Mapping Happiness

When Arun picked up his eight year old daughter Diya from her dance practice, he noticed she was playfully rehearsing a few of her dance steps, it brought a smile to his face seeing how diligent the little one was to get the moves right. 

 He casually asked her, “Why do you love to dance so much?” 

With a dazzling smile, the eight year old replied, “Because you get happy when I get gold medals!” 

Arun smiled for a moment, but deep down, that simple reply left a strange silence behind it. Yet, as they got home, he made sure to be at the dinner table with his family as Diya shared about her day, the difficult dance steps and the class test she was nervous about. 

That night, the father couldn’t fall asleep as that strange silence knocked harder in his mind, urging him to look beyond the simple words uttered by his daughter. Those words begged  him to think, to introspect and take a look at the way he had mapped his life all along and the way he was mapping his kid’s life. 

The map of Arun’s life consisted in him topping his classes  all through his academic life, he wore those gold medals like the checked landmarks of a map.  He appeared to have the perfect life, an awe-inspiring prodigy who was good at almost everything. 

What left a bitter taste in his mouth was the thought of uneasy anxiety that never seemed to dissipate, the hopeful expectations of his parents that slumped against his back heavier than the bag he had carried. It made him think about the way every teacher and coach he had ever met demanded him to keep his grades up, to keep working hard because it was the only way he was going to be happy. He remembered how his fingers used to shake during exams yet he wrote until they cramped.  

He remembered the way disappointment flashed in his parents’ eyes when he had skipped his tuitions and played soccer with the neighborhood kids, but that game was the only moment he had truly recalled himself as being utterly joyful as a child. He remembered how hard it was to get back on his feet when he faced a flaw in his perfect record, when he received a bronze medal instead of gold, the aftermath of sadness that never seemed to dissipate. 

Even as an adult, all his life he had worked hard to make sure to do everything according to the expectations of his loved ones yet there were moments where he questioned if he had ever been truly happy? 

The answer always came in the form of a silent void. That silence made him question, was that the kind of life he was mapping for his daughter? 

As he stared in the darkness of the room, he realized that all his life and the life his daughter was going to live was being mapped by the achievements unlocked instead of the happiness that should’ve mattered. 

He realised that all along he was pushing little Diya into the same jungle of expectations, anxiety and depression that he had been running through his whole life. That realisation made his chest feel lighter as if a knot that had tightened over the years had finally loosened itself because this time he knew what he had to do differently. 

The next morning, Diya was gently woken up by her father asking if she’d like to join him for a swim at the local swimming pool. The child couldn’t have been happier as she hopped out of the bed and got ready for the day. 

The father-daughter duo swam in the shallow waters for some time before settling at the floor with their feet dipped in the pool.  

“Did you know that I actually won a lot of swimming competitions?” Arun broke the silence. 

“You did?” Diya asked, eyes wide in curiosity. 

Arun smiled, nodding for a moment, looking ahead at the still water, “It made my parents happy, but I wasn’t happy.” 

“Why?” She wondered. 

“I think it was because I liked swimming at first but eventually I did not love it and only swam for the sake of competitions to fulfill others’ expectations.” He shrugged. 

Eventually, Arun turned to meet his child’s curious gaze, “I wanted to learn dance later on but I was too afraid to ever speak about it because I was already doing well with swimming and my parents expected me to keep swimming for a long time.”

“But you made them happy.” She said, and Arun nodded, “I did, but it was not my happiness.” 

The child looked confused but stayed silent as her father changed the map of their lives. 

“I wanted to let you know, there will be moments in life when you’d feel like you aren’t making me happy, but the truth is that nothing comes above your own happiness, and let me in you on a secret- happiness shines in every corner of love. 

“One day you’ll absolutely love dancing, the next morning you might find that you love singing more. One day you’ll get better grades than you expect yet another day you might not score as expected. And that is ok, my love, I’ll still be here for you, bringing you chocolates and cheers. 

“All I want from you is to do what makes you joyous, to love whatever you decide to enjoy. I want you to know that I love you and I’ll try my best to be your comfort blanket.” 

He chuckled, noticing the way his daughter scratched her head in confusion, “I don’t understand the half of what you said.” 

“That’s fine too. For now, let’s map happiness.” He uttered, kicking his feet until the water started to splash all around them, the giggling child followed along.  


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