CHENNAI: India was ranked 140 of the 156 nations on UN’s 2019 World Happiness Report, an annual publication of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN) that classifies countries based on variables like income, freedom, trust, healthy life expectancy, social support, and generosity. Chennaiites tell us what needs to change to turn the frown upside down...
Lack of social freedom is one of the primary reasons for the lack of happiness in India. From childhood, people are tied with societal manacles. Few people who want to live life on their own terms are despised by society and this affects the happiness of two kinds of people — those living independently and people who want to live independently. Apart from this, corruption is evidently taking a toll on mental peace, lately. The rich continue to get richer and the poor, poorer, not just in terms of money, but also in terms of health and education.
M Shahid Modi
It’s quite a shock to see India ranked below Iraq, South Africa and Sierra Leone on the World Happiness Index. Countries that are often portrayed poorly by global media, and have a lower GDP than India, have ranked higher on the list. It’s possibly because Indians lack freedom and a sense of trust. Our robust Constitution states that freedom is a right, but cultural and familial expectations lead to strict yet intangible boundaries. Every Indian has habits that are culturally objectionable, from drinking to gaming to dating, so how can we trust a society whose rules we have forsaken?
There is a misconception of health being related only to physical being. We see how people starve in the name of diets and spend money in the name of fitness. It is important to create awareness about health being three dimensional: Mind-Body-Soul. A healthy physical, mental and emotional being attracts happiness, love and peace. The Indian education system should emphasise on health, giving importance to emotional quotient along with intelligence quotient. This will enable future India to be filled with healthy individuals inside out spreading happiness to the entire world.
I believe that aiding social support can give happiness. In a country that is massive not only in terms of its population but also in terms of its diversity, we have only been talking about closing the social divide between the rich and the poor. But what about the stigma surrounding our career choices, sexual orientation and marital status? Accepting individuals for their true identity rather than expecting them to fit into the illusory societal mold is the path to progress emotionally as well as economically.
The gap between the rich and the poor is swelling day by day causing stress and status anxiety. People are treated based on a hierarchy depending on their status which leads to mental trauma and other negative outcomes. Social inequality, if not attended to, can jeopardise human society. Moreover, happiness will be harder to find for the coming generations.
Out of the key variables, based on which India was ranked 140th, life expectancy, social freedom, GDP per capita, public trust etc., depends mainly on government policies. So, the Indian government has lots to do to gain more ground on the Happiness Index. Inequality, generosity, social freedom are the areas, where, as an individual, we can make a lot of difference. So, I believe, we should start with ourselves. Take a little step every day, ensuring the eradication of inequality, poverty, and empowering people around us to take control of their own life and be happy. To take the nation up the Happiness Index, every little smile that you help bring will take us there.
(Inputs by KV Navya, Roshne Balasubramanian, Vaishali Vijaykumar)