Manufacturing happiness

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE grass is always greener on the other side, so it is said. Crises also assume a more horrific image when viewed from a distance, especially when the media is there to beat the drums. But when you get closer to the scene of action in both situations you find that things are not always what they appear to be.

On returning to Karachi after an extended holiday with my family, I had braced myself for landing in a country on the brink.

But the Jinnah International Airport did not give that air. Not that Pakistan is prospering or the economy has not been in the doldrums or that the violence and crime graph has not been shooting up. The situation is pretty grim. But hasn’t it been so for a long time now? Yet the country survives and people continue to lead a life as close to normality as whatever their normal is.

We are told that depression is on the rise and many find it difficult to function normally so struck are they by anxiety, fear and pessimism. Television continues to spew out stories of impending disaster. A young intelligent woman who has made it to the top in banking (she is the MD of a foreign bank) complains that the media is always so negative that we can never hope to pull ourselves out of this morass.

She is right in a way. The media does not have to suppress facts, but it can temper tragedies with inspiring stories of success of people with a social conscience. It is they who keep Pakistan afloat. I remembered what my friend Durriya Kazi — an artist with a heart of gold — had once suggested to me a number of years ago. Being disheartened by the negativity of the media, she had asked me, “Why doesn’t your newspaper have at least one page titled ‘Good News’ carrying write-ups on the positive work people are doing? It would bring cheer to many readers.”

Durriya is herself busy spreading happiness around her. As the chairperson of the University of Karachi’s Visual Studies department that she helped found in 1999, Durriya speaks of the changes she has seen coming. With 400 students from lower- and middle-income groups on her rolls, she has facilitated the blossoming of their potential by giving them the skills for artistic expression.

Describing the university as a cosmopolitan institution, she says her students interact with youth of all cultural backgrounds and classes while the ongoing dialogue between them has a humanising impact. The first lesson they learn as art students is that three different artists will draw a picture of the same object in markedly different ways with each being equally good aesthetically. That is the power of perception. Perspectives may vary but you just have to look for the good in others and see how that can help society.

This is the secret of Durriya’s popularity as a teacher — her deep sense of social responsibility which she feels all of us must have. For her it is a matter of providing opportunities to her students and thus giving them the confidence they lack. That paves the way for the transformation she is looking forward to very keenly. She says change is inevitable and those who have a privileged lifestyle cannot live for long in a bubble of their own. Privileged are those who spread happiness and derive immense satisfaction from it.

One doesn’t really need massive resources to be in the happiness business. Many activists who work to provide opportunities to people who would otherwise be denied them are not millionaires. Be it Durriya Kazi herself — her email ID is a sweet-sounding ‘meetha pani’ — or the numerous others she spoke about, it is their work that cheers people. Instead of constantly complaining about corruption, poor governance and so on they just go forward to try to change people’s lives. There is Farida Zuberi whose young workers in Teach for Pakistan go to villages to educate children.

Ghaffar Billoo, the doctor who made a name for himself as a paediatrician, is now busy empowering people through an NGO called HANDS which works for human development through health and nutrition. A lawyer, Faisal Siddiqi, takes up pro bono cases — he has worked with WAR (War Against Rape) to bring justice to rape survivors and is best known for his victory in the SITE toxic waste-dumping case that had led to the death of a child and the disabling of another.

Although they work with the less privileged, these good Samaritans are not dejected even in the worst of times. They are motivated and involved. Most of them are not wealthy either. What matters is their spirit. Many people are generous in donating to charity. According to Anatol Lieven, the author of Pakistan: A Hard Country Pakistan generates philanthropy worth five per cent of its GDP. But how many give time, humanity and a smile to change lives?

Even if each of us were to adopt one family in need to provide it moral support and cheer, how much social capital would be generated to break the prevailing inertia and set into motion the momentum for change that Durriya wants. The efforts so far are fragmented at best, she admits. She is hopeful that a time will come when these efforts will coalesce. Only if the media would see this as a worthy cause.

Source: Dawn

26 thoughts on “Manufacturing happiness

  1. hi,

    I m permanent reader of ur article published in dawn. always feels a sense of positivity and iptimisim. Your today,s article fascinates me alot. thank a lot in developing attitudinal positive change in this gloomy social milieu,again thank u

  2. There is a need for a website like: But to make it work required a great deal of work, and so after many years the person who was running it has discontinued it until he can find time again. There is still plenty of good news to be seen from across the border at this site.

    Highlighting the good work that exceptional, but otherwise ordinary Pakistanis do can only help them and also inspire others.

