Am I happy? At the moment I am not too happy about the fact that I have to finish this piece of writing within 48 hours, my cat is clawing at me for attention, and I indulged in a few biscuits with my coffee this morning and yesterday morning, despite my resolution to abstain from sugar.
However, my husband is here, and I am happy to see him, happy that my girls are happy to see their father, and happy that I have someone to share my meals with over the next few weeks (I hate eating alone). So, yes, all things considered, overall I am happy, but with certain elements of unhappy.
If I submitted my article, and my cat stopped clawing (highly unlikely), and if I did not eat biscuits, and if all other things remained equal, in three days would I feel exactly this emotion that I am feeling now?
No. The excitement of my husband arriving would have passed and we would have started fighting over room temperature. I would still feel happy, with elements of unhappy (sub optimal room temperature) but it would be qualitatively different to what I am feeling now.
Humour aside, the point I am trying to make is that I do not feel any one emotion that I can specifically call happy, rather, that I experience a spectrum of happy emotions. Furthermore, feeling happy for a day or for a few days does not represent being a happy person, and being a happy person does not signify feeling happy all day, every day.
There is happiness, the state of feeling or what I interpret as 'khushi', and happiness, the state of being or what I interpret as 'shukh', and I do not conflate the two.
In happiness, the state of feeling, my positive emotions overwhelm all other emotions, temporarily. In order to explain this further, let me first state that I cannot define happiness. It is something I feel. I know when I feel it. And therefore, it is not for anyone else to decide whether I am happy or not, whether I ought to be happy or not. It is also not for anyone else to attempt to instill doubt in my mind whether what I am feeling is happiness. I know when I feel it. I own my happiness, and that is not up for discussion.
Because I feel and own my happiness, I know that it never comes unaccompanied, that it is always intertwined with a range of other emotions, and that is why if I were to say I was feeling happy or unhappy it would actually be a reductive statement, as there would be many other latent emotions present with the happy (and unhappy) feelings that were not mentioned or could be described.
It would also be a transient statement, as I believe that change is constant, and therefore if I felt happy or unhappy under certain circumstances, those circumstances could change, and therefore my happy or unhappy feelings would take on other dimensions.
Now onto happiness, the state of being. Delving further into my mind, as I was reflecting back on my life to determine whether I have generally been a happy or an unhappy person to date, I realized that the happy/unhappy binary does not apply to me. In fact, I question whether it can even be a binary, as I do not believe that each state implies the absence of the other.
That is because there are so many facets to my life, that if I have been happy about one thing, simultaneously or subsequently I have been unhappy about another, or each significant event in my life has a happy and an unhappy side to it, or something that caused me deep unhappiness once, became a source of happiness for me later and vice versa.
My episodes of happiness have been punctuated by unhappy moments, and episodes of unhappiness have been reprieved by happy days. My experiences of happy and unhappy have not been neat, tidy, or uniform. Sorry.
Have I searched for happiness, for shukh? Yes, and failed miserably, or unhappily (pun intended). I found my shukh in retrospect, with hindsight; trying to achieve it with foresight did not work for me.
Am I happy? Yes, I taught myself to be. I learned that laughter was the best antidote to unhappy days, that humour was my most effective coping strategy. I reflected on my strengths and on my weaknesses, on the circumstances I could alter and the ones I could not, on those who brought out the best in me and those who made me feel far smaller than I was, and what I could afford and what I could not afford. Then I began living my life according to my abilities, without over-extending myself, and with people who encouraged me to do what I could do best. And amidst plenty of unhappy instances.
Chintamoni grew up in Dhaka, where she will always belong, but never quite fit in. She is an enthusiastic traveller, a compulsive procrastinator, and a contumelious raconteur