Tuesday, April 14, 2009

In Pursuit of Happiness: What I want from Life

Image Credit: Zen

What is art? Well art is many things to many people. That’s the essence of a piece of art. Art is open to interpretation of the person experiencing the art. What a person will experience from a piece of art will depend upon that particular person, his unique personality, the experiences he has had before in his life.

Ho ho, now isn’t that vague and uncertain. I being a programmer don’t really deal well with uncertainties. What I have to do is to find a common most occurring situation and then create a solution for that particular situation and then handle the exceptional occurrences to complete the solution. So for my little purpose of living this life I have accepted the following definition of art,

“Art is something which at the basic level satisfies physical and emotional senses but which also stimulates the intellectual thought.”

Ok if you are scratching your head about why I am propounding on the definition art in a post titled, ‘In Pursuit of Happiness: What I want from Life’ then your doubts aren’t entirely misplaced. And if your mental state is like- "bhais ki aakh" saala kuch bhi likhta – I won’t really blame you. [And no this post isn’t a retort at the people who miserably failed to understand my work of art. ;-) ]

The reason is because I have just read “The Hungry Tide” (Good Book, a review post is in the making. For me a real work of art.) by Amitav Ghosh. In the novel Amitav Ghosh has showed a lot of different characters who have different expectations, hopes and ambitions in life.

There is Piya who is a scientist. She is ready to devote prime 10-15 years of her life to do research on some rare species of dolphins found in the rivers of Sunderbans, even when she doesn’t know what will be the ultimate practical benefit of this research. She is ready to live the harsh solitary life in the jungles of Sundarban where there is good chance that she may become food of some tiger or crocodile.

There is Kanai a successful businessman in the translation services. He knows six languages. His ambition is more success, more luxury and more women.

There is Nirmal and Nilima. The idealist couple trying to help the poor people of Sundarbans. They among other things also run a trust hospital for the people if Sunderbans.

There is Moyna, Fokir’s (described below) wife, who despite of being a fisherman’s wife and her rural background is determined to get more education and become a nurse. She wants a better life for her family.

There is Kusum, Fokir’s mother. She has endured unthinkable grief and hardships, yet she is zestful and determined to live a full life.

And then there is Fokir. What Fokir wants? You don’t know. What he does? He is a fisherman by tread, who spends a lot of time on river in the vicinity of nature singing songs. Why he sacrifices his life for Piya? You don’t know. Is he in love with Piya. You don’t know for sure but it seems so.

Of all the above characters, Fokir puzzles me the most. There is a big unanswered WHY about him. In a novel (and in real life too) you can understand people by their ambition. Understand a person’s ambition and you will have him figured out. You can guess in advance how he will behave in a certain situation if you understand his ambition and his moral framework (though quite a few times the moral framework is conditioned by the ambition).

Fokir is a kind of person who knows how just to be. There is no why about his existence, there is just being and being content about it. The kind of man the traditional Hindu religion instructs us to be. The concept of ‘nirvana’. End of want, the complete bliss, the eternal happiness.

Ae, bakwas band kar, direct bol tera point kya hai?

The point is: the WHY of Pritam? If you know me for more than 2 days, you will understand that I am all about ambition. In many ways I am a lot like Kanai. (Except for more women part. Though it may be the natural man situation, I understand the meaning and importance of THE woman and I am searching for her.)

So if I am about ambition, what is the ambition? Happiness for me and my people. Ambitions means want and want negates the possibility of nirvana, the eternal happiness. So what’s the problem? Why am I running behind some ambition when there is eternal happiness to be obtained? Well, it’s not the want or ambition which brings the grief. It’s the failure to achieve the ambition. But you fail only when you give up hope and stop running. If there is hope, the failure is only momentarily; you can always get up and start running.

It’s not really the happiness but the pursuit of happiness that keeps me running. It’s the pursuit of happiness that keeps me alive.


  1. Fokir is not about ambition he is about contentment. The forest enchants him so and cares for him.. its so close to him that its a part of him... he has grown up on it and knows no greater joy than to fish for crabs all day long... i really think his relationship with piyali is on of a sort of admiration and a shared passion... he wonders at what drives her and more than that its the unsaid yet very palpable love for a child that both in a way have... the water

  2. hmm ... seems like some heavy reading going on :) Hungry tide? Amitav Ghosh??