I am sitting in Lonavala as I write this…away from work, no cars or noise, a clear sky and cool weather…my mind has changed gears.
I am reading an article from a blog “youarenotsmart.com” that talks about the aphorisms “money can’t buy you happiness”, “money isn’t everything”, etc. The article uses data from multiple studies to show that while the lack of money does cause unhappiness, once basic needs such as housing, clothing, food and general necessities are taken care off, with a little extra available for occasional goodies and holidays, there is no more happiness to be gained by having more money. There is apparently a “financiohappiness” ceiling that needs to be reached to attain a certain basic level of happiness, beyond which, it’s all about other things.
The article quotes Henry David Thoreau, “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to leave alone”. In the US, the average amount that someone needs to earn to make this happen seems to be around USD 75,000, which works out to approximately Rs. 3.25 lakhs per month. I presume that this number will be much less in India, probably a little more in Mumbai, perhaps a shade less in Pondicherry. This is another way of saying that if we can live within our means, we would tend to be happier, but provided we have crossed a certain critical level of “means” that can vary from society to society.
Assuming this logic makes sense, and you have reasonable money, are not living hand-to-mouth, can afford to be without a job for 3-6 months, have enough to get your children married off without a Bali wedding, then what else do you need?
Two weeks ago, a few of us friends from school landed up meeting in Dubai. We had drinks in a bar followed by dinner in another restaurant. It was great fun! Rajesh posted a summary to our group site the next morning, ending by quoting these starting lines from the Zanjeer song, “Yaari Hai Imaan”.
“Aa . . .Gar khuda mujse kahe . . . (2)
Kuchh maang eh bande mere
Me ye maangu . . (2)
Mehefilo ke daur yu chalte rahe
Ham pe aalao, ham nibaah laao
Hamsafar, hamraaz ho
Ta qayaamat. . . (2)
Jo chiraago ki tarha jalte rahe”
Meeting friends and spending time with them brings happiness…the older the friendship, the better. As I write this, I am waiting for one of my oldest friends from junior college to join me. We meet once or twice a year when he travels in or I travel out and those are moments that I treasure and remember.
The same is true of family. Growing up, I had very little time for the extended family. It is only when you have your own children and some grey hair that you realize the importance of comfort zones and the warm glow of being with people who take you for what you are.
There are, no doubt, many other ways to be rich and happy. But if more material possessions and money are of no use, then happiness and contentment have to come from non-materials like the pursuit of passions (your third thing or fourth thing!), cherishing solitude in those rare moments of possibility, the freedom to do absolutely nothing at all when we feel like and the ability to spend time with friends and family.
Have I missed anything?
Oh…and I hope each of you has a terrific 2012.