Quest for happiness

sweet and sour

First and foremost is good health. Any ailment, however trivial, will deduct something from your happiness.

Second, a healthy bank balance. It need not run into crores but should be enough to provide for creature comforts and something to spare for recreations eg: eating out, going to the pictures, travel and holidays on the hills or by the sea. Shortage of money can be only demoralising. Living on credit or borrowing is demeaning and lowers one in one’s own eyes.

Third, a home of your own. Rented premises can never give you the snug feeling of a nest which is yours for keeps that a home provides: If it has garden space, all the better. Plant your own trees and flowers, see them grow and blossom, cultivate a sense of kinship with them.

Fourth, an understanding companion, be it your spouse or a friend. If there are too many misunderstandings they will rob you of your peace of mind. It is better to be divorced than to bickering all the time.

Fifth, lack of envy of those who have done better than you in life. Envy can be very corroding; avoid comparing yourself with others.

Sixth: do not allow people to descend on you for gup-shup. By the time you get rid of them, you will feel exhausted and poisoned by their gossip-mongering.

Seventh: Cultivate some hobbies which fulfil you: gardening, reading, writing, painting, playing or listening to music, going to clubs or parties to get free drinks or to meet celebrities is criminal waste of time.

Eighth: Every morning and evening devote 15 minutes to introspection. In the morning ten minutes should be spent in stilling the mind and five in listing things you have to do that day. In the evenings, five minutes to still the mind again and ten to go over what
you had undertaken to do.

Nathaniel Cotton (1721-1788) summed up my views on the subject in one verse:

If solid happiness we prize,
Within our breast this jewel lies;
And they are fools who roam:
The world has nothing to
From our own selves our joys must flow
And that dear hut, — our home.


I am not a humble man. I am not cowed down by men in powerful positions or of great wealth. But I do feel humble when I meet people who dedicate their lives to looking after sick or needy humans and animals. On her death anniversary (August 31).

I recalled the three days I spent with Mother Teresa in Calcutta over 40 years ago. We walked through crowded streets, rode in trams to visit her various hospitals, creches for abandoned children and home for the dying. I wrote a humble tribute to her for the ‘New York Times’ and put her picture on the cover of ‘The Illustrated Weekly of India’. Till then she was little known outside Calcutta; after that more people got to know about her work. She sent me a short note of thanks. I have it in a silver frame in my home in Kasauli.

It was the same with Bhagat Puran Singh. I heard of his Pingalwara (Leper Home) in Amritsar and persuaded members of my family charitable trust to donate a block for boarding patients. Dr Manmohan Singh, then finance minister, inaugurated it. Whenever I think of Bhagat Puran Singh, I feel humble.

Though I have no respect for Maneka Gandhi as a politician, I give her full credit for being the first Indian to make her countrymen aware of their duty to protect animals. She has done more for them than anyone else I know.

There are quite a few people living near me who do their bit by animals and humans: There was Bheem Varma of Coach Behar (nephew of Maharani Gayatri Devi) who spent his evenings going round feeding stray dogs. After he died, his wife Reeta Devi took on the job. In addition she now runs two mobile clinics one donated by Kapil Sibal, the other by Sir Elton John which go round different parts of the city with doctors, nurses and medicines to treat sick people free of charge. She has been promised more mobile clinics, one by the Poddars, another by the Ansals. In a couple of months she will be running four mobile hospitals treating over 2,000 people a day.

My niece Veena Balwant Singh now spends her entire day taking packets of food and medicines round many parts of New Delhi to feed and medicate stray dogs. That costs a lot of money. A friend of hers has pitched in to share half the expenses. In the evenings she runs into Parveen Talha of the Union Public Service Commission who also feeds stray dogs in Lodhi Gardens before she goes home for the night. I have known her for over 20 years, but never knew of her love for animals.

There must be thousands of such kindly men and women for whom taking care of sick, hungry humans and animals is a sacred duty. I don’t do any such thing, only write about them. But I do feel humble in their presence.

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