“Comparisons are odious’’ especially, when we are to compare an abstract feeling like happiness of the modern person, with their ancestors. In this article, the author attempts to understand how the modern Indian society has evolved, how we are different from our ancestors and what that could possibly mean for our collective “happiness”.
In a very broad sense, happiness is the state of the mind in which one feels satisfied and at peace with themselves, and the world around them. One could derive happiness from any number of things, be it social activities, hobbies, work or simply the existence of another human being in your life. One can also feel happy by acquiring new means of comfort, that make life more pleasant and relaxed. The euphoria of joy is further accentuated by sharing it with our family, and well-wishers.
In terms of social and emotional happiness, our forefathers were indeed more fortunate. They lived in close-knit communities, having numerous occasions to celebrate. Be it the festivity during the seasonal harvesting of crops, or the gaiety of festivals like Holi, Eid or Christmas. These were all occasions for the community to get together and rejoice. Similarly, a host of ceremonies in the large family of kith and kin, like nikahs, mundans, etc were occasions for the entire village community to gather and celebrate. Though the means of entertainment were primitive and inadequate, they were still able to partake with gaiety, feasting with even strangers in their happiness. The large joint families, ensured more cohesiveness and security for each member of the family. At times of stress, one could always count on the emotional support of elders like grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins.
In contrast to this, modern society has weakened the bonds between man, and the community. The result being, man today is lonelier in the midst of the milling crowds, in the cities. It is quite common to find next-door neighbours oblivious to the presence of the other. The changing lifestyle has led to the concept of the nuclear family, where one can look forward to emotional support and help, only from hard pressed parents. This makes one depressed, insecure, and emotionally starved.
Our ancestors lived in harmony with nature, appreciating and preserving it as a gift of God. They revered and worshipped the elements like rain, Sun, wind, and recognised the importance of each for their growth and prosperity. On the contrary, we are exploiting nature, unmindful of the grave consequences that lie in store for us. The denudation of the green forest, the choking pollutants from vehicles and industrial gases, are eroding the protective ozone layer, leading to global warming. This portends a grave future for mankind, in the not-too-distant future. The immediate fallout of rising pollution, is the incidence of diseases like asthma, lung and skin diseases, like cancer.
Paradoxically, this ability of the human to exploit nature has enabled him to generate electricity from water, wind and the Sun. Natural fuels like petroleum and coal, power the engines, of automobiles, trains, factories and aeroplanes. They are all an indispensable part of our lives, making it comfortable and luxurious. We can today commute great distances in minutes, and talk to friends, relatives and even perfect strangers on the other side of the globe by telephone and the internet.
The entertainment opportunities have multiplied manifold with radio, television and cinema. We can watch live programs, taking place in any part of the world, through cable TV from the comfort of our own homes.
Indisputably, man today leads a more comfortable and luxurious life, than his forefathers could ever have dreamt of. But are comforts and luxuries the sole components of happiness, if that were so, the modern world would not be plagued with stress, depression, anxiety etc.
It therefore cannot be said with any degree of certainty, that we are happier than our forefathers. Nevertheless, we lead more comfortable and fortunate lives, than they ever did. But in our materialistic pursuits, we have made life a mechanical routine. We lack the spontaneity of joy and happiness that comes from a happy and content mind, free from tensions and worries.
Richa Singh is a student pursuing Economics Hons. from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Nidhi
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.