You could Rubik’s Cube certain ‘truths’ out of the last couple of decades. In certain areas, we are international heavy-hitters, such as that well-worn mascot, software programming. Employment and education are more widespread than ever before. There have been gains in health. Certain notions of social and sexual freedom have had a wide trickledown into the lower-middle and working classes, especially in our teeming cities. There is far greater awareness of women’s rights than 20-30 years ago. But if you look at this period through a ‘happiness filter’, the colours stop looking so funky and bright.
For instance, the Indian urban business class, whether rich or middling, no matter whether they are Marwari, Gujarati, Sindhi, Punjabi, South Indian (or, from where I write, nouveau riche Bengalis), are the unhappiest people I’ve seen. Their aggression, their sense of being hard done by, their callousness is unmatched by any striving lower-middle-class or by any tribal or Dalit in a life-and-death situation. While other sections do things to strive to be less unhappy, this class keeps playing strip-teen-patti for the Happiness Jackpot at the Misery Casino, never realising that the cards are fixed, that they can never win. And, as they keep losing, their frustrations keep spreading in toxic seismic circles to the rest of us who surround them.