I was traveling in a remote part of India couple of months back. We went for dinner to a small inexpensive restaurant. It served good local food, albeit with no frills that we get so used to in good restaurants in cities. A family seated next to our table was celebrating their son’s birthday. The child was about 7-8 years old. He was so unbelievably happy! There was neither a birthday cake nor candles; but it made no difference to him. He ordered Chinese food. His face was beaming with joy! He was unable to contain his excitement as the food was served. The Chinese food looked pretty awful to me unlike the local cuisine that the restaurant usually served. But he seemed to be loving it. His happiness was contagious, it radiated not only to rest of his family, but to other tables as well.
I was truly amused and asked my son, “how about celebrating your birthday in a restaurant like this next year?” He gave me an incredulous look which said, “Have you gone out of your mind? Celebrate? Here?” I was tempted to ask myself, “Would I be happy celebrating my birthday in this restaurant? Will I call it a celebration?” My answer was a clear no!
In retrospect today, I am tempted to ponder further on this question, why would I not call it a celebration? After all, I was having dinner with my family in a relaxed environment. The food was good, hygienic. It’s a small pleasure, but undoubtedly a pleasure. So, why does it not count?
And unfortunately I realize that ignoring small pleasures has become a routine. For example, new clothes and good food used to be the highlight of festivals. As a child, I used to wait for months for a festival. And my happiness knew no bounds on that special day, what with the savories and new clothes. Today, festival only means a holiday! New clothes are still bought on insistence of elderly members in the family. But they don’t bring the pleasure they used to in childhood. Why? I buy new clothes as and when I feel like. And even then, feel no particular pleasure in wearing the chosen dress!
On reflection, it seems rather unfortunate that I am unable to enjoy the small pleasures that life has to offer – a beautiful sunrise, starlit night sky, glimpse of a rainbow while driving back home from work, a long chat with an old friend, a nice hot cup of coffee served by husband post afternoon siesta in weekends – the list is countless.
But, why am I passing up these small pleasures and not allowing them to warm my heart? Is it because I
- Am too busy and distracted even to notice them.
- Have started taking them for granted! It sounds gruesome, but is it because of a strong belief that I will continue to have good eyesight to be able to see a sunrise or rainbow.
- Am waiting for only those big pleasures – a vacation in a new country in a luxury hotel, a promotion, or god knows what….
Maybe it’s a little of each of these. But more importantly, as I speak to my friends, I realize I am not a lonely traveler on this path.
Interestingly, research has proven the contrary – many small pleasures beat few large ones. http://www.spring.org.uk/2011/10/why-many-small-pleasures-beat-fewer-larger-ones.php
It’s time I start valuing the small pleasures offered by life. As quoted by Norman Lear, “Life is made up of small pleasures. Happiness is made up of those tiny successes. The big ones come too infrequently. And if you don’t collect all these tiny successes, the big ones don’t really mean anything.”