Tuesday, June 14, 2022

The Paradox of Happiness


I’m about to lose three house guests (relatives of the wife), who had stayed over for the last two weeks and I’m feeling their loss. The reason for this is simple, they’ve been exceedingly pleasant. When I leave the house, I leave people who are smiling. I come home and we eat dinner together. I get called up by people I barely know who ask me when I’ll be back and they say they’ll wait to eat until I get back – and they actually do.

I’ve been living in a strange world. It’s a world where busy is a given. It’s a strange world where people take pride in spending their time chasing for all sorts of expensive stuff. Time, that most precious of commodities is meant to be devoted to only those who can give you something in return. Having lunch with colleagues is seen as a distraction and competition. The concept of marriage ends at the wedding dinner. Instead of bonking themselves silly, bride and groom quickly return to their busy lives. Sitting on a chair in front of a computer screen becomes the only acceptable form of existence. Sitting down with friends and family, with no agenda is strictly frowned upon.

When you’re living like this and everyone else is living like this, it seems normal. However, when you leave that environment or you interact with people from that environment, you suddenly realise that the life you’re leading isn’t exactly normal and its not exactly pleasant.

Funnily enough, I’m not against chasing the almighty dollar. The current economic system is designed in such a way where you will have to chase the dollar if you are to survive and much as the Singapore government might contest this – you will have to do so until the day you die. As an ex-boss at Citibank used to say “CPF is not going to cover the retirement needs of Singaporeans” and Singapore’s pension system is considered the seventh best in the world:


However, while having money is important, its not the only thing in life. In Singapore, the people who understand this basic concept are ironically the people who earn the least. If you walk along Orchard Road on a given Sunday, you’ll find domestic workers happily turning every nook and cranny into a picnic spot. Some of my happiest times come from hanging out with a friend who used to meet with the domestic help on Sundays and going to the odd picnic was fun. I mean, how often can any of us working professionals say that we had time to lie on the grass with a can of beer and look at the sky?



 Copyright – The Pride, Singapore Kindness Movement

I think of my Nepali friend who used to bring me into Mount Vernon Camp to meet with his relatives. Again, they were warm and welcoming and I leaving the camp felt sad because you were leaving pleasant people.

It goes without saying that unhappy people cannot stand the sight of happy people. The unhappy people, are ironically the ones employing the happy ones. You’ll read enough articles on the news about how the government needs to curtail people like maids and construction workers from “loitering” on the streets (what they really mean is not become an eye sore for unhappy people).

OK, I’m going to get a few bricks thrown at me, but I’m going to have a go at our local Chinese graduates’ women. This is the group that complains that local Singapore men are basically not up to standard and a group of male chauvinist pigs who aren’t as good as their Caucasian counterparts who appreciate their beauty and academic achievement (I’ll make it a point of distinguishing between brains and academic achievement). This group will bitch and moan about how men can’t meet the standards they set so they go for girls from third world countries like China, Vietnam and the Philippines.

To be fair, Singaporean men aren’t the world’s greatest. However, the real reason why we enjoy the company of girls from China, Vietnam and the Philippines is the fact that they’re much better and creating pleasantness. The Filipina girls are especially good at providing no stress entertainment. Our girls are obsessed with appearance and attainment to the point that they really forget that who really cares about what you’ve achieved in life unless it affects them.

I work in Shenton Way, Singapore’s financial district. It is “Wankers Paradise” because everyone is exceedingly presentable. However, the “beautiful” people don’t smile and have something to get worked up over. So, it looks good on the outside but it’s probably toxic to deal with:



 How many of these beautiful people looks happy to be out and about? Copyright – Her World   

It’s not just the women. Guys in shirts are probably miserable. I think of the time I actually started to envy Bangladeshi workers who were probably earning less than what I was for considerably more “real” work. It was supposed to be a career high point for me, helping comb through the books of someone I would only describe as an evil bastard, though an admittedly wealthy one. I literally camped in the office for the sole purpose of ensuring that the world would know that the Evil Bastard was on paper (legally) clean. The experience was such that I took to social media to ensure that I would get fired and would never work in the industry again (which obviously didn’t work). Staying in an office for longer than an hour at a time and looking at spreadsheets and documents in files makes me want to vomit.

In a way, I’m lucky because I’ve had several breaks from the awfulness of normal. First it was going away to Bhutan, a country that understands that economic growth for the sake of economic growth doesn’t serve anyone. Then, it was the lock down, which made me realise how much more valuable I was away from the misery of corporate existence and now its my houseguest.

I’m not saying that one shouldn’t work long hours to go the extra mile. Its good to be competitive and let’s make no mistake – having money is nice.

However, if you look at the biggest fortunes in the last decade or so, you’ll notice that it wasn’t people who were slaves to chasing the dollar. It was people who wanted to serve and found happiness in creating things that made the world a better place.  

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Maira Gall