In his latest literary feat, popular author Ruskin Bond has attempted to crack the code to what all human kind strives for – happiness.
He has wrapped a handful of his own pithy observations and those by great personalities he admires, in a pocket-sized anthology that is “a miscellany for all seasons, one to cherish and to share.”
For Bond, who has perennially sought happiness in the mountains and the trees that envelope his little hutment in Landour-Mussoorie, “Happiness means different things to different people.”
“Rakesh is happy behind the wheel of his car; the last place where I would be happy, having once driven through a garden wall in Friends Colony in New Delhi,” he writes in the introduction to “A Little Book of Happiness,” published by Speaking Tiger.
It is perhaps the subjectivity of the emotion and mankind’s incessant search to attain it, that the 81-year-old author decided to give a piece of his mind and heart to his readers.
He tells them what makes him happy – curling up with a P G Wodehouse or a Charles Dickens on a rainy day, completing a story or a poem.
“I’m quite happy on a rainy day because then I can curl up on a sofa, visit Blandings Castle with P G Wodehouse, enjoy a village cricket match with Mr Pickwick and his Dickensian friends, or go rowing on the Thames with Jerome K Jerome’s three men and a dog.
“As a writer I am also happy when I have completed a story or poem or essay and feel pleased with it,” he writes.
Feeling “pleased” is imperative, according to him. “Failed creations make me unhappy,” he writes.
Bond’s first advice towards achieving happiness is, “To find happiness, look halfway between too little and too much,” It is followed by an African proverb that draws an analogy where, “Happiness is as good as food.”
He goes on to tell his readers from his experience how for most of his life, he relied on his instinct rather than intelligence and found himself in a “modicum of happiness.”
“Life hasn’t been a bed of roses. And yet, quite often, I’ve had roses out of season,” writes an optimistic Bond.
The book is peppered with the words of wisdom by stalwarts from different walks of life – authors, political leaders, scientists.
Some of them include – Jane Austen, Mahatma Gandhi, Dalai Lama, Charlotte Bronte, Osho, Pablo Neruda, Sylvia Plath, Stephen Fry, Benjamin Franklin, Leo Tolstoy, Albert Camus, Oscar Wilde, William Shakespeare, Aldous Huxley and Rumi among others.
According to the author, who has written extensively for children for the larger part of his literary career, a sense of satisfaction obtained from the vocation one practises is indispensable, for it is also a source of happiness.
He says, “Before you launch out on the journey of life, make sure that the career or lifestyle that you have chosen is something that you really want to follow.”
Through a saying of the Greek playwright Euripedes, he discloses one of the secrets to achieve happiness – it is important to appreciate the little joys and simplicity that life treats one with.
The saying reads, “That man is the happiest who lives from day to day and asks no more, garnering the simple goodness of life.”
13th century Persian poet and Islamic scholar, Rumi says, “A moment of happiness, you and I sitting on a verandah, apparently two, but one in soul, you and I.”
The book, very subtly, also sheds light on different aspects – love, society, individuality etc. – of happiness.
According to the Victorian writer Charlotte Bronte who penned the heart-wrenching tale of love of a young girl, “Jane Eyre,” “There is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort.”
Another of French mathematician Blaise Pascal’s sayings in the book talks about how restlessness of mind and body can be a source of unhappiness.
“All of man’s miseries stem from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
Introspecting and reflecting on oneself is also important to achieve a happy state, rather than searching for it outside Bond feels.
“Happiness is not waiting to be found; there is no use looking for it. All we need to do is to find the barriers within ourselves that we have built against it. Trust – in people, in life – is a good way to begin,” he writes.
18th century Genevan philosopher, writer and composer, Jean-Jacques Rousseau says on the same lines, “Why should we build our happiness on the opinions of others, when we can find it in our own hearts?”
The author seems to have consciously left a couple of empty pages titled “Notes” after every few entries, perhaps for the reader to jot down his/her own musings on happiness and add to the book.