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The United Nations recently released its fifth annual World Happiness Report. According to the report, there are six factors that are responsible for a nation’s happiness–income, life expectancy, having people to count on, public trust, freedom to make decisions, and generosity. Of the 155 countries ranked, India fell four places from its previous position of 118 and was also behind most of its fellow SAARC nations.

Isn’t this shocking? From smartphones in nearly every hand to home loans for even people of humble means, we have never seen so much economic progress in a nation. What is making us so unhappy? Let’s hear it from urban millennials.

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1. We have progressed as individuals, but our society hasn’t

Find a safe job, get married, have kids, work until retirement – this was how society functioned in the previous generation. Our generation realises the importance of dreams and pursuing them relentlessly. However, many still succumb to what society expects – and it is hard to blame them for it. On some level, everybody wants social acceptance, and conforming is a surefire way to get it.

Techie Arahant Ashok Kumar opines, “Indian society is quite powerful, and through parents, it’s will is dictated on unwilling children. Parents are reduced to mere tools of the society, they are ‘indoctrinated’. The path to individualism is long, and replacing the collectivist nature of Indian society with it is an arduous one. But as history shows, whether society likes it or not, this change is inevitable. Modernity will prevail eventually.”

2. Our parents won’t let go

Most Indian parents are guilty of controlling their adult kids’ lives, but have you ever wondered why?  B.Tech student Samuel Vijaykumar boldly states, “Our parents control because their parents did the same thing. This will continue until sane parents like mine do the opposite. The real reason why parents take so much control is fear. They fear for your future. They fear that you won’t achieve what they have envisioned for you. They fear that you won’t become successful in life (again the term successful is defined on their terms). They are selfish and hypocrites. They will lament on the poor performance of our athletes in Olympics. But, they will hesitate to allow their own children to take sports as a career. They demean and think of other professions lowly. The dreams most Indian parents have envisioned for their children is their own dreams.

We’re not trying to overgeneralise, but many Indian parents, at some level or the other, are controlling of their kids’ lives. And if you relate to this, you must try and break yourself from the siege and come into your own.

3. We have poor personal relationships

If you were in trouble, do you have relatives or friends you can count on to help you whenever you need them, or not? Believe it or not, our national average to this survey question is a shockingly low, at 0.61. Why do you think this is? Owing to long commutes, longer working hours and improper workplace etiquette, we are extremely stressed and don’t even get to spend time with our loved ones. By and large, we have to deal with our own problems, which leads to isolation and poor quality of life. Add to this, poor living conditions like terrible roads, growing incidents of road rage and pollution–it’s understandable why we’re harrowed with life. And let’s not forget our unemployed peers; the report specifically states “Unemployment causes a major fall in happiness, and even for those in work the quality of work can cause major variations in happiness.”

Blogger Chanakya Kautilya rightly sums it up, “I have worked at IT firms and my parents have worked at banks. What I understand is that labour laws are ambiguous in India. Extending a couple of hours every day is quite commonplace. And to make matters even more complicated, there is the cut-throat nature of employment opportunities. If you do not stretch hours, it is often mistaken that you are not working.”

“Luckily, some IT firms have started providing employees with WFH (Work From Home) options which are indeed suited to our times. IBM,Infosys, etc are coming to terms with high attrition by designing these benefits.”

4. We don’t trust and respect each other

In a country that has such amazing diversity, it is sad that we discriminate on the basis of caste, colour, gender and religion. Even our prime minister Narendra Modi has acknowledged that “the biggest issue in India is trust”. We need to see each other as human beings first. And for that, we need to begin with our schools and colleges, and then move on to our workplaces and social life in general. It’s high time we do away with these no-good yet long standing stereotypes and biases.

Chartered Accountant Anil Bharadwaj narrates his experience with casteism, “Thanks to the textbooks, mocking and bullying someone based on caste became an acceptable behaviour in school. In college, I saw social relations stooping down to a new level of dirt. Cliques became more powerful than ever, based in surnames and communities. My Intermediate college had students coming from all over India, which also meant I started experiencing the North-South divide. It was a double whammy. Being South Indian sucks. One BJP MP recently spilled the beans. He reflected the mindset in the society. It’s well indicative. It is the Government and the Constitution that justify caste discrimination.

5. Mental health is pretty much ignored

It’s 2017 and we still do not give mental health the importance it deserves. In wealthier countries, mental illness is “the biggest single source of misery”. But even in poorer nations, it is still “a major source of misery.” Did you know that according to the latest WHO report, nearly 7.5% of Indians have major or minor mental disorders like anxiety and depression that need treatment?

Thanks to celebs like Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma and Ileana D’Cruz openly discussing their struggles with depression, anxiety and Body Dysmorphic Disorder respectively, awareness is on the rise. However, the  masses still refuse to give due importance to mental health. And if it is not even seen as a malady in the first place. 

Theatre artist Shaina agrees. “If you tell someone that you’re not feeling well from a mental aspect, their standard answer is ready–All this is nonsense and you’ve set it in your mind, you can’t feel like this. You cannot tell someone how they’re supposed to feel! Everybody’s feelings are valid. A small fight, a separation in the family, a horrible childhood, bullying, or getting low grades in exams, they all are very valid reasons for depression or anxiety. Initiate the ‘Let’s Talk’ movement. World Health Organisation has taken depression as their theme for this year so as to spread more awareness about it. Specifically in our country. Next time you meet a friend, please, with a very genuine interest, ask them, if they are ok, if they say yes, ask again.”

There is a silver lining in the many, many dark clouds though: now that we know what we lack, we can work towards making positive changes. Here’s to India becoming a happier nation by 2018!

user quotes via quora

Image Credit: Nikhil Mudaliar

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