India Happy Country or Not?
The Case For
Some places are like family. They annoy us to no end, especially during the holidays, but we keep coming back for more because we know, deep in our hearts, that our destinies are intertwined.
For me, that place is India. I hate it. I love it. Not alternately but simultaneously. For if there is anything this seductive, exasperating country teaches us it is this: It’s possible to hold two contradictory thoughts at the same time and, crucially, to do so without your head exploding. Indians do it all the time.
As he boarded a flight for Bombay in 1958, Hungarian-born writer Arthur Koestler said he wanted “to look at the predicament of the West from a different perspective, a different spiritual latitude.” Yes, that’s it! I thought, when I read those words. A different spiritual latitude or, as author Jeffrey Paine puts it, “an alternative track through
modernity”-and, he might have added, directly to happiness. When Koestler disembarked in Bombay, though, the heat and the stench of raw sewage made him feel as if “a wet, smelly diaper was being wrapped around my head by some abominable joker.” One might conclude that India disappointed Koestler, but I don’t think that’s true. India does not disappoint. It captivates, infuriates, and, occasionally, contaminates. It never disappoints.
I had always wanted to be a foreign correspondent, and India was certainly foreign. So when NPR offered me the chance to live and work there, I jumped at it, even though I had never set foot in India. I knew little about the country beyond the usual cliches of snake charmers and desperate poverty.
So on one December day in 1993, contrary to all common sense, I arrived at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, hauling two trunks stuffed with tape recorders an note books and a few articles of climatically inappropriate clothing. As a correspondent, I covered weighty topics like economic reforms nuclear proliferation, and an outbreak of bubonic plague that belied India’s claims that it was on the path to modernity
Of course, I was aware of the other India-the India of gurus and miracles and occasionally this India rose to the level of news, like that morning I awoke to find the “milk miracle” sweeping the nation.
Wandering the narrow streets of Delhi’s Paharganj neighbourhood, the backpacker district, I’d see the lama lickers, dishevelled travellers who scrimped every rupee and rarely bathed. But they had a luxury I did not have: time. They spent months lounging.on beaches in Goa, getting stoned, or hiking the Himalayas,.getting stoned.
When they weren’t getting stoned, they dabbled in spirituality by attending one of India’s many ashrams. What exactly transpired inside these spiritual retreats remained a mystery. I heard stories of group sex and enlightenment, too.
As a serious journalist though, I couldn’t justify a trip there. I left India after two years without once stepping inside an ashram. I felt cheated.
And so I have returned to India with a different agenda, a happiness agenda. And with a question I desperately nee answer: Why do so many sane Westerners leave their wealthy, functional nations to travel to a dysfunctional and poor nation in search of bliss? Are they romanticising the East? Falling for charlatans in long, flowing beards? Or did Max Mueller get it right, even in the 19th century? “By going to India, we are going home – to a home full of old memories, if only we can read them”.
Every time I return to India – about once a year -it is different yet the same. Yes, there’s now a McDonald’s at my favourite market in Delhi, but around the corner is the shop that sells statues of Ganesha. Yes, there are cellphones and ATMs and Internet cafes but none has made a dent in the bedrock of Indian culture. These latest foreign intruders are no different from the Mughals or the British or any of the other interlopers who over the centuries tried to subdue the subcontinent. India always emerged victorious not by repelling invaders but by subsuming them.
The Taj Mahal is today considered the quintessential India n icon, yet it was built by a seventeenth-century Mughal emperor who at the time wasn’t Indian at all. He is now. Likewise, McDonald’s caved to the Indian palate and, for the first time, dropped Big Macs and all hamburgers from its menu, since Hindus don’t eat.beef. Instead, it serves McAloo Tikki and the McVeggie and a culinary hybrid , the Paneer Salsa Wrap. McDonald’s didn’t change India, as some feared. India changed McDonald’s.
And so it is with western travellers who seek their happiness here. Even before the Beatles meditated with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the banks of the Ganges, foreigners have been drawn to India. Annie Besant, E.M. Forster, Christopher Isherwood, Martin Luther King Jr., and many others. Some came to find solutions to political problems back home. Others wanted to transcend their pedestrian, earthly existence, if only for a moment and taste the eternal. Some just wanted to chill. This is despite the fact that India is not a particularly happy place.
The Case Against
Denmark world’s happiest nation, India ranked 118th
India fails to improve its happiness quotient
India did not make any improvement in its happiness quotient, ranking 118th out of 156 countries, down one slot from 2015 and behind China (83), Pakistan (92) and Bangladesh (110)
The report said India was among the group of 10 nations witnessing the largest happiness declines along with Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen and Botswana