In an era of augmented reality and instant gratification happiness has become a subject of elaborate research, so much so that the number of research studies on happiness has trebled in the past several years. Ironically, while we try to understand what makes us happy, the pursuit of happiness has become less about feeling and experiencing and more about instant gratification through desensitised emojis and ‘likes’.
We document every instance on ‘Instagram’, we thrive on ‘fast food’, we travel in ‘uberGo’, we talk via instant messages and we look for meaningful relationships by swiping left and right on applications on our phones – all in the pursuit of reaching a point of true bliss, without taking a moment to breathe in the present moment just the way it is.
Seated in the back of my car, as I head home after a long workday lined up with relentless meetings, one after the other, I’m taken back to the time when my aunts would sit in the evening and have tea. A beautiful tea set would be brought out, with its accoutrements - tea-cosy of beautiful, painstaking embroidery, a silver sieve and little crocheted teacup holders. The tea was given time to distil, allowing its flavours to mingle with the water before being poured out. The accompanying thinly sliced cucumber sandwiches had a magic of their own. My aunts would call me ‘Rani’ and make me feel ever so grand, while they talked about this thing and the other, and nothing much, just gently and daintily sipping out of those wafer-thin cups. Nobody rushed to go anywhere, or spoke to each other in hurried, loud tones or even looked at the watch.
The languidness of those lovely evenings had an elegant demeanour of their own. I learnt many a life lessons from simple things like these – living in the present moment, concentrating on all the senses and being mindful of the emotions they invoke, practicing the art of listening to each other, doing small tasks with utmost dedication, and finally, the act of simply relaxing. What else is this but a form of mindfulness and meditation, the kind that those hip online gurus keep preaching about to practice?
The memory feels ancient and smacks of a bygone era now that something as effortless as slow living has become more of an art movement to be captured either through a cinematic lens in the film Call Me By Your Name or to have dedicated followers traversing half a continent away in its pursuit in a Scandinavian small village.
An average employee in Mumbai works 3,315 hours a year, the highest in the world, according to a Price and Earning 2018 Report by UBS, which gauged 77 cities across the world on various parameters including working hours. Given the hyper connected world we currently live in, it is understandable that with such long working hours and online engagements, we are left with little time to sit back and unwind, and acknowledge that a café latte to-go from the fancy place down the street may just save the day before an important client pitch.
So, while I understand it is impossible to go back to the days of graceful and fluid living, we can at least begin by being mindful of our everyday lives and finding beauty even in the most mundane tasks of our days. Like dedicating some time to cook once in a while and allowing the flavourful aroma to engulf your nostrils. Or slowing down and taking in the view of the sunset from our windows, instead of yanking the phone out of our pocket to capture it in a frame. Or simply pausing in our walk to notice the little green shoot valiantly trying to grow out of the crack in the footpath. It is only when we stop to smell the roses that we discover the garden that lies beyond.
Many artists have spent their lives trying to capture the beauty within the mundane, the little beam of joy in the quotidian-ness of life - in their poems about dust motes and nails and in still life photography of a bowl of fruits, in stories like Malgudi Days and in paintings of the Pearl in her ear. If we could just learn to look for and find more reasons to be grateful for the simple moments of today, and more chances to praise the beauty of slow living, I can assure you, finding happiness will not seem like such a tedious job then.
On that note, as I lift the tea-cosy and pour myself a cup of hot tea, here’s a thought to muse over, in the words of Annie Dillard, ‘How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
(Edited by Suruchi Kapur- Gomes)
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