Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Long ago when I was in the village, I was a contended young boy.  Happiness was easy to find. We did not require wealth to buy happiness! Small things in life use to give us enough happiness, and our parents didn't have to struggle to make any one of us happy.
Rice with some vegetable curry would be the most delicious food. We would look forward to special occasions such as Diwali and Dashera to have a meal with meat. Having had the opportunity to have such specials food during those occasions would make us really euphoric! Three good meals that kept our stomachs full were enough to make us satisfied. We didn't even know that the foods that our children eat today ever existed! We simply knew that foods were grown in the fields and needed a lot of hard work to produce. We didn't have any clue about foods being sold in restaurants until much later.  On the way to Tashigang, where I went to study after graduating from my village school, we saw people eating in hotels and restaurants but we didn’t have much privilege to dine in those.  We generally carried rice with us to be cooked where ever we put up overnight. 
We were made to believe that wearing clothes was primarily to protect us from weather and to protect our modesty! We didn't have the slightest knowledge about any fad or fashion, nor did we have the choice for any colour or design. We would get a new pair of clothes during the festive season and that too came after a long wait of one year. A new pair of clothes used to bring lots of joy for us.  We would go visiting relatives during those days showing off our new dresses.
Everyone walked bare feet, including the domestic animals, so question didn't arise of not wearing any foot wears. Walking barefoot was, therefore the norm of the society. I learnt to wear flip-flops only after I joined the school at Tashigang. I bought my first pair of block-heeled shoes sometime in 1977 after I earned enough money for it working as a labourer during school winter break. I felt myself at the top of the world at the feeling of walking about 3 inches above ground!
Entertainments that amused us and gave us extra dose of happiness were simple things, such as school concert, rice paddy harvesting season, going around playing "Dewshi" during Diwali nights, watching a pair of rooster or bull fighting, watching football matches in the rain etc. We were fortunate to have a small Sony radio which used to sing a variety of Nepali songs for us every day and that was one thing that really amused my. For elders, happiness perhaps was more evident when they grew more crops, when the cattle population grew or when there was birth of new family member! Religious congregations during weekends, where people chanted of religious songs, seemed to make them elated for long.
Things have become different now and I have to be constantly chasing HAPPINESS in this modern era of materialism! I do not seem to be able to catch it though. The salary I earn has to be shared among many of us in the family, not only my own but also my relatives' because I am the first generation of salary earner. I have many more new things to acquire but I always run short of budget. There are number of desires which are unfulfilled and make me NOT HAPPY! For example, I don't have a house to call it mine, keep aside having a building in Thimphu; I simply have a tiny little Alto car when my friends move around in SUVs like Tucson and Prado; I wear mostly Bangladesh made garments and have not been able to afford designer dresses; my meals are as simple as they used to be when I was a village boy except that I may be taking more meat items now; I cannot afford the balanced diet of enough protein, minerals and vitamins, consisting of plenty of vegetables, meat, eggs and fruits, as learnt in Medical school. 

There are many reasons for me NOT to be HAPPY! My children are not securing first position in their classes and that makes me unhappy. My neighbour has a better sofa sets, bigger and latest television set, iPad, iPhone and whatnots which I have not been able to buy and that makes me unhappy.  The desires are limitless; list of things I want is unlimited.
I am not the only lone citizen of the GNH (Gross National Happiness) country who aspires to be happy.  There are many, may be the entire population, who would try to be happy with the DESIRE for innumerable things that have become part of our lives particularly in an urban setting. We have a large number of so called educated youth who are roaming the streets of Thimphu and Phuentsholing after graduating from Middle secondary schools, thanks to the free basic education in our country! Having got the taste of urban life no one likes to go back to the villages where life is tough.  The job market is highly competitive and almost saturated. These tenth grade drop-outs have  desires like anyone else.  But how would they then fulfil those desires without resorting to theft, burglary, mugging, and fraudulence? 

We have yet another category of youth that has become difficult now. They are the ones who are onto alcohol and drug abuse. They probably are the ones who come from broken families, or families which are busy trying to earn a living and do not have much time to monitor their children.  There are others who are so affluent that they simply keep their children pleased with money but have no TIME for them.  These are the ones who frequent the bars and discotheques, creating nuisance at times.  In spite of such obvious privileges they enjoy, they seem to be always ANGRY and far from HAPPY!

Buddhism teaches us that "desire is the main cause of suffering" and not desiring will make us HAPPY but who listens to this and who practises it? When everyone else is competing in the rat-race, nobody would sit back and watch others gathering wealth?  Given the opportunity everyone would like to be the wealthiest person in the world! But will that wealth bring HAPPINESS to these people, or is HAPPINESS still out of reach even to them? May be, I guess their desires would still be unmet and they may continue to be UNHAPPY!

On retrospect, I would rather prefer to go back in time when I was a village boy contented with the small things that came my way bringing little packages of HAPPINESS now and then!