate things for us? Why are we never done with anything, why don’t we ever say yes, let us stop here..we have done enough, we have enough now? What is this insatiable hunger in us to have more, achieve more, be more, get more?!

What will it take to touch base with our inner selves like those street vendors who have nothing and yet, are so endowed?

Ever since we were born into this world, we have been a part of some race or the other. A race to attain our milestones, to learn the alphabets and numbers, to be enrolled into a good school, earn decent grades, choose the right stream, finish our studies, procure a job, find a soulmate, birthing progenies…the list is endless. So many goals to achieve, so many aspirations. The urge to join and outrun all in the rat race is such that soon we stop looking inwards. Education does not really teach us how to be happy, does it?

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