As I sit down to write this article, I am surrounded by lots of trees, ample greenery and chirping of birds. I can hear the call of a peacock from afar, the hoarse cawing of the crows and the flutter of the wings of the tiny birds. Surrounded by my family, in the lap of nature I am a happy person. Does it take brands, expensive cars and gadgets to make you happy? The answer is simple no. This is not the first time that I have stayed in the hills. Though, I am a resident of the plains, my father being in the Services was posted at remote places in the 1980’s, when there were no luxuries like the television, computer and telephones to keep you connected as well as entertained. Yet, as a family we enjoyed. I learned to be happy in all circumstances from my parents.
Posted in a remote hill station called Dagshai in Himachal Pradesh, with days, when we were cooped up in our house because of continuous rainfall, my sister and I never felt bored. We were thankful that we saw our father everyday as the nature of his duty as an army officer kept him very busy. The house would fill up with his presence when he entered with his laughter, his eyes looking eagerly for his family. Our mother’s presence in his absence gave us comfort. The presence of both the parents in the evenings made us feel happy and content. The anecdotes, the exchange of jokes, the pillow fights and the board games of Ludo added to our joy. Happiness does not need loads of money or state of the art technology.
We were posted to many bustling Cantonments but when my sister and I sit down and reminisce about our childhood, we remember with nostalgia our stay at all the remote stations where we were cut off from the world for most of the time. For that was the time when we bonded as a family and were the happiest.
We were once posted to Banbassa in present Uttarakhand . When my father was told about his posting no one knew about the location of the place. Moving from a modern cantonement like Chandimandir where we had activities in aplenty like swimming and skating besides the huge library stacked with wonderful books and a movie theatre that premiered latest English movies (at a ticket price of Re.1/) we were aghast. But all wards of the Services would vouch for the fact that packing and unpacking was the concern of the parents ( there were no Movers and Packers then) and the thrill of exploring a new place was the prerogative of the children.
We reached the place and there was not a soul in sight. The bus stop was desolate and when the rickety bus rambled away, I had a sinking feeling that we were cut off from civilization. There was no one to receive us (later, we were told that the letter of our arrival had not been delivered. It reached after a week of our arrival) so we dragged our luggage to our temporary accommodation a few kilometers away. The walk gave us a chance to stretch our legs and to see the place where we would spend two years of our life. The small Cantonment was surrounded with trees. The Kendriya Vidyalaya was a series of barracks that had been vacated by the troops for the School. How generous! As we crossed the small market, someone recognized my father and then we were surrounded by people ready to help.
Once we settled and after the initial shock of no activities, my parents encouraged us to explore the area. Well, trekking, walking and cycling became a passion. The waters of the river ‘ Sharda’, that flows between India and Nepal lulled us to sleep. A walk on its banks rejuvenated us when we got tired. Picnics in the open became a norm. The whole area was lush and open with dense jungle. Any clearing became a picnic spot to sit and enjoy with family and friends. There was no television tower nearby so no telecast in the evenings. Everyone had to step outdoors to chill. We spent more time with friends. No one missed the ‘idiot box.’ We graduated from ‘Ludo’ to ‘Scrabble’ where the whole family joined in . Funny words were concocted and when a word or two turned to be a word with a meaning, one was happy with the discovery and was added to everyone’s vocabulary. Dictionary was inherent part of the game. One prayed fervently while the pages of the Dictionary were being flicked open to check a word. All for that extra point! Formation of each word was accompanied with squeals of laughter. We dreaded the day when we would be posted out of that place. And it was not our family alone that faced the dilemma. Each officer who got posting orders from that place, left Banbassa with tears and fond memories.
When I travel, I see families spending time with each other by playing games or sharing jokes and I also see families immersed in their phones. We all have our definition of success. No one is right or wrong for we all have our own perspective. We all are in the pursuit of happiness which seems to be elusive. But I beg to differ. Happiness can be created and crafted. We can be happy by treating each moment as precious. We have to stop grumbling and complaining. Everyone is in a situation. We have to make the best of it. Happiness cannot escape you when you decide to be happy at all costs. On a parting note – I am a movie buff and when I go to see a movie I can’t miss the title or the cast list. In Banbassa , our movie theatre was in the open with no roof. With frequent showers , there were times a movie would continue till the time the Movie Screen would get wet. Once the Screen would get wet, the operator would apologise and we would troop home guessing the end of the movie. When we would meet our cousins in the holidays, that too, after months, we would ask them the end of umpteen movies that had fallen victim to the merciless rain. They would look at us incredulously , not believing our story as to why we did not know the conclusion while we enjoyed their shocked expressions. We were simply, happy.
So, all you there , smile , laugh and remain happy.