  3. There is a great deal which can be said about this idea : " Can we create happiness"

    The Dalai Lama says: There are two ways to create happiness:

    The first is external. By obtaining better clothes, better shelter, and better friends we can find a certain measure of happiness and satisfaction.

    The second is through mental development, which yields inner happiness. However, these two approaches are not equally viable. External happiness cannot last long without its counterpart…. However, if you have peace of mind you can find happiness even under the most difficult circumstances.

    However, before venturing into religion and the concepts of personal inner happiness , one must understand the question of this web-page .

    Is the question : " How can we create happiness in the lives of other people " That's a different stream of thinking.

    " How can i create happiness in my own personal, microcosmic life ? That's totally different.

    When one is able to do so , ***happiness is in jogging 10km with your dogs at dawn**

  4. Here is a poem that defines Happiness poetically!


    Happiness is in one’s mind!

    Some feel it in crowded bars and coffee house

    Some in temple, some in solitude

    Learned reading novels and books

    Others among their family at home!

    Some listening to good music

    Some singing God’s glory

    Most find it in being loved

    Many in activism to preserve nature and Earth!

    Some enjoy happiness eating good food

    Some serving others in distress for humanhood

    Most enjoy happiness in harmony and peace

    But a few discover it in inflicting destruction and death!

  5. Happiness of a permanent kind to me is inner harmony. It comes with supporting the positive jub hum dia say dia jalatay hein.
    In Durriya's case its harnessing the talent of young people so they can build a better life…a better Pakistan.
    I agree the media both print and electronic need to tap into stories that bring hope and reinforces the development and socially engaging work being carried in small and big towns.
    I always tell people, particularly friends who live abroad, that Pakistan is changing from within. The light of hope for change I saw in the eyes of young girl students in the rural areas has become my guiding light.
    niilofur farrukh

  6. dear Zubeida,
    here is my take on the issue, one that results from some four decades of considered work and though:

    never mistake comfort for happiness; comfort is thingy and mney can provide it for a while, till boredome sets in again;
    happiness can come only from human interactions or interactions with animals; but, crucially, the less you think of yourself and more of others, the more aligned you are with some large, impersonal idea or project, the better your chances of 'happiness.' Take it from me.
    badri raina

  7. Happiness is essentially very shortlived and ephemeral. The only real happiness is from people you love.Children or grandchildren can give you great happiness or they fill your heart with thankfulness and also cause anxiety and turn you to God so that you ask His help for their welfare and happiness. Otherwise the best one can expect is a kind of contentment- where you accept life as it is and if it is painful pray for relief and generally remain grateful for the absence of pain and difficulty and for the well being of your near and dear ones.

  8. i dont think that happiness can be manufactured as it has nothing to do with money at is a feeling primarily when a person is happy with ordinary things of life which he gets at that moments-some time an ordinary pakora can give greater happiness than pate de fois gras-or steak tartare etc etc -similarly getting some thing which some one has wanted -and he gets at a certain moment-it is important-as regards human relations being in love is the greatest source of happiness-this does not mean some one with a lot of money or some one who is extremely good looking-but some one whom you just like.

  9. The sorry picture detailed in your article should be converted into a beautiful picture by INPUT EFFORTS of Govt and citizen as a team.

    Happiness is not a item to get it manufactured. It is always a short lived. Real smile and happiness is rare item. The Scientists over the word are ON to analyze the various happiness or smile. However, some normal findings are here and there up to any common man.

    However, I will narrate one example of real smiling or happiness:

    Way back when I was at Ludhiana (perhaps 1982-83) I happened to view FIFTY FIFTY (Comedy show) aired through LAHORE TV. The act was as under:

    " A man reached his friends home. Door was opened and he entered in friends room. He found he was feeling very happy and laughing. He look here and there and found none except his laughing friend. Neither Radio nor TV was on. He asked as why he is laughing so nicely and perfectly when there is no one around you. Friend replied – "My dear friend! the joke you narrated me yesterday get into my mind exactly today and your real joke has given me a real laughing."

    So Ms Zubeida real happiness can neither be manufactured nor be measured but has to be created and this CREATION should be created in MINDS.

    1. Exactly. People misunderstand the meaning of happiness. It is simply a positive feeling. If you feel that it is fine. You may not even sing or dance. The feeling of well being. The rest will automatically follow

  10. It is indeed necessary to highlight the good work being done by so many Pakistanis, which often gets drowned in the Tsunami of violence , corruption and mis-governance that occupies the center stage of Pakistan. Appreciate your efforts at always looking at the positive.

    1. Thanks Naeem. Changes come if even one individual's life is changed. We don't know which individual will be the harbinger of change. So we must keep on looking for the right person in our own way. You are also fighting a difficult battle for Pakistanis. Hope you succeed in unearthing all the scams.

