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Posts Tagged ‘happiness’

Nightlife and Daydreams

In art, Holidays, Motivation, Retirement, Wage Slaves, work life balance, work stress on October 5, 2019 at 17:26

How many more traffic jams before we realize that fast city life is the worst way to die slowly? Days, weeks, months and ultimately decades spent in a state of mild to moderate agitation. On constant alert from noise, crowds and smells. A compounding cluster-fuck of short-shortsightedness and macroeconomics. Every day, thousands of people alight at Mumbai Central station in search of a better livelihood even as existing city dwellers dream of a quiet life.


I have always been a Mumbai boy. Since my family migrated from Karachi during partition we were left with no real hometown. A fact I was reminded of every summer vacation when the entire class came back with farm stories and I had only seen wrestling and played cricket with myself for two months. I am thankful though that my family landed in Mumbai in ’47. Had they gone to say…Raipur, I would have been working in a call center right now and been grateful for the opportunity. On weekends I would probably be making TikTok videos or attending RSS rallies.


In our country, if you are already in Mumbai, the only bigger thing to aspire to is moving abroad. One could also aspire to move to town from the suburbs within Mumbai. But getting into Harvard is easier than moving to Colaba. I wonder if the real estate prices will remain as high after the city is permanently submerged 10 years from now. Yet we power on.

Most of us know we can’t do this all our lives. And if every TCS employee’s retirement plan came through, Goa would become an extended suburb of Mumbai. Thankfully, after the second baby and third mortgage, most people give up any hope for salvation.You keep postponing your prison break: after another promotion, after I buy a bigger house, after my kid goes to college…until mortality catches up with you. If you dwell on your regrets long enough you can convince yourself that they were sacrifices. It is tragic but at least it helps you live with yourself.

Romanticization of country life is also not without its pitfalls.  If you think the uncle selling Maggie by himself over a view of the Himalayas is the happiest person in the world then you have read one self-help book too many. If you have never left the country side you probably cannot appreciate the clean air and solitude. Which is why city dwellers are at a vantage point. Having seen the breadth of what modern civilization has to offer you can now seek depth. You would miss creature comforts for a while but eventually you realize that you do not need 54 varieties of waffles for life to be meaningful.

I spent years daydreaming of being a published author who would send his profoundly sexy books out into the world and the world would send enough dollars back to my dream home in Goa. I also spent some years trying to make this happen. But ultimately a profession has to be close to where the action is. So I have entered a new kind of rat race, a higher level of the Matrix. The cost is always too high though. Cities are oppressive at all levels. The ugliness of its structures, the ridiculous lack of space and the constant fight or flight. Very often, I have to remind myself to look up at the sky. Not much is visible now but it helps put your life’s struggle to scale. At one level we all know that neither our deepest sorrows nor our greatest joys are unique. But the competition does not let you dwell on it. It is like we are living under a dome of haze that cuts us off from the humbling experience of space and our place in it. Even within the dome we increasingly move from one air conditioned bubble to another not able to stand ambient temperature or ambient thoughts for more than a few minutes.

I have spent more than 90 days outside home this year across 20 different towns and cities for stand-up and personal work. And while the experiences have been varying and enriching, none was as unique as the few days I spent in Himachal, alone and without a plan. It reminded me that there is the quiet life to be lived too with nothing to fight for and nothing to prove. Away from clocks, deadlines and anxieties. When I came back down to 2019, I couldn’t perform with full gusto for the first couple of shows. I just didn’t have the aggression in me to impose my jokes and my thoughts on the audience. A lot of what we accomplish is only possible in the pressure cooker of the cities. But there are millions of people living the quiet life, without leaving a carbon footprint. They may not consider themselves successful but they are content. We just don’t hear about them because they are not on Instagram. On a geological timescale, they are the real heroes. We in our vain attempts at leaving a mark only end up hurting others and the environment. 

One can still practice art for art’s sake but any produced entertainment is essentially slave to the same economics and corruption that make perpetual growth a religion. Saying ‘no’ and ‘enough’ is therefore the most important thing to learn. Happiness is for uneducated people, contentment is a more wholesome goal.   


 – Punit Pania

What Does Success Look Like?

In Motivation on September 8, 2017 at 19:05

What does success look like? Is it the first promotion after you have finally paid off your student loan? Is it a neatly framed ending to a feel-good movie? Is it taking your parents out on the first ride in your new car as prescribed by television? Whichever version you buy, it seems short-lived. But failure has to be lived everyday. And nobody teaches you how to, not even your parents. The crushing reality of not having made it in the Rockstar way you had imagined all your life, the statistical improbability of it ever happening in the first place is never discussed. You either live in denial or keep trying just for the heck of it. Sometimes you know you are running into a brick wall but you still do it ‘coz a bump on the head is a better feeling than not having tried at all. But no one is kind enough to tell you that giving up is also a legit option. It’s a stale mate of overgrown kids refusing to believe that playtime is over. And if every Complain kid got to be an Astronaut, there would be a lot of depression in space.

Perhaps there really is no happily ever after. Life is a series of sequels that you can choose to make sense of or just sleepwalk through. Even the most celebrated personalities don’t experience Zen levels of pleasure. They are only humans, hangovers are real and they are not going to have unearthly zero-gravity sex. Life is short but orgasms are shorter. And there is always a bigger stadium to sell out, a bigger award to be earned and a bigger ego to be humoured. Disappointment eventually catches up with you in proportion to your batting average.

