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What is the se­cret to hap­pi­ness? The 14th Dalai Lama, a man a lot of peo­ple be­lieve has the an­swers to most mal­adies, re­cently had this to say. Hap­pi­ness is not some­thing ready-made, he said. It comes from your own ac­tions. ‘Without show­ing a warm-hearted con­cern for oth­ers, we can’t be happy.’

How then do na­tions be­come happy? The United Na­tions, which has since 2012 mea­sured the Global Hap­pi­ness In­dex among mem­ber coun­tries, says all the top coun­tries on its an­nual hap­pi­ness in­dex are those with high val­ues for all six key vari­ables that have been found to sup­port well-be­ing: in­come, healthy life ex­pectancy, so­cial sup­port, free­dom, trust and gen­eros­ity.

The fourth in­stal­ment of in­dia to­day’s an­nual Good News is­sue, com­piled by Ex­ec­u­tive Ed­i­tor Da­mayanti Datta, fea­tures an ex­traor­di­nar­ily in­spi­ra­tional group of Good Sa­mar­i­tans. Th­ese are in­di­vid­u­als who have in their own ways been ad­vanc­ing the six key vari­ables as de­fined by the UN, sup­port­ing well-be­ing and spread­ing good cheer.

Sci­en­tific re­search has proved that pos­i­tive news sto­ries about em­pa­thetic in­di­vid­u­als like them are like tonic. They ben­e­fit the con­sumers of such news men­tally, phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally. What bet­ter way to start the year, then, than with a com­pen­dium of feel-good sto­ries that cel­e­brate pos­i­tiv­ity and pro­duce en­dor­phins.

And so we have a group of con­sci­en­tious gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials who are spread­ing good cheer in the re­motest parts of our coun­try. A bu­reau­crat who or­gan­ises marathons to keep peo­ple healthy in Bhopal, a for­est of­fi­cer re­duc­ing man-ele­phant con­flicts in Ker­ala, a po­lice of­fi­cer-physi­cian who or­gan­ises health camps deep in­side Maoist ter­ri­tory and a pro­ject of­fi­cer work­ing on reach­ing gov­ern­ment schemes to Ma­ha­rash­tra’s trib­als.

We also have doc­tors who are go­ing the ex­tra mile to in­ject op­ti­mism, whether it is the Pune-based gy­nae­col­o­gist who is sav­ing the girl child, the doc­tor from Delhi who knocks on doors to bring aware­ness of breast can­cer or the on­col­o­gist from Ben­galuru whose pros­thetic de­vice has given voice to throat can­cer sur­vivors. Th­ese are our torch­bear­ers of hope, who have taken the road less trav­elled to bring hap­pi­ness in the lives of oth­ers. And they are ev­ery­where. From the vo­cal street the­atre artiste in Delhi who has staged over 9,000 street plays on so­cially rel­e­vant themes to the for­mer busi­ness­man who gives sol­diers a sec­ond life to the so­cial worker from Hy­der­abad who is spread­ing hy­giene aware­ness in ru­ral In­dia.

Their sto­ries be­come es­pe­cially use­ful be­cause they are point­ers to guid­ing pub­lic pol­icy at a time when the over­all na­tional pic­ture—at least in the hap­pi­ness rat­ings—is, well, a tad gloomy. In­dia’s hap­pi­ness rat­ings have been slid­ing sharply from the time the UN be­gan its in­dex five years ago. From 117 in 2013, we have come down to 133 out of 156 coun­tries sur­veyed in 2018, the low­est among all SAARC na­tions, bar­ring war-torn Afghanistan. Since this gov­ern­ment is so much into in­ter­na­tional rat­ings, it should per­haps con­sider putting this on their agenda.

Clearly, the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness and well-be­ing of the peo­ple is an is­sue we ought to be spend­ing more time on. This is a worth­while new year res­o­lu­tion for us to adopt. Wish­ing you a new year filled with hap­pi­ness.

(Aroon Purie)

Jan­uary 15, 2018

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