An Engineer’s Story: The meaning of real happiness

🙂 I am sure you know what this symbol means in the virtual world. A colon followed by a bracket represents a state of happiness in the modern age. Perhaps in today’s age of virtualization happiness too has become virtual.

Every other day, I question myself about the meaning of happiness in ‘my’ life. What exactly does happiness mean? How and why has the definition changed over years? What was the last thing that really made me happy?

The Meaning of HappinessI look for answers every day. The first thing I looked at was the dictionary definition. A Princeton dictionary happiness is defined as “state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy”.

Philosophers and religious thinkers often define happiness in terms of living a good life, or flourishing, rather than simply as an emotion. Then there are religious views. Buddhism defines it as “ultimate freedom from suffering”. Hinduism (ref Gita) says True Happiness, is Moksha i.e. reaching a state when you no longer express emotion, nor feel emotions.

Then there are scientific views relating happiness to sensory pleasure, relationships, meaning, success etc.

Well, the more I researched the more I was confused, so I jumped to my second question. How and why has the definition changed over years?

In childhood I guess happiness meant something else. A free period in school, a no homework day, the sound of school bell which meant end of a boring period were the constituents of happiness. Visiting my grandparents and listening to stories from them was another thing that made me happy.

Before I could realize, my race with the materialistic happiness started with my teenage. Suddenly happiness in small things disappeared. Branded shoes and clothes only made me happy. Looking better, wearing better than other became the motto of life. Comparison and competition were the keywords. Performing well in the exams wasn’t fine. I was happy only if I get more than others. Sometimes the suffering or failure of others also made me happy rather than my own success.

As I went to college the problem seemed to go away (or as I thought so) for a while as competition became less intensive or maybe I didn’t care much. Well all I did in the college was to play football and scoring goals and wining matches made me happy. Well I guess I was wrong in assuming that in college the problem of material happiness went away. It actually I guess became more acute. I started to be happy only when I was on the winning side.

Then there was a job, the great corporate world. They say it’s a dog eats dog world. I don’t know why the phrase “man eats man world “is rarely used. We humans have a tendency of associating dogs only with the negative qualities despite it being man’s most faithful friend. Corporate world thought me other kind of happiness. Earning more, selling more, showcasing more were the things that are being associated with happiness. Whenever I go home the first question I get asked “Beta how is job”. I saw ok uncle. The 2nd question I get asked is “beta kitna package hai (How much do you make?)”. It seems all everyone cares about is money .Nobody has ever asked me are, “Beta how is your job are you happy with it”.

Well lot said and done and not sure why things have changed. I started to think when I was really happy last time. Too many thoughts came to mind. Was it the last day of lat months when I see the 5 digit numbers in my bank’s web account home page. Or was it when I got a good appraisal and salary hike. Or was it when I was relishing a good meal. Well finally I zeroed on one. The last time I became happy was when I helped a blind man to cross the road. That was the day, when while eating dinner I enjoyed the food and did not worry about next day after and when I went to bed not thinking what’s going to happen tomorrow.

So when were you (really) happy last time?

Abhishek loves football, running and sometimes ideating. A Computer Science graduate from NIT Hamirpur, he currently makes a living by punching keys in a not so plush Bangalore office of a US software giant. On weekends, most of the times you will find him sitting in front of the idiot box analyzing football games. One thing he does daily is that he misses his family, friends and Himachal An avid technology enthusiast. A football fanatic. A forever Himachali.

1 Comment

  • Thanks for sharing. Just read this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt – “Happiness is not a goal, it is a by-product. Paradoxically, the one sure way not to be happy is deliberately to map out a way of life in which one would please oneself completely and exclusively. After a short time, a very short time, there would be little that one really enjoyed. For what keeps our interest in life and makes us look forward to tomorrow is giving pleasure to other people.” Good advice.

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