India is suddenly getting happiness-savvy. The day seems not far when our politicians will be dolling out coupons for free happiness retreats instead of free TVs, mobiles, etc.
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s idea of having a ministry for happiness is no political gimmick. It represents a shift in paradigm from "money cannot buy happiness" to "happiness can be delivered and administered".
Having stolen a smart march over his counterparts in these days of competitive political positioning, Chouhan now faces the real challenge of coming up with a mechanism that would deliver happiness to his state which not so long ago led the demeaning BIMARU pack.
Devising a few feel-good schemes for the new ministry is one thing, but making the people actually feel happy will be quite another.
Unless he finds an effective mechanism of delivering happiness as a practical experience, the joy of pioneering the happiness ministry in the country will desert Chouhan sooner than other mayas of the world.
Like beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, happiness is a state of mind. And like all things mental, happiness is subtle and delicate. It's impossible to measure or quantify it. There is no Sensex to plot its rise or fall.
The old-school model of linking happiness to material gratification and possessions has fallen flat with many of the world's most developed countries topping in suicide rate and depression.
Despite it being the ultimate motivation behind all our actions in this world, only a few people genuinely experience happiness in today’s hectic and fast-paced world.
We slog to earn thinking money will make us comfortable and happy. We run behind good food thinking the taste will makes us happy... And the baits are endless.
Chouhan’s challenge will be to engineer a paradigm of happiness away from these baits.
Instead of feel-good populism, he should focus on making a plan for teaching happiness to the masses. Nature is on his side for learning to be happy is no rocket science, and everyone would be an eligible candidate.
For sure, no entrance test would be needed! Just a few lessons on the mechanics of life and happiness will do.
True happiness can come only from learning and understanding simple things about life.
The logic is straightforward.
Anything we have knowledge about becomes easy to handle. For those who have the knowledge of cooking, even making an elaborate and lavish meal is a child’s play. But to the one who has no knowledge, even making a cup of tea is stressful.
Those who know driving, drive any vehicle with ease. And, one who doesn't, gets goosebumps sitting in the backseat.
The new ministry must focus on sensitising people to the subtlety of happiness. That will come from making people acquire a little understanding about life - how its different layers interplay, what controls our mind, what nourishes our soul, etc.
This science of holistically looking at life is what is generally and collectively referred to as spirituality. Nothing more, nothing less.
So far Chouhan seems to be on the right track. By seeking advice of the likes of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, he has shown the ministry will have the right set of advisors.
|Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has the reputation of practically bringing happiness to millions across the globe.
Sri Sri’s philosophy of happiness includes subtle lessons like appreciating the contrasting realities of life, handling mistakes and criticism and facing challenges of life with equanimity.
It looks at the mechanics of happiness in its totality.
A ministry for happiness, a centre at IIT-Kharagpur to teach and research on the science of happiness, India’s emphatic bid for happiness is far deeper than just seeking to improve her dismal rank in the global happiness index.