The Simplicity and Complexity of Happiness

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My first job ever was with Tata Power Ltd. (then Tata Electric Cos) for the commissioning of the country’s first ever combined cycle power plant at Trombay. Since I was in Operations we had to work shifts with the morning shift starting at 06:00am. As I would be waiting at Mumbai (then Bombay) Central station to catch the 04:30am fast I would envy the hamaal’s sleeping peacefully on the platform. At that moment the only thing I wanted was to sneak into their makeshift bed and fall asleep. My misery at having to yank myself out of bed at 04:00am every single day of that morning-shift week was real. For everyone else I had all the reasons to be happy; a degree in Electrical Engineering and a job with one of the country’s most reputed industrial houses at its most advanced power plant. That was my first lesson in happiness; that it is about what you feel, not what the others think you should feel. Did that mean the porter was happier than me or that I would have been happier being a porter? Certainly not. As he loaded luggage into the cars of the rich and influential, the porter I am sure must have envied their luxury and means. And those rich and influential I am sure would have had their moments of despondency and sadness; even a Mukesh Ambani has to contend with lawsuits from his younger brother. I have met too many freshers who are dismayed at being allocated to a testing project, but I have to still meet a designer or developer who is thrilled at the great design or development that he is doing. Does that then mean that no one can really be happy all the time? The answer lay in a simple piece of wisdom I had overheard during a conversation my grandfather was having with his younger brother during my school days. He talked about how we always look at people who have achieved more than us, forgetting in the process what we have achieved ourselves. His analogy was simple; when you stayed on the ground floor you looked at the guy on the third floor, when you could buy a flat on the third floor you looked at the guy on the fifth floor forgetting that there was a huge mass which still stayed on the ground floor. That was my next (and in retrospect really the first) lesson in happiness; that happiness lies in what you have and not in what others have that you don’t have. So if happiness is about what you feel about what you have, can anyone else make you feel happy or unhappy? Can a motley crowd of handful individuals make a centre of 2000 feel happy? Do we really read a Mumbai Centre Council for that purpose?

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