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Robin Sharma won’t tell you that coz selling slogans are so much easier. Why does it all have to be about a getting a bigger car and a bigger erection? Why don’t these great speakers talk about having greater civic sense and not being an asshole, those are the burning needs of the day.

Image result for robin sharma quotes

Appealing to base instincts is easier and can be mass-produced. Sex, drugs and Rock’n’Roll for the few chosen poster boys and the hamster wheel for everyone else. A cosmic lottery where you either succeed in the most vulgar and opulent way possible or die in regimented obscurity. There is no third option for truly enlightened folk who do not have the right mix of narcissism, loose morals and good fortune to succeed on a cinematic scale. We are so enamored by the popular idea of success that we let celebrities get away with anything including murder, or worse. Of course, in many cases it is also political and financial clout that keeps them out of jail. But we shower far too much sympathy on them failing to discern that what we see on screen is a hollow projection of a very real very mortal person on earth who is furthermore a different person from his driver.
Cinematic success is exactly that, a few frames of escapism to gloss over reels of hard truth.

And it has us yearning with every breathing moment, struggling, scratching and slogging our working class asses off to buy these pre-digested packages of success off the shelf. Engineering-MS-Green card, IIT-IIM-Paperback novel. And then re-innforcinng through graduation batch WhatsApp groups and LinkedIn updates that we all made an equally good or equally bad decision.

You were born into a particular family, hometown, peer group and their collective pathos, you don’t have to die with them. If on a given day the number of activities you like to do outnumbers the number of activities you need to do, isn’t that success enough? The greatest success can be as simple as not having to wake up to an alarm in the morning. Screw your happy endings and bury your peer group in a shallow grave and never look back.

  • Punit Pania

Relevant Experience Junkie

In conspiracy theories, humor, true enlightenment, Wage Slaves, work life balance on July 20, 2017 at 19:41
In the end we are all just chasing experiences. Experiences that crystallize into memories and add to the narrative that somehow convinces you everyday that life is worth getting out of bed for. Getting high is an experience, so is attending a comedy show. Some are deemed legal by the ruling majority, some are sneered upon and others are punishable by law. We are all dealers then separated only by the sensibilities of the owners of the country.
dude-the-big-lebowski
Money is just a common language that facilitates the scores. But some people get high on just the money, too many people if we go by the distribution of wealth in the world or rather the lack of distribution. All that money locked up in nameless offshore accounts and tasteless jewellery. Such a travesty. All the highs you could buy with that money, it would take you to the Milky Way and back. But it lays with a man who is happy just knowing that he can buy a lifetime’s worth of experiences with it but is still busy hoarding more money. May be does not know what he wants, what truly gets him high. So he goes for the next best thing, making others believe that he has bought happiness itself, with warranty.
But hoarding is the opposite of happiness. Money, clothes, social hierarchy and job designations, hoarded for an eventual cosmic audit that will never happen. Energy always dissipates. You either buy illusions of control or you let go and enjoy the free-fall. But first you must find your drug and let it consume you. Metaphorically of course. Physical abuse is just a waste of protoplasm. And the system can’t let you waft away so easily. Who will pay all those taxes?
– Punit Pania

Inflation and the Myth of Satisfaction

In Motivation, Salary, work life balance on April 20, 2017 at 17:05
The really premium stores are the ones where you can’t even make out what they are actually selling. It is difficult to tell what’s on offer, the crockery, the antique toy cars or the staff’s mime act.
Kama-Ayurveda-Store
Italian decor, Indian prints and African drum music because…why not? You can’t tell if the staff has an accent or they are struggling with queer product descriptions they have been made to memorize. You can’t tell if the look on their face is irony or a perpetual shrapnel up their ass.
Kama-Store
And they are always empty. You could either feel like you are one of the chosen few or you stumbled in mistakenly. Either way, you have never felt so out of place since the time your Mom left you alone with Grandma and her Poker Club friends.
The price tags have detached themselves not only from the inherent value of the product but from gravity itself. And yet it feels impolite to walk out without a purchase but not to price a scarf at 5695 bucks in the first place!
It’s only numbers afterall. In a world of rival religions and vicarious recreation, numbers are the only real thing and they rule everything we do.
Your salary, your BMI, your EMI, your credit limit and your per capita GDP. All numbers; manifested in the struggle you call a life. The jumble of neurons you call a consciousness. And competing hormonal levels you call a personality.
And somewhere down the line we decided that they should all move upwards, double digits, year on year, more chaos, more dollars, more entropy, less sleep, no stopping. A death spiral of consumption, diminishing returns on investment and the myth of satisfaction that always lies beyond your salary bracket.
Clooney Boat
But you don’t know when to give up. You never do. Make do with the MRP bars and save for the birthday bash. Wait for the online sales and splurge in Diwali. Scratching, clawing and ducking into another financial year of accounting obscurity.
Sure there are alternatives and different trends but the shop selling detox depends on the shop selling liquor. And the only right answer to any question is: More!
When the last tree has been cut down
More and more till the last beach is turned into a carnival and the last forest is strip-mined into a grave. The centrifugal force of consumption is so great that only the blessed few with resolve can resist and that too only within the sanctuary of their minds. For the rest, life will be at best a blurr of alarm clocks, plastic pop songs and credit card due date reminders all held together by a constant primordial anxiety to belong, never really getting there but never realising freedom can be as simple as turning the WiFi off!
Don’t you give up, nah-nah-nah
I won’t give up, nah-nah-nah…
– Punit Pania