The Gift of Happiness

When gestures speak louder than gifts

A few weeks ago, my 13 year old received a Rs 1500 ($23) cash prize at a writing competition. It was the first money she had ever earned. She came home, and happily told me all about it. And then she surprised me.

She gave me the money, and asked me to buy something for myself.

I didn’t need to be asked twice. I went on Amazon, and ordered a fitness tracker that I had my eye on (had to put in an extra Rs 500). It counts the number of steps I take in a day, distance covered in kilometres, calories burnt during the day, records how long I slept, measures my heartbeat at any given instant, and even tells me the day, date and time. Its phone app gives a lot more detail, and keep a record of all my activities. Absolutely thrilling for a nerd. In fact, the thing has not left my wrist since I first wore it a week ago.

I could see she was happy to see how kicked I was about the whole thing.

So what makes it my best ever gift? Why not the latest iPhone that my wife gifted me a year ago, which is the best toy I have ever had. Why does this cheap little fitness tracker make me far more happy?

You see, what I want most for my daughter is to be happy. I don’t really care if she doesn’t achieve fame, wealth, or success. I don’t even mind if she fritters away her many talents and doesn’t fulfill her potential. I’m even okay if she doesn’t excel at her studies, which is as good as blasphemy in India.

But I will be sad if she does not learn how to be happy.

In today’s world, some look for happiness by spending their lives chasing after money to buy palatial houses, private jets, yachts, luxury cars, expensive holidays and gadgets, while the rest chase after fame and success. It’s like if they have fame and fortune, look perfect (if somewhat plastic), and find the perfect spouse, then they will be happy. But that happiness they desperately seek always remains elusive, and they end up living sad, unfulfilled lives, despite all their many achievements.

So what’s the secret of happiness?

In India, we have been brought up to believe that the only path to true happiness is by giving happiness to others. The more happiness you give , the happier you will be.

My daughter has been lucky enough to closely know many such people in her immediate family. These are individuals whose entire lives have been devoted to making others happy, with never a thought about their own happiness. I have always felt if my daughter could learn this one thing, then everything else in her life would fall into place.

But it’s not been easy. She’s an only child who has grown up to expect the world to revolve around her, and her needs. For such a child to give up the first money she has ever earned to her Dad, the much hated ‘Enforcer of Rules’ is a huge leap. It means she has been observing life around her, and has somehow got an inkling about ‘giving’ being the way to true happiness.

It’s a small step in terms of a gift, but a giant step in change of attitude. And if she continues down this path, she will grow up to be a happy person, and live a content and fulfilled life.

And isn’t that what every parent wants for their child?