While growing up, my parents strongly believed in making me earn the luxuries they could provide. One of the earliest memories I have is them trying hard to get me into school. I remember it all depended on my interview, and before I went in, they showered me with love and told me that I would get a hula hoop if I did well, and I desperately wanted one. Eventually, I did get both the admission as well as a bag full of toys including the hula hoop.
I am an adult now and I have understood the parenting strategy used on me. If you do this, you can get that. I was never the class topper or exceptional at extracurriculars, but I am certainly proud of the fact that I have earned and deserved everything I have today.
As a result of this parenting methodology, I think I became accustomed to doing something big to get something big. In my teenage years, I do not think there was a concept of happiness therefore I mostly worked with material happiness. New gadgets, toys, vacations, clothes, shoes gave me immense joy and satisfaction and that was my meaning of happiness. I remember I got my first phone months after all my friends because my mom had set an academic target for me, which I achieved in my midterms. The phone was very fancy, it had all the cool features and was a touch screen, and back then, it seemed very si-fi and high tech. But more than the features what gave me happiness was every time my parents told someone I earned the phone myself, after studying for weeks and shooting my percentage up all by myself.
I get this different feeling in my stomach when I experience the hard-earned satisfaction and happiness that sometimes takes months for me to get to. I felt it after the first time my father trusted me to drive his car on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. It took me 3 years to build his trust in my driving skills, I was so happy that after a point I was not even interested in driving the car because it genuinely wasn’t important. I just couldn’t stop smiling that day.
During my first year in college, I was told to explore a lot. I had seen my cousins working in college fests and decided to give it a try. I would spend a lot of my time after lectures in meetings, making pitch calls, and going to potential sponsors’ offices. I often missed a few chaat trips with my friends and sometimes got home late. I even had experiences at these events that I would never voluntarily sign up for. In a conversation with a senior, I was told they were lucky to have me in their team and were proud of who I had become as a result of these experiences. Looking back, when I see the value I added to these events and fests and how much I learned from them, my stomach gets the same satisfying ache filled with happiness. It is the kind of satisfaction I get when I finish one maharaja thali all by myself. Usually, I skip the previous meal or have something light before I have to eat a thali. I like thinking of it as preparing my body for an outburst of yummy food that doesn’t ever seem to end. After eating the whole thali, I usually feel invincible and limitless.
Every time I work hard to achieve something, invest time in a high valued result, give up on small things, I am preparing myself for the Maharaja Thali.
It took me six long years to become a black belt in Shorinjiryu Kenryukan Karate. There were so many things I gave up on this journey. There would be a zero excuse policy for missing karate class. Fancy shoes and haircuts would not work for me unlike all my peers because it would affect my training. My best friend in 11th grade spent hours every week on her nails and taking care of her skin. I loved doing it too, but I knew, the next karate class I attended, I would have to do knuckle push-ups and everything would go to waste. I would usually miss a lot of birthday celebrations and most of the time, I would not be in a condition to go anywhere after class because of physical exhaustion. This was me from 6th grade to 12th grade every week, every season, every festival.
Whenever I told someone I practiced karate, they would step back and make a mental note to never mess with me. I wanted to become a black belt in karate to become self-sufficient to protect myself and everyone around me.
My final exam took an entire day. We had a written test followed by a physical test where we would fight each other, do conditioning of our hands and legs to check our mental endurance to physical pain. After the test was completed, while we waited in our stance for the Sensei to make us wear the new belt we had earned, I could not stop smiling. I was physically present there, cheering for my friends as they got their new belts, but in my mind, I replayed the last 6 years of my life. All the things I missed, the places I could visit, it all seemed so trivial. When the Sensai made me wear that belt, everything I had missed in the last 6 years, all the bruises and pains, all of them seemed worth it! This was my Maharaja Thali wala Happiness!
Even today when I see my karate belt collection when I can do more sit-ups than everyone in the room when I can stand up for what I believe in because I am not afraid of anyone, I feel that overload of satisfaction of having achieved something big.
Now that I think of this, it took me 6 years to become a black belt, I did college events for 2 and a half years and I was driving for 3 years before these became my sources of major happiness. If happiness is such a long-term investment, how am I supposed to be happy all the time?
Originally Published at The Enterprise India Fellowship on 5th January, 2020