India is not a war torn country or in the middle of a revolution. Why is it then that Indians are a lot more miserable than Pakistanis, Iraqis, Bangladeshis, Ukranians and even Palestinians?
Having spent the majority of my life around the Middle East and Europe while sharing close ties with India, I have a unique advantage. I have an outsiders perspective as well as I hold the insider information. Here is why I think Indians ranked 117th.
The basic variables taken into account for the calculation are GDP per capita, life expectancy, social support and freedom to make life choices as indicators of happiness.
Allow me to explain each factor briefly:
GDP per capita or MONEY!
The world had 872.3 million people below the new poverty line, of which 179.6 million people lived in India. In other words, India with 17.5% of total world’s population, had 20.6% share of world’s poorest in 2011.
Yes, POVERTY in India is rampant. So pretty obviously, Indians are supposed to be sad about it. But poverty is also prevalant in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Palestine. In fact, Palestinians have been seeing their homes blown away to dust right in front of their eyes…how much of a job security do they have when their life isn’t secure itself?
Truth is more complex. Its not the lack of money that makes Indians miserable. Its the desire to have more than the neighbour, the friend or the relative that makes Indians resentful.
Indian parents make their children choose careers according to what they feel will bring more money with no regard to the child’s aspirations or dreams. Corruption is rampant all across the nation. All that Bollywood talk about Indian morals and values end at the door step of an Indian Government office or at the wedding invitation card.
You want to get a student loan? Pay black money to the lawyer to process the paperwork or he won’t pass your case forward. Don’t even ask about road contractors… You want to marry an educated guy/girl- depends on your bank account and her dowry potential.
Who suffers? The farmers…the house maids… the day labourers…They get poorer day after day.
One might think that the ones who do make money whether through hard work or corruption must be having a hell of a time. But NO…they aren’t! They are dying in jealousy why is my neighbour’s shirt whiter than mine?
No one cares if you are an excellent photographer or inventor or traveller with lots of stories or a defender of human rights… IF YOU DON’T BRING LOADS OF MONEY HOME, YOU ARE USELESS.
The worth of Indian men is defined by the size of their bank accounts. No matter how humble and kind a school teacher or professor is, they will prefer an arrogant ruthless engineer to marry off their daughter because he is richer. Men take the hardest hit of the GDP miserability factor because Indian men are constantly judged by their families, wives, children and the entire community by their earning potential.
Those with dreams to be different are ridiculed. The boundaries of ‘how to be a man’ are cold, hard and strictly defined. Men are taught to be aggressive and violent and emotionless. (women are not having that great of a time either but that’s a whole different set of miserable stories).
It becomes a cycle. They are constantly judged and of course not allowed to show their frustration. Hence the gleaming number of men’s suicide cases in India.
A recent discussion with a friend about money put it all into place. We were discussing goals and future plans. And I asked her what hers was. She simply responded “to be rich and successful”. I said “yes, that’s great but why?“. And her response was “because that makes me happy”.
This generation more than ever feels that happiness comes from materials. I didn’t show her but I was apalled by observing her thinking towards money.
Wanting money in itself is NOT a bad thing. Of course we all need to pay the bills and buy groceries. But from Tony Robbins to Bill Gates and from Brendon Burchard to Richard Branson, if I have learnt anything from these multi millionaires and billionaires is that:
Money is only a means to an end. Its not the end itself!
One must have a deeper reason for wanting money. A higher purpose in life. A reason to live… .Be it to make a difference to the society, to change a norm, to raise a human being or simply to pursue a passion or dream such as surfing, wandering mountains, music, art, travel, food, you name it…. If you have no purpose in life other than filling your bank account, and buying some branded materials for yourself… you are heading towards mediocrity.
I suggested my friend what I came across during my research. Charlie Hoehn’s strategy! Charlie suggests showing up at your dream company and proposing to work for a week for free to show them your skills and work behaviour is key. If they like you, they can hire you after a week and if not, they can either give you a letter of experience or recommendation. He calls it the opposite of MEDIOCRITY. People who build a SHOWCASE, not just a resume. This is how he got head hunted by the legendary Tim Ferris. Watch Charlie’s TED talk here.
