The Pursuit of Happiness

Her name was Padma, she was twelve years old; she has three younger siblings and over the short time I spent there, we forged a special bond and I still remember the day I had to leave she gave me a chocolate bar and a bracelet she had bought from the monastery. During one of our initial conversations, I asked her about school, whether she enjoyed it there, what she studied, who her inspiration in life was and what she wanted to become in the future. And she replied that she loved school and she had a lot of friends, she had to study ten subjects, her inspiration in life was Karl Marx and she wanted to become a neurosurgeon when she grew up.

Now most of her answers were what anybody would expect an eleven-year old to say when talking about school…except for when she said she admired Marx and wanted to be a neurosurgeon. Not only was I blinking confusedly at her response unsure of whether I had heard her correctly, but I was also astounded. After she confirmed that I had heard her correctly, she went on to elaborate why she admired Marx. She said that Marx’s theories and assumptions made sense to her and that money for her, is of prime importance and so she wants to be a neurosurgeon and not just another ordinary doctor as not only is that occupation respectable in society but also it is very financially rewarding. And that’s all fine except that she didn’t like studying Science at school. Instead, her hobby was drawing.

And at that point it dawned on me that regardless of the fact that she belonged to an obscure community in a state in North India which till today still caught in the crossfire of a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan since the days of The Partition in 1947, she like countless other students in our society had been brought up to believe that money was the supreme necessity, a requirement that cannot be substituted with happiness and the only basis through which a successful life can be achieved. So, she at the tender age of eleven was studying day in day out, working hard on a subject she was not the least bit inclined towards so as to have a successful life ahead of her, a life defined by her doing something she did not like everyday to earn money and reputation in a society of like-minded people who would put money before their happiness and thus judge others on their ability to do the same; on their ability to receive something which is a revered and valuable source of livelihood because of the value we have designated to it.

So, we’re running behind something, which have given value to ourselves.

For a minute, just imagine, just think what would happen if we all, every last one of us, decided that money no longer exists, that those notes were nothing but fancy paper embossed with some numbers. The world, as we know it, would collapse and descend into a state of upheaval and chaos. No more stock markets, no more haggling in marketplaces, no profits/losses, no more businesses, no more…anything. And once the storm passes, masses of people will find themselves idle, at a loss of what to do…and if the situation continues they’d eventually busy themselves with something of interest to them.

Agreed, it is not the most ideal situation and I hope that the world does not have to become a Banana Republic so as to realise that money is and should be a priority but not at the cost of one’s dreams, hopes, and aspirations.

Thoughts continue  in Educating the World


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