“Happiness isn’t about getting what you want all the time. It’s about loving what you have and being grateful for it.”
Mumbai local trains are the lifeline of the city. It’s a place where you meet all sorts of people and have a varied range of experiences. I have one such experience that I would like to share. This incident is over a decade old. I was on my way to work. My commute involved taking two trains. I used to travel from Navi Mumbai, get down at Kurla station, take the foot-over-bridge to get to the platform at the other end of the station and then catch my second train.
As usual, I got down from the train and rushed on to the nearest bridge. This bridge did not have stairs, but only an inclined walkway to climb up or down. As I started climbing up, from the corner of my eye I noticed an old man with a walking stick, struggling to climb. Without giving it a thought, I offered him my hand for support, which I would usually never do. The reason to do so was that just a couple of days ago, I had seen something on television about the struggles that old people go through. How their family and society neglects them. The old man seemed relieved to get this small help and we climbed the walkway together and reached the bridge.
He thanked me for helping him and we started walking towards the other platform. The old man was quite well dressed and seemed to be from a very well-to-do family. Having said that, he started asking me a weird bunch of questions. He wanted to know if I had any monetary issues, any family problems, issues related to the job or difficulties in getting married. Alarmed and confused by all these questions, I chose to not reveal anything. Though he was being very sweet and polite, I understood that his intentions were definitely otherwise. This gentleman suddenly did not seem so gentlemanly to me. All sorts of bells started ringing in my head, with my gut telling me to walk away. I hurriedly bid him good-bye and rushed towards my train, relieved that I got away from him.
As I continued with my day, I couldn’t stop thinking about that incident. I was feeling very happy about myself and my life. Of course, my life was not “happening” as such, but it was good. I had a caring and supportive family, had a good set of friends, there were no major health issues, my salary was my pocket money and though I was not married then, I was in a good steady relationship. Life was beautiful! I had my share of problems, but suddenly they seemed to be so “first world”.
What if this old man had asked these similar questions about life, money, family, marriage etc. to someone who was crushed under the struggles of life? Maybe, someone who had a major financial burden, a dear one suffering from critical illness or someone in abusive relationships without any family or moral support. The list of problems is endless. Wouldn’t they be overwhelmed, that someone was actually lending them a sympathetic ear and might also provide a solution for their problem? The old man could easily find his victim in any such person. He would have easily exploited their vulnerabilities for his own selfish gains. A person might have thought he or she had finally found some hope but would have been left even more shattered and destroyed than before by falling prey to this man’s evil intentions.
Even though it was not an earth-shattering or life-changing experience, it did teach me a couple of important lessons. First, to be more alert and mindful. And second, to be grateful for what I have. In our desire to have all the good things in life, we forget to appreciate the things that we already have with us. We take everything we have for granted, be it our family, friends, health or even time. Of course, it is important to be ambitious, to aspire for a better tomorrow and not settle for less. But it should not come at the cost of ignoring our present. Having gratitude helps us to be a better version of ourselves and in attracting more good things into our life.
In today’s age, thanks to social media, we constantly knowingly or unknowingly feel the pressure to present ourselves better than others. The reality is being layered in different filters. We see glossy happy pictures and fun insta-stories, while the hard work, struggles, and problems stay hidden. Honestly, many a time, I feel a bit down when I browse through Facebook, and I am back to feeling grateful when I pick up the day’s newspaper. But the sense of gratitude should not be dependent on what’s up with others, good or bad. There should be thankfulness for what we have been blessed with. It is the purest and truest form of prayer you can offer to the Almighty.
If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, how can we be sure that we will actually be happy if we get more in life?! Like every student of Economics knows, but might not have fully understood yet; Wants are unlimited. They will never end.
So be grateful, thankful and you will surely be happy!