Her reaction: NEGATIVE!
As you might guess, I didn’t discuss further as we did not share a common view about purposefulness in life and hence she would never value the advice. I decided not to waste it.
True happiness doesn’t come from the money itself but by doing things that bring happiness and its a bonus if it brings money too! In fact, money ALWAYS follows if you follow your passion, sooner or later.
But Indian parenting and education system closes the minds of young Indians from an early age where they do not even develop a passion. There is never a chance to follow or dream or contemplate because they are so busy doing the 9 to 5 and earning to fill the bank accounts so mummy would find a suitable beautiful Indian girl who might bring a fat dowry and the latest car!
Another friend of mine works in the Silicon Valley. An engineer by profession but an excellent nature photographer by heart. As he shares how he cannot wait for the office weekdays to get over, I wonder how much he may have contributed to National Geographic or done some unimaginable wonders for humanity, had he been given a chance to practice photography as a career.
There certainly is no shortage of money but dearth of happiness. The zest and zeal where one cannot wait to jump out of the bed in cold mornings and begin doing what they love to do…
Hence, Indians don’t rank well on the GDP side of Happiness because they constantly judge others according to their clothing and house/cars while constantly judging and resenting themselves (and their parents) for not being able to earn more and compete in the community.
Others are trapped in unhappy careers because their famiies chose them for them. Flipping the coin, unhappy marriages based on material exchange.
The rest live below poverty line and may be the happy Indians pictured in Marci Schimoff’s film- HAPPINESS.
Our food is highly adulterated, our soda drinks are filled with dead lizards or rats. Most of our elderly are patients of diabetes, hypertension and cardio vascular diseases.
Foeticide is very much a practice and girls are not even allowed a chance to be born. Men are unable to handle pressures of constant judgment and finances hence they suicide. Women are trapped with no financial independence with men who abuse them and spend their lives raising children who reapeat the same cycle of abuse and resentment. What’s left?
Now this is an interesting one because I bet on this India must have scored a BIG FAT ZERO. I can bet most people do not even know what that means. English educated ones can translate the words for you but barely an Indian would know what is a working, talking , walking social support and benefit system.
Unlike UK or USA, there is NO jobless person’s allowance. There is NO social service available for disabled people/elderly people, NO shelter homes for victims of domestic violence and rape, NO Housing association or city council advisory where any average person can walk in. The NHS in the UK provides free pubic health care to the entire nation. In countries like Germany and Denmark, all education is tuition free.
In Denmark, there are housing compounds where homeless families can live and make a decent life. In India, there are NGO’s that work for different aspects of these social problems but NGO’S are not the answer. They are NON government organizations….no matter what they do, the efforts of the GOVERNMENT are crucial and mandatory to provide a reliable social support system for its citizens.
Freedom to make life choices
The last one is the most straight forward. The population of Indian males is 51.5% and the population of Indian females is 48.5%.
Therefore, one can conclude that 48.5% of Indians DO NOT have the freedom to make life choices.
Of course there is a handful of men in there too by taking out a handful of women (like me) who do not belong to that 48.5% but I can positively say the actual Indians who make their life choices are much less.
Usually, life choices are driven by-
Mom Dad decided so I gotto go with the flow.
Log kya kahengey
Rules in the ‘name of religion’ (for eg, a red wedding dress is NOT an Islamic tradition)
Husband’s permission, his family’s permission
There may be many things fascinating about India that foreign people love but Indians do not value those things…Im not saying that other people from other nationalitis are perfect and have no issues at all. But my analysis of the Indians is based on very close pure observation and experience and many might relate to it.
Not all Indians are alike and not all fit into these reasons but most do. So here are 5 simple rules for happiness I suggest to my friends while I make an effort to practice myself.
And as Will Smith rightly says,