We were discussing the meaning of happiness, over few drinks: a philosophical discussion between friends. Unlike me, they were all from Ivy League colleges and had erudite knowledge of philosophy, researches and studies, so they had a lot to say about the working of mind and happiness. It was a very interesting conversation and it was great to hear bright mind talk about happiness: something I felt, like many of us, we, as humans, had left aside in search of an affluent life filled with success and failure. 

One friend said that happiness was a way of life when the external environment stops being a source of bother. He gave a very good example that if one is driving on the highway and suddenly the car breaks down; happiness is not being disturbed at that moment. Another friend said that happiness cannot have a definition because each individual defines happiness, consciously or subconsciously, depending on his environment and condition. He, too, gave a good example. A man brought up in competitive environment might define reaching the summit as happiness while another man who wasn’t given any lecture on competition, growing up, might find happiness just in roaming around mountains without bothering about summit. One definition that night said that happiness was an illusion-depending on mental construct. One doesn’t have to do anything to be happy and only convince oneself of being happy. If a man wants he can just make himself happy, irrespective of anything going on in his life. A friend contradicted that a human cannot be happy on his will because he is run by his emotions and emotions cannot be controlled. If a person you have loved suddenly dies you cannot be happy. Many more ideas developed over the definition of happiness as the night progressed. 

Another friend, who joined the party late, said that the moment one stops looking for happiness is the point when he has attained eternal happiness. Then, the topic shifted to the idea, whether happiness is an eternal thing or it depends on moments. Most agreed that in plethora of emotions available to humans, happiness cannot be eternal. Some disagreed. One friend said happiness could be transient or eternal. Perhaps, he said, people like Buddha who had attained enlightenment experienced eternal happiness while most of us only knew transient happiness. But, there was no way of confirming because none of us actually understood what was being enlightened. So, it made sense that we stuck to transient happiness because none of us were capable of thinking about the state of eternal happiness. We went back to the point where we had begun the discussion; the change was that now we began talking about our own happiness. 

We began talking about individual experiences of being happy. One friend said that for him happiness had always been about seeing others happy. He gave an example that his happiness didn’t come from being the best sportsman in school (which he was) but seeing the expression on his parents face when he went up on the stage to receive an award. Another friend narrated an old tale from his childhood. During his childhood, he said, he used to go to school by the local bus which use to be always very crowded and reeking of human odour but every time he saw anyone get up to give a seat to an old person he used to be very happy. He said he used to completely forget everything that was uncomfortable in that bus. Everybody started bringing out their old tales of happiness. One friend told us about his summer holiday. He said, his family, used to visit their village during the holidays and every time he used to reach his grandmother gave him mangoes from their garden and he would give everything away to go back to that moment. The tone of conversation was gradually converting from analytical to emotional. A friend, who normally didn’t express much, talked about his days back in school, when he used to go out to play after school. He talked about the long walks, standing by the street, talking to friends. Someone talked about the time of the year when all cousins use to meet at their grandparents place. One friend talked about the moment he had won the match for his school in the interschool tournament. As we began immersing ourselves in nostalgia, a friend said it was so funny that all of us were narrating tales from the time none of us had achieved anything and nothing from the time we started achieving our dreams. 

Everyone accepted that happiness had gradually reduced with time. In that drunken state we agreed that we couldn’t understand what exactly happiness was but one thing we understood that happiness was mostly with us when we weren’t looking for it and started going farther and farther since we started looking for it. We continued our trip in nostalgia till, one by one, we started drifting off to sleep lost in those simple days of childhood when happiness didn’t cost anything and we never spoke of it. Happiness had never left us, we all felt; just that we had buried it in our journey. 

I might never understand the meaning of life nor I can ever go back to the simple days of my childhood but I can always close my eyes and see the moments that had made me happy and I know it would make me happy because that night when everyone slept and I went back to see my life I realized there were just too many little things that had made me happy and when I slept I knew I had a smile on my face. Was there anything else I ever needed?