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Sometimes misery is a just a faded old security blanket. It has been useful so long, you don’t have the heart to get rid of it. Besides, you might crave for it again. Apparently I’m here writing this piece because I am a relentlessly cheerful person. True to my style, I acted all cool and knowledgeable when the Editor called me. Yes, yes, I am a happiness expert. I manufacture it from thin air. I spread good cheer. I had a vision of me driving a noisy CNG van borrowed from the Municipal Corporation. Meandering through streets releasing white clouds of DDT. Sorry, not DDT, thick clouds of happiness. Confetti trails floating in the air.
As I sit to write this, I see that I might be in big trouble. If I am going to confront and accept my happiness in print, then there’s no going back, is there? Once I write it, I will have to be happy. Doomed to be happy. How would you like that?
No man. No way. I like my happiness in small doses. Or small dosas, as a friend often corrects me.
The truth is I am a needy, miserable fool. Just like most of us. Only I am worse. I work from home. No work gets done at home. I miss my friends. I miss deadlines. I want to be at the airport. I want frothy coffee by a window. I hate net banking. The doorbell is ringing. I am depressed, I think. Or shallow. Or both.
There is jalebi in the kitchen. There is a toddler in the house. Her name is Naseem. She is at my knee now.
Mamma, listen, she says, her podgy little hand on her heart.
I put my left hand on her heart.
Dhak, dhak. Dhak, dhak, says Naseem.
What? I ask, almost whispering.
God likes jalebi, she whispers back. I just had jalebi and my heart is beating loudly. Listen.
What do I do with this moment? Somewhere in here is the meaning of life. Being handed to me on a platter.
I used to be one of those irritatingly cheerful people. Turn off your face, Natasha, my friends would say. It’s too early in the morning. But I really came into my element in the most miserable phase of my life. I got married to the love of my life. We had children. We moved out of the city to a house surrounded by fruit trees. I quit my beloved job. The children went to school. Husband went out of town. My Internet broke. Who am I? Where am I? Where are my people, I cried? Fade to black.
It was my turn in the queue to receive the essential lessons. Nothing is a ‘formula’ for happiness. Not love, not success, not children and not even pasta. Picking guavas from the tree came pretty close.
Taking decisions is easy. It’s when they move in and overstay their welcome that the trouble begins. Not because these are the wrong decisions. It’s the C word. Commitment.
Commitment is hard work. It can make grown people cry. At the same time I discovered something peculiar. I may be looking sad on the outside, but I feel perfectly happy from inside. I know I’m in the right place at the right time with the right people. Little beautiful moments assault me till I celebrate them. Yet when I do, some of my friends want to scream again. “You make it look easy, you idiot.”
I’ll say it like this. Just because you’re miserable doesn’t mean you can’t be happy. Contrary feelings coexist. If there is sadness, there must be a purpose for it. Let me not mess with it too much. There’s a wiser, quieter me inside. I let her lead the way. The small joys of everyday life prop us up to tackle the inevitable problems.
Happiness is a decision. An innate need. We’re alive because the good outweighs the bad. We choose to be happy despite reality. In defiance of the ugly world that surrounds us. How else?
Wait, there is an interruption. Little Naseem is here with her doctor set.
I want to do your make-up, she says.
Check-up? I ask.
Yes, check-up, she says. She uses her stethoscope on me, its pink heart makes a beep sound.
Show me your elbow, she says.
You mean knee, I say.
Yes, she says, I want to pack-up your knee.
Check-up, I say.
She knocks a plastic hammer on my knee.
I am well, it seems.
Miracles stare at us. They stalk us. Creep up on us. In a song, a smile, a play of light.
Let the small moments embrace you. And empower you.
(The author is a filmmaker, media trainer and columnist.)