The Happy Meal

I can’t call myself a foodie but I enjoy eating good food. I am a big fan of the appetizers irrespective of their cuisine. A problem we faced in the lockdown while ordering food from outside was to place the order of appetizers and the main course together but while eating, I had to decide how much the paneer tikka and the rajma chawal I ate! The satisfaction both of them gave was different yet equally important. 

With a little reflection on my recent experiences, I have realized this applies to my source of happiness too. The small simple sources of happiness are like eating one cheese-corn-ball. It makes a blast of cheese in my mouth which I love, but it certainly cannot satisfy my entire appetite. No matter how many sandcastles I make, I cannot source them for a life long reason to smile. And, at the same time, if I need to eat an entire plate of pink sauce pasta all by myself, I will certainly be happy for longer and my stomach will be satisfied but I might get bored of the monotony. Just like how just doing karate for years gave me happiness after it was over, but, it was a challenge for the 6-year long journey. 

In the last year, there were enough reasons to be sad and gloomy and barely any to smile. This is when I decided to fix the whole situation for me. My fellowship at Let’s Enterprise had begun in the middle of the lockdown. As per the design of the fellowship, you get to learn as much as the time you give in. I had had a  good history of transforming into a workaholic, and here too, I started going on the same road. I finished my first project on sales within the first 3 weeks and when everyone gave feedback on the work, I felt that small ting of happiness in my stomach. The adrenaline rush for this happiness was just like the old times when I worked on college projects and events. As time went by, I grabbed more opportunities and kept getting my big packet of happiness. I reached a point where I felt exhausted. I was happy and content with what I was doing, but I was tired, I wasn’t smiling at all.

People around me advised me to step back and take a break. I was unaware of how corporate life works and this was the closest I could get to that experience. In the 4-5 day-long break, I do not remember doing anything major. I just remember making a dance video for my youtube channel, painting some waste boxes at home, joining my old Zumba class online, catching up with a few friends, and cooking with my sister. The next Monday morning at 9 am, I felt fresh although I had underslept, all ready for the challenges that were coming up that week. 

My cousin and her husband are experts in cooking. They have been in the industry for a couple of years and the fanciest thing I have seen them prepare was barbecue marination in the middle of the night in a village. When I asked them how they achieved this, all she said was:

We used things we already had in the kitchen, the everyday masalas, salt and pepper, and oil but what played the trick was the balance we created with these ingredients.

When I took the break to do what I loved doing I was happy. I liked the change in me. At the same time, thanks to the parenting I received, I was inclined on working super hard for a long time to get an overload of happiness which I was getting when I finished a project or a milestone in a project. I did not have to make a choice between the two, I just had to strike a balance. The right balance. 

If you see my weekly schedule now, I always have enough time dedicated to project meetings, college work, but with it, you will see a weekly hike, some Zumba sessions, and some quality time spent with friends and family. 

India today and 15 years back was very different in so many ways. The development we have faced proves that change is the only constant. So many luxuries from back then have become a necessity today, just like a meal at Mc Donalds. For my family, this food joint is like a staple backup food providers. But when I was a little girl, we went there only on major occasions. 

The only thing that has stayed constant is the Happy Meal we had there. I was the happiest when I ate the Happy Meal, perhaps there was a little obligation given the name too! It had everything I would want as a child. A proper meal with the burger which I disliked initially because it would have lettuce, but eventually I grew fond of the leafy vegetable. With it there were fries and coke, these were forbidden in our house as they qualified as junk food and that made me enjoy each bite and sip even more. As a cherry on top of the cake, we got ‘the toy of the day’, to forever remember the balanced happy meal we had. Similarly, I just needed to find my happy meal to be truly happy.

Happiness. While thinking about this word, reading up about it, the science, the hormones involved, one thing stuck out to me from many years back. I can get happy looking at a frog, or visiting a place on my bucket list, or getting my name on the Forbes magazine, or just by getting enough sleep. The key to my happiness is always with me. It can be of many types, big or small just like in my case, it can be modern or just a little old-fashioned, it can be imaginative and extravagant or just plain and simple as long as it is with me. I often depend on another person or thing to make me happy, and it is extremely important for me to stop, take a moment to think, analysie if there is a change required and then channelize it into my actions. I need not be in search of happiness as the key to my happiness, lies with me.

Link to my previous blogs on the same topic: The Small Bites of Happiness and The Maharaja Thali of Happiness

Originally Published at The Enterprise India Fellowship on 6th January 2021.

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