  11. I am really sorry I can share any idea about happiness as I do not have any. In such a state where poor people are being killed and cut like carrots and onions, corruption inflation, mismanagement is at peak, how a poor man can think of happiness. Even the in Balochistan we are imposed to live like hostage as followers of Turko-Afgan version of Islam are in a clear confrontation with the Balochs who follow the Arab version of Islam. Turk-Afghan history and looting plundering deceiving and mass level of killing since Ghazanvi to Aurangzeb and even the new owner of state are open to everyone. The fall of Dhakka is best illustration. Now pakistan is in its 64 year and same is being done with Balochs. Balochs are being abducted and killed, even in one day 10 bullet riddled mutilated bodies of Balochs recovered on 10th October 2011. And from the evening of 2nd Novermber 2011 till this day morning 5 bodies of educated middle class are recovered. Strange it is Eid is on 7th Nov and the families are in morn. In the history of 64 years with Pakistan Balochs were never recognized, every ruler was it a democratic or dictator killed exploit and tried to demoralize Baloch. On Baloch issue Media, Journalist, Judges are silent. In period of one and half year more than 450 Balochs including from a student of 5th class to a man age of 85 are killed. Now after 64 years, PM made Balochs happy that they having a long coastal line and sea area will be induct in NAVY. The Balochistan package 5000 jobs reality is that the all the Engineers Doctors MBAs, and other Masters degree holders are hired as SST and newly created post of Assistant Lectures and even they get their salaries after three months. Nawab Bugti was killed and now even draining the exchequer not a single positive result is attained. Happiness in Balochistan and in Balochs is a past story. The Baloch Muslims are victim of polices of ruling elite and are of opinion that they need Baloch Land not Balochs. The are humiliated by the words of traitors but Balochs have never sold any follower of Islam and its Prophet. Mushraff book and the US Judge remarks on Ammal Khan Kasi are open to every individual. Balochs are the most politically aware people and understand the game in region. A man who is totally distrubed after the massive killings and state aggression after it own failed policies and folly does not seem the Balochs to be happy.

    My words must not shared and kept in dark core of dark room as media ,civil society, judges, political elite is doing with POOR PAKISTANI BALOCH MUSLIMS OF LAND OF PURE. I dont want to be a victim of torture cell and a silver bullet.


  12. I fully understand the agony of the Baloch. The Baloch are a brave people and they have always fought for their rights however adverse the circumstances. We are with you and draw courafe from this thought.
    tather than surrendering to tyranny.

    When I speak of happiness I mean the positive feeling one has. When I and many others express support for you and your companions, I am sure it will make you feel stronger and determined to struggle harder. That is what I mean by happiness which makes a person look at things in a positive light and become a doer.

    Never give up otherwise all will be lost. Victory will be yours.

  13. Dearest Zubaida,
    You are an incurable optimist, are you not?
    True , one gets sick and tired of depression, emanating from the prevailing circumstances. Where did i read, "Life was always like this." Yet, the fact is, one feels it again and again, ki
    jaisi ab hai teri mehfil, kabhi aisi tau na thi!

    Creating happiness…ummmm!!I think appreciation makes one happy. Making people learn that someone cares for them would, should, ought to, make them feel happy. That is, theoretically. Zubaida, once a very dear friend of mine fell very sick and was extremely depressed. I wrote a poem for him.

    taqat w mal o zar hi faqat tera sukh nahin
    Kuch yad kar ki sukh ka hai ik aur roop bhi
    Dil ki trey khushi tau kisi aur dil main hai
    mil jaey gi tujhey bhi, jo lag jaey ga galey

    So, happiness is something so ephemeral. OUR happiness! We may be dependent on someone else for what is ours. That is personal happiness. In trying to be appreciative of others, we can bring happiness to them. What a precious gift. And how little it takes to give it to someone ! Surprising!

    As for happiness in society, I have been running an NGO myself, and greatly appreciate what some undaunted souls are doing to give a better deal to the oppressed sections of society. But , may be , I belong to a different school of thought…I feel that changing the fate of nations and society is a political task. The aim of politics was supposed to be creation of happiness for the people, as they say, freedom and pursuit of happiness!

