Happiness… it’s a very contradictory word for some. There have been a lot of definitions, a lot of theories put forward by learned people, by intellectuals. But don’t you think the meaning and especially the significance of this word varies from person to person? It depends on the person’s take on life, on his/her circumstances and so many other interactive factors. Happiness is linked to many things, ranging from social set-ups to cultural specifications. It would be safe to say that happiness depends and relies on these aspects of life.

Like many other people, I will provide my personal interpretation of this term. Happiness is a state of mind, for me. It is how one “decides” to feel and let it affect our body and our emotional mind frame. Being a little too practical by nature, I have somehow managed to control my feelings (which in itself are very, very controversial) and live life according to what I think is right – magic word being think. I realized one thing in my early twenties and that was how rare happiness is in people’s life. One has to literally look for it, dig for it. It is very easy to fall into the monotonous routine of life, start doing things automatically because… what other way is there to do it, right?! I see people around me, walk past me (here and even in Pakistan) carrying the world’s burden on their delicate shoulders. I know life is tough, we are all facing economical challenges, one way or another; we are all going through tough phases either caused by religious fanatics or the politician lunatics. But in all this, when did we all forget to smile? A smile that reaches our eyes and makes the corner of our lips quiver? With a deep frown, shoulders down, lips set in a crisp lock, we walk past each other, sometime bump into each other and upset mindedly apologize and off we go… Folks, we have forgotten to live.

I had the occasion to visit India once. With mixed feelings and emotions, I set foot in my neighboring country and I was blown away by the warmth I received. Coming from a poor country myself, what shocked me beyond words was to see the level of poverty in that country. One evening, roaming around Chandni Chowk in New Delhi, I came across a very old woman – old enough to be my grandmother. She was selling some sort of food items that I was unable to recognize. She looked at me from behind those deep eyes; and what caught my attention was the brightness they were carrying. I sat next to her and started talking about random things. In few lines, she told me her life story: her kids abandoned her long time ago; she lives “here and there” and sells these items so she can eat. Saddened by her story, I felt so mad at her kids and I told her how I wish I could kick their fancy behind. She amazed me by laughing out loud and saying “beti, life is still beautiful thanks to my Lord!” Controlling the huge lump in my throat and fighting back my tears, I hugged her and kissed her on both cheeks. That evening, unaware of what she had done, this great woman had taught me one of the most valuable lessons of life for which I am eternally grateful to her.

We tend to associate happiness with things, with status, with money, with so many other irrelevant things. Why can’t we find joy in a little child’s smile? Or the blue sky? Or butterflies? We don’t need to be super extra rich to be happy; yes, yes, I know money makes life easy but does it actually make us happy? I’ve seen a lot of rich people taking anti-depressants… After my meeting with that precious lady, I decided to celebrate my happiness at every step of my life. That is because I decided to take into account small little blessings; I find happiness in small things around me. A smile… it doesn’t cost a penny, share it! But please, not in that creepy, sleazy style those Pakistani men have: that’s plain freaky! It’s always a game of mind, folks. Let’s control the mind and let’s not allow it to control us!

I’ll share with you what I have done this month, in terms of finding happiness. Since January is a special month for me (my birthday month); I always pamper myself throughout this month! Why?! Because I am special, that’s why! Last week, I travelled almost for over an hour to find happiness: jalebis! Being my utmost weakness, I took up this challenge with a freezing smile as the temperature here in Toronto was almost -20c, and I started my journey. Discouraged at every step I was taking in my winter boots, I struggled against the chilling wind and the thought that kept me going were those damn hot jalebis, melting in my mouth. And then I reached my goal, I ordered two kilos and brought them back with me at home. And now, while writing this article, I am nibbling them, and I cannot express the joy I am feeling right now! Yes, happiness has become a struggle in today’s world, but it is worth every single little step and push and hardship we face. So, how about finding it in colors around us? The fact that we are breathing, that we are able to see, to read, to write, to walk and so much, much more… isn’t that enough happiness? Only if we choose to see it that way. Right?

The writer is a PhD French literature. She's now a professor of French settled in Canada.