Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gross National Happiness


The owner of this lovely motorcycle - bohemian yet free and happy!

The founder of Noah's Ark, Raymund - happy and contented with his great love for animals

Toastmasters - happy people who volunteer their time and talent! Ed Hearn, Anne Barab and organising committee of the District 80 Annual Convention in Singapore
My Indian tenants from India - Jasmin, Anu and Avinesh - happy people who enjoy simple pleasures of life

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I attended the newly formed toastmasters' club at Pico. It was the first time that the club was trying out their first meeting during lunch time instead of in the evenings since it is a corporate club.

The Seargent-at-Arms asked everyone to introduce himself and to share his feelings on the day. Someone said, "It's ok." Another said, "Nothing special", and another one said "I am dying". When it came to my turn, I replied, "I am very happy...everyday." I thought I saw some people frowning, as if I was trying to be fake or funny. Of course, for friends who know me well, they know I have this attitude that happiness is a state of the mind and that it is never dependent on circumstances. For if it were, then people in third world countries would be the most miserable on earth.! Whether is is raining, shining or snowing, I will never let anything depress me.

Hence, you can imagine my attraction to the front page of Life of Straits Times dated 18 November. "Simple, Happy People - In Bhutan, they do not care about Gross Domestic Product figures - it is all about Gross National Happiness." The writer, Tan Dawn Wei, had given an interesting account of her trip to Bhutan and how she was mesmerised by the beauty of the country and people. Despite ranking No. 127 in the gross national income per capita world stakes, the country has one of the happiest people on earth. They score high on Gross National Happiness! Her guide, Dolay Tshering, a cheerful 26 year old speaks nothing of wanting to make lots of money, but of desiring more flexible time to help out on his family's potato farm in Haa. He seeks simple pleasures in life, such as archery, the national sport, or going hiking and fishing with his friends. Indeed, everywhere you go in Bhutan, shy smiles greet you. No one will ask you for money or even try to sell you anything. Everyone readily poses for pictures, and village kids will reach into their bags for a fruit for you. The writer was overwhelmed by the infectious happiness and contentment of the people.

We who are enjoying great amenities and wonderful infrastructure here in Singapore have much to learn. I guess for me, I do not have to travel to Bhutan to experience what Dawn had seen. Right here where I am, living in Little India, I am surrounded by so many happy people. Sunday after Sunday, I see busloads of our foreign workers arriving in Little India, and they remind me of school children, excitedly getting ready for their field trips. Eldest sister had observed how our foreign workers seem to be happy and contented as they stand and chat with each other, or sit down on the open fields sharing some nuts and beer. They enjoy their rest day, catching up with friends, and buying their provision for the week.

In sharp contrast, we have some well-to-do Singaporeans living in luxurious properties, who spend more of their time complaining and worrying about tomorrow that they actually forget to enjoy the present ie. the gift of today - the sheer ability to just being able to breathe without tubes attached to our nostrils, to walk without crutches, to see without walking sticks and to hear without hearing aids or sign language.!

Let us all enjoy the golden splendour of Autumn - that we do not miss the colorful hues of Autumn and let Winter take care of itself. Even when Winter comes, let us also enjoy the crisp, cool air and wonder at the beautiful and unique snow flakes and fluffy snow in Winter. Let us remember that the Creator who clothes the little birds will also look out for His highest form of creation! Life has many seasons, and whatever the season, let us always remain positive and remember that being happy is a decision, and only you and I can make the decision to increase our gross personal happiness.

Gan Chau

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