    Security, too, leads to peace of mind and happiness. Good governance, confidence in a working system of law and order,in a system of health care, and housing,education, security of job, all these are premises of social happiness. If someone was to ask me,are developed nations happier than the undeveloped nations, my answer would be an unequivocal YES. The sufis could be happy without all this. But the multitudes of humanity are not comprised of saints and sufis. I think complaining about what is wrong is the first step towards setting it right. It should not be spurned as "negative. The human heart is capable of experiencing happiness in the midst of misery, but it is a wondrous phenomenon that does not affect misery if it prevails all around. Being happy in the midst of misery is either callous or delusional. One can delude one's self for ever, but not the neighborhood. One can try to do one's little bit, for instance I write, and having written, feel satisfied. May be these efforts would lead to a comprehensive change one day, or may be a nationwide political movement would bring about the change.That is why so many writers and artists believe in being fellow travellers of political movements. Perhaps,Ii too belong to this breed, though this is not without its own contradictions. However, from my safe distance, I would wholeheartedly support a political movement that aimed to create conditions necessary for happiness in the society.

    Now this is a long answer to a short question.
    With love
    Fahmida Riaz

    1. I appreciate your thoughts dear Fahmida. Your words "In trying to be appreciative of others, we can bring happiness to them. What a precious gift. And how little it takes to give it to someone ! Surprising!" capture the gist of the central idea I was trying to convey. That is what Durriya does and you do it equally well. That is what Syed A. Baqar means when he says happiness is a journey . It is how you travel. Given the horrible state of our politics and also the media, we have two options since I feel both are incorrigible. We just go into depression and follow the path of violence and become corrupt, ill mannered, liars, selfish and undependable like the politicians. The other option is to live with dignity, grace and self esteem providing support to one another. At least the world will say that the people of Pakistan were not like their leaders.

  14. I agree when I read somewhere that HAPPINESS IS NOT A DESTINATION – ITs A JOURNEY. I believe that this journey must continue. Each lap of the journey must pause with a total sum of greater happy moments.

    Some years ago I wrote in Letters to the Editor in DAWN that TV Dramas are creating a totally new culture though not favourable. I am convinced now that most TV play writers are doing no good in keeping the journey of happiness going. They write such depressing stories, stories that show shouting at each other in family affairs; when one sits before a TV screen to relax after a hectic day with many worries of safety, security issues, of rising prices of daily use essential items, thoughts of how one would handle upcomiing problem the following day – and here before him or her is a tv screen showing violence, depressing scenes of family disputes and the rest of unwanted stories. All this definitely does not help the JOURNEY OF HAPPINESS to go any forward.

    Should not the TV channels realise their responsibilities in ensuring that HAPPINESS should not be a DESTINATION and JOURNEY must continue?

  15. Please see reply to Fahmida Riaz, above. True Happiness is a process (a journey) that has to go on. The more gracefully we traverse it the more dignified we appear to be.

  16. yes, we can creat happines,,, its is a thing which can be created but cannot be measured. if every body paricipate like mis qazi, than i think no one will be unhappy in our socety. i my self also tried to creat happiness among the flood affected people in district umerkot and sanghar, by arranging free medical which doctors dignosed the patients and provided the medicine free of cost. in these four days camps we treated 900 patients of maleria , skin diseases, gastro,etc. i saw the people were very happy with this free of cost fascility at their villages in thar. the remoted areas of country. after all it was my little effort to creat happiness.
    actually i am a student of quaid azam university islamabad, i belong to to district umerkot, sindh.
    madam i read your article, the thing which attracted me is your simple and charming language.

  17. Dear Zubeida, I had written for Dawn a survey on the happiest countries of the world. I am sorry i dont have the ref here but it can pulled out from the web. The survey showed that the happiest people were in the Scandinavean countries and the so called welfare states although the taxation level in these countries was high.As i recall Denmark was on the top of the list. VZ

    1. Dear Zaman! You are right. Scandinavian (Sweden Norway Denmark etc.) countries no doubt charge highest rates of Income Tax but in turn the citizen get too many social benefits but this is not the case with us (Pak and India) and many other countries.

      But you are not right when you or any survey says 'happiest people were in Scandinavian'. We can say happier and not happiest. The saying of Guru Nanak Dev ' Nanak Dukhiya Sab Sansar' is absolutely perfect. Moreover, what about New Zealand, Luxembourg, Ireland, Switzerland etc? The people in these countries are equally happy as compared to Scandinavian.

      Above all Happiness is not a manufacturable item but happiness represent a degree of satisfaction.

  18. Real happiness lies in the truthfulness, which is almost missing in our society nowadays. In the holy book, Quran Almighty Allah made a mention of means of real happiness, that is full obedience to The almighty. Worldly luxuries do not provide the human with happiness. In a society where justice and fair play find no space, how can somebody thinks of real pleasure. Real happiness and satisfaction is tied to the system based on equity.

    Abdul Wahid Shabab

  19. I disagree I once thought the grass was always greener with my relationship. Indegestion Symptoms Later on though I realized I’m definitely a lot happier where I am then i would be on the other side.

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