Happiness & Grief

January 22, 2012

This is a question that has always preoccupied me, precisely because I don’t know how to answer it satisfactorily – you could even say this is the one question that I will eventually ask you, if we spend enough time together.

What is happiness? Most people seem to be happy: they’re not conscious about it. But I can tell. Others find happiness in the idea of pursuits: “I’m going to get a great husband who loves me too bits, a big home with a well manicured lawn, raise three kids, keep a Doberman as a pet etc etc”. While this keeps them fixated on the whole idea of happiness, they are really like people searching for lost keys: they don’t consciously think: where did I last place my keys? They just keep moving and tearing away till they have found their keys. And when they have found something, off they go looking for the next happiness way point. Eventually, they fall into the illusion that they are making good progress in the journey towards happiness – have to get that discounted shirt or dress that really makes their day. Sometimes, they even manage to get really expensive stuff like a handmade mountain bike or a sexy Italian sports car – and before they know it, everyone of them without a single exception think that the meaning of life resides in these things they have surround themselves with – so eventually they never feel the need to ask the question: what is happiness. Yet, despite all that, they have managed to accumulate what really betrays their insecurities is the idea, they may have invested too much of themselves in chasing the wrong goals – to put it in other words, all they are really doing is pursuing a perfect imitation of happiness without really realizing it.

I don’t really know if everyone is unhappy. I do know that people are always on the move all the time: working to met datelines, raising kiddies, getting serious about aerobics, promising themselves that this year will be different from the last – things will work out this year!

But things NEVER ever work out do they? There is always something that needs reworking or doing over before they can really feel completely satisfied about their lives to really feel happy: the proud owner of a new start up who chases the whole idea of fame and fortune, the cookie cutter who works incessantly to please her boss in the hope of getting more money and opportunities to see the world, the new graduate who wonders how he’s going to make the very best out of his degree after graduation, the journalist who really wanted to tell the truth like the magic sitar, but now has to settle for something less – all these people have one thing in common, they are all moving. And they move all the time!
Even in this party I am attending now – as I sit quietly in one corner writing this on my Ipad – people are streaming in and out like a busy train station, I bet that everyone is so caught up in the whole idea of coming across as successful, no one really bothers to ask: will this add or subtract from my happiness. A tall elegant lady in a Cheong Sam sashays in, she lights a cigarette and throws me a glance – I know they type, I bet she spends her days denying herself like a monk fasting, controlling what she eats, because she thinks the sanctity of her love depends on it – surrendering herself to another bak kuah, will probably mean the end of her happiness. On the far side of the lobby, I see a stylish couple with two children in matching red shirts. They seem lively and even intense happy, but I notice the man is busy tapping his smart phone. Perhaps he is bothered about that deal, maybe he is going through the numbers and just realized, he pitched too low and that might just work against him, how will he continue to be happy, if it doesn’t go through the way he saw it in his minds eye – will he be happy tomorrow? The day after? How is he going to keep his stylish wife in style and their trendy kids looking happy – when all they really want to do is play with my Ipad.

I decide to leaf through some really glossy magazines before lunch is served – the place is filled with high powered people. I should have worn my lucky blue shirt, I muttered beneath my breathe: everybody seems to be throwing their heads back and laughing, everybody seems happy. But since I know how politics is conducted in this segment of society, I know not everyone is happy – a stout woman with a giant necklace of pearls leans over me and ask,“What edition is that, maybe I am in it?”, she looks pensive, when I can’t seem to make out her image from the many group photos in the magazine – I know what she is thinking, “how I hate it, when they don’t publish my photo’s in that magazine, now how am I going to disguise the fact that my husband has had his land raided last year by a strange fellow who everyone in the village calls, the Devil – didn’t my super duper efficient husband send thugs in the dead of night to visit him – didn’t he warn that stranger not to show his face around here – if this continues any longer I never going to have enough money to be a prima donna!”

Then I see the man – my enemy – today is the day that he will eventually know that his estate has been secretly bought up. It happened only just yesterday, in the dead of night around a poker table and all I can really say is the cognac was sweet and clear. Ah, yes, when everyone was happy or pretending to be happy. I don’t have to do anything – there are no thoughts in my head – I am like the wind, here and unseen. I am just a witness.

Perhaps, happiness is like sex, its overrated – I will probably not be happy when the serious men in this party takes this man to a quiet corner and tell him what we have just done – the truth will cut through him like a samurai sword – perhaps, if one of them lacks the resolve, I will have to step in and do the dirty deed – it is CNY after all, red is the order of the day – then again what is happiness, maybe it doesn’t really matter, there are after all so many other things in this world that can make one happiest besides happiness – revenge definitely ranges as one of them.

All I ever wanted was to be a good man, but it seems so difficult, so very difficult.

Darkness 2012


“Listen to the sound of my voice, you are all foot soldiers – sent here by your motherfuck master to die – do not try to seek me out in this darkness, do not move one inch and continue to listen only to the sound of my voice, if you all want to see your wifes and children again. It is impossible to find me in the dark, I know every blade of grass here and all of you are already dead in my mind. There is no law here, only the law of the jungle – take your wounded now and leave this place – tell your fatty master that the man he has harassed and calls the devil will seize his land soon and chase him out of this place. Come, come use you mentality, you could all be working for me one day. I need men like all of you. Men who even dare to come here in the dead of night. I came in the name of peace, but it seems all you people seem to do is poison my trees and dogs – this cannot continue, one of us has to leave and it shall not be me – go now and never come here again, till I knock on your doors one day to invite you to work for me. Go now! Obey your new master.”

“It is true then what the villages say, the Devil has come to these parts.”

One year ago, somewhere in the Eastern side of the plantation in the middle of the night – The Suriman Tales – The Brotherhood Press 2012

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