Compiled/partly written by Melvin Durai Email Compiled/partly written by Melvin Durai
September 2016

Which Indian state has the happiest people? I’m not sure of the answer, but I do know one state that is making the happiness of its residents a high priority.

Happiness is such a priority in Madhya Pradesh that the state’s chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, has announced plans to create a “ministry of happiness.”

“The state will be made responsible for happiness and tolerance of its citizens and will rope in psychologists to counsel people on how to be always happy,” Chouhan said, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph.

The new ministry will be in charge of about 70 social programs, including yoga, spirituality, meditation, and the arts.

I haven’t seen a list of all the programs, but since they all promote happiness, I can only assume they include the following:

Marital therapy: People in good marriages tend to be happier, while people in bad marriages tend to throw objects at each other. (Violence of any kind does not lead to happiness—except perhaps when an Indian boxer wins an Olympic medal.)

Laughter clubs: When large groups of people meet in the park and laugh their heads off, it certainly gives a boost to overall happiness. There is no better way to begin your day than with laughter—unless you are hungry, of course, in which case a hearty breakfast may make you happier.

Low-cost meals: It’s hard to be happy when you’re hungry. Food is one of our basic needs. It’s important for every state to make sure that people aren’t starving and have an opportunity to eat basic meals.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa has certainly helped promote happiness by creating canteens where people can feed themselves for less than 20 rupees a day.

A housemaid named Lakshmi told BBC News that she eats three meals a day at a canteen. “This food is really good. I like all the dishes. My stomach’s full and I’m happy,” she said.

I understand exactly how she feels. When my stomach is full, I’m usually happy. And when it’s empty, I’m usually unhappy.

Tamil Nadu isn’t the only state that’s feeding people inexpensive meals through canteens. Similar ventures are underway in Haryana, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, and other states. Next time I visit Hyderabad, I’m heading to one of these canteens for dinner. It costs just Rs. 7.50 to get two chapatis with vegetable curry. I’m happy just thinking about it. Imagine what I can do with all the money I’ll save. Perhaps I’ll be able to afford a good marriage therapist.

Healthcare programs: Good health is a key ingredient of happiness. Yoga and meditation can certainly contribute to it, but so can a number of other programs that promote good health habits. Exercising regularly, avoiding smoking and other risky habits, and eating nutritious food are just a few ways that people can be healthier, as well as happier.

Rich people are just as susceptible to unhealthy habits as poor people. One day, they’re stuffing themselves with food at an expensive buffet; the next day, they’re trying to decide whether to spend several lakhs on liposuction surgery or just one lakh having the doorway to their home widened.

Positivity Programs: Optimists tend to be happier than pessimists. They expect good things to happen to them. But you can’t turn a pessimist into an optimist overnight, no matter how optimistic you are.

You can, however, get people to have a more positive outlook about life. For example, if they write down what they’re thankful for each day, they’ll realize how much they’ve been blessed with.

Even an Indian prisoner who is spending many years behind bars can find things to be happy about, whether it’s the not-so-soft dosa he eats for breakfast, the not-so-soft pillow he rests his head on at night, or the not-so-soft laughter that erupts from his cell when he hears that Madhya Pradesh will soon have a ‘ministry of happiness.’

[Comments? Contributions? We would love to hear from you about Chai Time. If you have contributions, please email us at melvin@melvindurai.com. We welcome jokes, quotes, online clips and more.]

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