On the occasion of the 152nd Gandhi Jayanti, I was spending time together with a friend at a mocktail bar and was being very tolerant of his constant mocking of my demeanor. The occasion was like that.
There were no cocktails (due to the lack of humidity, it was very dry) or western mocktails on view, only purely ethnic ones like cucumber squish, and Virgin Solicito! After every sip, my friend would, with a smirk, ask me, are you happy?. He seemed to think otherwise.
Unjustly so. It seemed that he was treating his glass like a debt fund with a SIP. And I acted to deny him his Hedonia (Hedonic happiness is derived from pleasure. It is most often associated with doing what feels good, self-care, fulfilling desires, experiencing enjoyment, and feeling a sense of satisfaction) and said with irritation, “yes of course. I am sitting here with you, a good friend, chilling, without a care in the world, save who will pay the mock bar bill; what more can one ask for?.” He then reminded me that I had a long drive home ahead of me and asked if I had tanked up on fuel. That brought another worry line to my forehead, and I presumed I now looked my age – until then those three letters just made up a number – because I was led to believe so by what I saw on TV, not in the mirror!
On the way home I started thinking about tomorrow. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, School Fees for online classes, the house rent, “have we booked the gas”? and the ongoing virtual strife at the office as I angled for a promotion but expected no motion on it until I expressed myself – As Virat said to the Boys – Go out there and express yourself! But I was no Indian express! That too troubled me.
Thankfully, I was working from home and would not have to rush to office and the fuel could be used for an evening outing like the one today. My thought process kept getting convoluted by the minute and when I reached home, it took a turn for the worse. I was informed that there was a major illness in the family (a covid case in the ICU with all its intended suffering) and I would have to manage it. That meant juggling finances, time, effort, and the fact that I hated hospitals, mainly because I did not like to see suffering, the ring notwithstanding.
It was not the last straw for me – I was used to drinking directly from the Tender Coconut. But the water ran dry when, and as I tilted at the windmills with increasing intensity, I began to feel I was not good enough to manage the pressure cooker as well as my brother-in-law and neighbour did! I just could not switch off the fire. The knob had got stuck on simmer.
I wanted to reassure myself and I looked in the mirror, not once but four times. Blood shot eyes, stubble on the face, and worry lines on the forehead. What will the morrow bring? This was the picture I got from all angles. Even tried to smile. Ah I could, and I thought I looked good, but not in my head which seemed askance from my eyes. I had not found my mojo yet, though I had had enough of mojito. Ah shove it, I thought, tomorrow is a new day. A new beginning could be made and dropped off to sleep. That was my everyday routine, but it was getting too monotonous. Something had to give!
I dropped off to sleep. Got up on the dot of six in the morning and picked up the newspaper at the front door. the Newspaper boy was just delivering it and he had a smile on his face – he does not read the headlines. As the kettle let out steam when it reached boiling point, I quickly realized I had no such opportunity until I came across the headline “World Mental Health Day” to be celebrated on Oct. 10th. That is day is soon I thought – and I could let out steam (means I could act crazy), even if I had reached boiling point much before. Tragically, as I read the other headlines the lines on my head came closer together. No cursive writing would be possible there.
The Media seemed happy – this I could deduce from the headlines and column space devoted to Ecstasy and Death – Ecstasy on a cruise in Mumbai and Death in Lakhimpur. And then a gift of a Pandora’s Box full of the secrets of happiness, something they get both Hedonia and Eudaimonia from (Eudaimonia is a type of happiness derived from seeking virtue and meaning in whatever you do – unlike Hedonia, its associated with fulfilling responsibilities, investing in long-term goals, concern for the welfare of other people, and living up to personal ideals.) No comments on this one. Big word, small meaning – satisfaction – much like big tree, small fruit!
