“How did we get it so wrong? How do we manage to slip year after year?” Kavita said as she scrolled through the news updates on her phone.
“What do you mean?” Raman asked, engrossed in making coffee for the four of them preparing for their MBA final exams.
“India is ranked 140 out of 156 countries, on the World Happiness Index in 2019” Kavita explained.
“Who is behind us?”
“Liberia, Burundi, Zimbabwe…”
“What about Pakistan?”
“Hmmm… let me see. Here it is, at number 67”
“What? No way, you must be kidding! China?”
“Unbelievable! There is no way that Pakistan and China can be ahead of India – on happiness. It’s a flawed methodology. It’s a conspiracy to beat India down” Mahi pitched in.
“No Mahi, there is a standard methodology.”
“And, what’s that?”
“Measures of GDP, longevity, corruption index, generosity, someone you could trust, daily emotional experiences and so on” Kavita scanned the report as she read out the relevant parts.
“You know, if you ask me, I will tell you if I am happy are not. So, why can’t the happiness quotient of a country be the average happiness of each citizen of the country? Why have such a complex methodology?” Mahi shrugged as he went back to his laptop.
“I agree. This whole thing is misleading. Happiness is an individual matter. Keep the countries out of it. You can measure GDP, social security, may be even the governance of a country – but happiness? I don’t agree” Suma opined, enjoying her coffee that Raman just handed her.
“But a good life can be measured, right? If a country has institutionally-encouraged sense of well-being, then the citizens of the country are a happier lot. The Scandinavian countries have a stronger net of social security. India doesn’t have that yet. May be that’s why we have a longer way to go on the happiness scale?”
“Even so, how do you explain Pakistan’s position ahead of India? India is an emerging market with growing purchasing power and our democracy is not interrupted by military events. I am telling you; this report is such a sham. What do you say, Raman?” Mahi asked.
“Well, I don’t know about all that. I keep my expectations low and I am happy. I think it’s a choice one makes, after the basic needs are taken care of. It is self-awareness that is the true measure of happiness” Raman said, adding his bit to the conversation.
“But can one really be happy knowing that more than half the population in the country is not? What if the pursuit of happiness should be collective and not just individual?” Kavita pushed the topic further.
“I heard that a few state governments have actually created ministries of happiness” Mahi started.
“Did you say George Orwell?” Suma said slyly.
“Ha-ha. I almost did.” Mahi understood the reference to the book, 1984. “But what’s the use of these ministries really? If we don’t deal with corruption, banking fraud, farmer crisis, violence on women, and lying leaders – these rankings are all facetious.”
“Agreed. We are angry about all these things. Maybe that’s the reason why we rank so low, despite being the fastest growing economy?” Kavita pondered.
“Kavita – what’s with your obsession on the ranking? We can’t really solve this. Why don’t you just chill?” Suma advised. “And, do you know there is a link between happiness and intellect? The more you think, the more you are doomed to be unhappy.”
“Now I know why our professor Biswas looks so happy”, Mahi said snidely and saw his friends grin.
“Guys, guys, this is a good discussion, but we got better things to do. And I know none of us is moving to Pakistan or China in pursuit of happiness. That says something, right? Now, who wants to go out for a drink tonight?” Raman suggested and saw nodding heads.
“Good. We have another hour. So, let’s talk about the business plan we are supposed to present. Any ideas? Shall we start with listing the prospective businesses for a country that needs to fill the happiness gap?
“Hmmm…happiness or the lack of it is good for business” Kavita concurred.