Opinion and Editorial

We all need to do our bit

Shilpa Bhasin Mehra
Filed on May 9, 2021

This is one anniversary I am definitely not excited about. I had started it as an interim measure as we say in legalese.

It was in March last year that I decided to do something to spread some happiness and good cheer around. So as the subject matter suggests, I started the Happiness Chat. It was a simple chat with some very interesting people about their life and what happiness means to them. The aim was to get some encouragement to face the tough times. It was done on Zoom, since we had already started our virtual journey by then.

This is one anniversary I am definitely not excited about. I had started it as an interim measure as we say in legalese. My sisters asked me if I would do this for a month or as a series. I had no clue. I thought maybe for two months, like a project we did in school in our summer holidays. But what I have learnt this past year through this chat has been immense.

I have invited leading doctors, educationalists, lawyers, healers, parents of autistic children, rape victims, business leaders and diplomats. Everyone I approached to invite as a guest, agreed instantly. I think deep down we all have a story that is untold and that story gets lost in our busy schedules and list of achievements. Some of my guests I have known for many years, but I learnt so much about their life story that I had no clue of. There was this lady who has a constant smile on her face (looks like an epitome of happiness), but had contemplated committing suicide in her youth. I remembered the quote, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’.

The parents of autistic children had a huge impact on me as well as other viewers. We complain about some bad days or difficult things to do. These parents deal with difficulties on a daily basis and emergencies frequently. Yet they wanted to come on the Happiness Chat and share what inspires them and keeps them going. Like straight from the horse’s mouth with no frills. They cry and break down, yet the love for their children makes them rise every day to do better than yesterday. They reminded me of the sun that rises each day after a dark night. We complain because our lives are thrown out of schedule due to the virus, we can’t go out, we are fed of the lockdown etc. I chatted with one such mum who doesn’t remember when she had a cup of hot tea. She is always on call, on duty 24/7 and leaving the house is something she cannot even think of. When I asked her what would make her happy, her simple response brought tears to my eyes, ‘To sit and enjoy a hot cup of tea.’

I had another amazing young girl as my guest, who has been on a wheelchair since she was 13. I don’t think her face knows any other expression besides a smile. She is now 25 and her dream is to make life more accessible to others like herself by building ramps where needed. To think beyond one’s problems and do something to make this world better for others. Bravo! It has been such a learning experience for me to chat with such phenomenal people. What struck me is how resilient these people are. How compassionate they are to work for improving the lives of others.

On the other side of the spectrum on my chat were very successful business leaders, diplomats and doctors. They shared their journey and how they climbed to the top. My last question is standard and actually mandatory for each and every guest: What does happiness mean to you? This is my favorite question, because you get an insight into a person’s life, mind and attitude. What was so fascinating is that no one spoke about awards, a house on the beach, a limo or such fancy stuff. Instead, their answers were like good health for self and family, spending time with loved ones and maybe playing their favourite game. Another aspect was their expression of gratitude for all that they have.

Happiness is a topic very close to my heart, so doing a chat on this subject is like coffee for me (a no brainer). The world is going through a crisis totally unprecedented. What we need is compassion to love and help each other. I would end with the wise words of the great Dalai Lama: “If you want others to be happy, practise compassion. If you want to be happy, practise compassion.” There is no other way.

Shilpa Bhasin Mehra is a legal consultant based in Dubai and the founder of Legal Connect

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