But, here I was, not getting either – Hedonia or Eudemonia, and I recognised that as the problem. I was not unhappy, unless unhappiness meant nothing more than the absence of happiness, (like Darkness means the absence of light, and not a state of play by itself) a widely used term that denoted a moment of joy, a moment nothing more. Because the next moment could mean a demotion to despair!
Anyway, Mental Health and Happiness is what interested me today because the abyss seemed nearer – as the famous Christian hymn – “Nearer my God to thee” started playing in my head! So, I went into the details. According to the Wikipedia (Not the leaked version, but the sealed transparent one – No Pandora there!) “In the 21st century, euphoria is generally defined as a state of great happiness, well-being, and excitement, which may be normal, or abnormal and inappropriate when associated with psychoactive drugs, manic states, or brain disease or injury”. So, Euphoria is a state of great happiness (not the one on a Cruise Kind) and plain happiness is “an emotional state characterized by feelings of joy, satisfaction, contentment, and fulfilment. It is in the moment that it is derived”. A Prolonged absence of happiness or happy moments then could be a mental health issue? Nothing lasts forever, only diamonds, said James Bond, and Nirav proved that wrong too. So, I read further.
In 2017, the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind asserted that India was “facing a possible mental health epidemic”. But then a pandemic took over and made it worse. A study revealed that in the same year, 14% of India’s population – that is one in seven – suffered from mental health ailments, including 33.8% of all mental disorders suffering from depressive disorders and 20% from anxiety disorders according to the findings of a first comprehensive study done by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on disease burden due to mental disorders in India.
Reading these statistics made me anxious – would I soon be a part of these statistics? It did seem that I was well on my way! Other mental Disorders identified in this 14% affected population included schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, idiopathic developmental intellectual disability, conduct disorders, and autism.
Fourteen percent must have become 20% today, given the fact that the virus is still roaming around free, deriving its hedonia from its infection of humans. But this small population cannot account for India’s ranking on the World Happiness Index – 139 out of 149 countries. The World Happiness Report 2021, issued by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, focuses on the effects of COVID-19 and how people all over the world have fared. Finland remains at the top of the leader board as the world’s happiest country. This year’s ranking was also influenced by elevated levels of trust in the way the COVID-19 pandemic was managed and therein lies our vaccination!
I must make excuses for our low ranking. It is the right thing to do and will give me Eudaimonia for the moment! As individuals, we have little control over the parameters this evaluation has used to come this forlorn conclusion, though as a democracy, every text book in the country says we must possess it – Gross Domestic Product Per Capita (Purchasing Power Parity) – NRI’s have plenty of it, Social Support – also plenty of it, except when it comes to money, Healthy life expectancy at birth – do form your own opinion after studying the sex ratio, Freedom to make life choices (plenty of it – and anyway even if you have it you can’t park in a no parking zone, or eat whatever you want or wear your feelings on your sleeve!), Generosity – it’s a must when paying your taxes, and Perceptions of corruption – it’s actually nil, if you think otherwise, it is only your perception! We have also had little control over the evaluation itself, as much as we have over our date of death!
Does this low-ranking mean general state of unhappiness? No, it is just the absence of Happiness and that is not serious, not by our standards.
Having read all of this in the space of 15 minutes, I was feeling better already. I derived pleasure (Hedonia) from the fact I was not yet a statistic among the 14% -or is it 20%?. In fact, I was in Euphoria. A state without boundaries! Euphoria is sharp shooting pain in all the right places very hedonistic in its derivation, while happiness is a dull soothing ache in the same places, which lasts a wee while longer. As the Euphoria dissipated I found myself left with Eudaimonia – the satisfaction that I would not be just another number, like my Aadhar! Unless I allowed myself to be.
Instead, I went to see the new James Bond film, “No Time to Die”
At least not until next week. See you then!
This Article is fiction and written in the lighter vein. It hopes to bring a smile to your face, and you must not ascribe motives to its contents. There is no connection to events and characters in real life and if perchance you find a connect with any such real-life event or character, rest assured its purely coincidental.