When Walter Raleigh embarked on his quest to find the fabled city of gold, El Dorado, little did he realise how he would inspire many other brave explorers to go in search of this mythical place.
Are we all not always on a quest to seek our El Dorado? But in our case, not El Dorado, the city of gold, but El Dorado, the place wherein lies eternal life long happiness.
Happiness can be defined as a state of contentment, serenity and a complete disposition to an abundant enjoyment of joy and health.
For many, the term “Happiness” is confused with a perfection in life. A misinterpretation that eventually leads to a dissatisfaction of our existence.
As a child, I used to associate happiness to those who used to perform academically well, for according to me, they are those fortunate folks who were excellent students, who were popular and were the apple of the teachers’ and of course their parents’ eyes too. I would observe in the sidelines, not exactly content with my state but consider it too Herculean a task to make the efforts to make the necessary change to reach their state of “happiness”!
Many years later, I recalled what probably was a valuable lesson in my faulty understanding of happiness – that a lot of my comprehension was based on stimuli from the environment and little from within.
She was someone whom I had met in my childhood years but the significance of that association was lost on me until much later. The memories of those joyful meetings resurfaced many years later, with a deeper understanding of their impact.
It was during my childhood holiday visits to my Dad’s ancestral home, that I met Radha.
She was addressed by her dear and her neighbours as Radha Chechi (or elder sister Radha) and I respectfully followed the practice. The first time I met her was when I was around 8 years old. A slim and attractive lady of almost 40 years of age, she lived in a humble dwelling of a house that had a roof built of “mats” made up of dried coconut fronds. Radha Chechi looked younger than her age and what captivated me the first time I met her was her glowing smile. Blessed with a beautiful set of pearly white teeth, her face was always adorned by her radiant smile. She would always rush outside her hut to say hello to me and welcome me to sit on a mat inside her home.
With frugal means, Radha chechi would insist in giving me something to munch as we chat. Sometimes it would be pieces of delicious cane sugar or a piece of jaggery and sometimes it would be puffed rice. It never dawned to me on how simple an existence she lead. For a child of 8, Radha chechi looked “happy” living in her charming little house amidst coconut, mango and jackfruit trees and a tiny yet picturesque pond. The area in front of her home was a carpet of snowy white sand that would be spotless except for a few errant dried leaves from the trees above.
Her home fascinated me from my first visit. It was always shiny, the sparkling ebony floor of her two roomed small dwelling glistened from the sunlight outside. The walls were adorned with framed old faded family photos and old calendar paintings that spoke of valour, courage and joy. Today, as I recall our conversations, Radha Chechi symbolizes what I have come to regard as a state of happiness and an insight into spirituality as well. She never made any small talk that sprung out of the curiosity to know of other’s existence and state of life, never indulged in idle gossip or complained about her state of life. But what she would narrate to me would be delightful, witty and sometimes funny stories from ancient texts. Radha Chechi would enjoy asking me about my hobbies and leisure time. She would sit in rapt attention listening to my narration of some of my favourite childhood pleasures …drawing, singing and playing with friends.
My visits to her home were a part of my childhood that personified the simple innocent happiness of growing up. They were visits to converse and spend time with a kind and noble lady who epitomized that happiness is indeed a state of mind whereby you focused on the factors in life that gave you happiness rather than what you do not have.
She passed away a few years ago, but as far as I know, she had lived in that hut with her Mother till her Mother’s demise. The rest of the years she had remained unmarried and lead a frugal and simple existence. An existence that was undoubtedly impoverished but with her humility and cheerful disposition, she had made the best of.
A life that is an example and a reminder that our quest for El Dorado is not one that needs to be a life long journey. Do not base your happiness on external factors alone, look within. Your internal state is a reflection of how much happiness you derive from life.
Make the best of what you have, focus on making the best of your life and enjoy the happiness you experience.
As someone wisely said,
“The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything they have.”