Originally published by The National 11th May 2010

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times a Dubai resident has asked me: “What do you do for fun in Abu Dhabi?” Having lived in the capital all my life, I have always found modest means to entertain myself. For me, a night out usually consists of dinner and a movie with friends. If we feel adventurous, we might even eat somewhere with a dress code. I’m pretty sure that our counterparts in Dubai do the same sort of things. They just switch Abu Dhabi’s Marina Mall for Dubai Mall, and our Corniche for Jumeirah, right?

Whatever your idea of fun is, the concept has begun to replace something else, something we all seek but never know we have until it’s gone. I’m referring to the kind of happiness where you truly believe that depressions come and go, failures are just mistakes, and people are still human – a relatively stable state of internal bliss. But in our quest to achieve happiness, we have been distracted by mere fun and games.

Young adults are constantly on the verge of boredom. It might be because we are still waiting for “life” to happen, and until it does, we have to come up with an assortment of activities to keep us busy. We manage to turn shopping into an art, relationships into a science, and careers into an ecosystem that we have adapted to with our own flare. But in all our fun, yet calculated approach to life, we have forgotten to aim for happiness.

Many suspect that the materialism surrounding us has rendered us jaded. Family elders are always going on about the past and the simple pleasures, like seasonal fruits worth waiting for. The kind of life they had before computers and mobile phones. Has technology, in an attempt to connect people, disconnected us from ourselves? If there’s one thing that brings me happiness, it’s “me time” and using “me time” to excite my senses. Nothing brings me more tranquillity than feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin and the sensations of carefree days.

Some realise happiness in being charitable and giving a helping hand, while others find it in a mug of coffee, or a flirtatious smile, or singing aloud to a favourite tune. However you see happiness, it is one of those underrated feelings that gets overshadowed by love, anger and jealousy, three emotions that have been the topics of literature, movies and self-help books for years. Yet, for something so wonderful, people don’t consider happiness as a major factor.

How often do you ask yourself, “Will this make me happy?” when you need to make a major decision? Given that most decisions are self-sacrificing and made for the benefit of the majority (whether a household or an organisation), if it was purely and exclusively your decision to make, how often would your happiness be the deciding factor? When I came to the realisation that happiness was very rarely a deciding factor for me, unless it was to decide on which ice cream flavour I was about to enjoy, I started inquiring about other people’s happiness.

Not surprisingly, most people are taken aback, before they utter a hasty, “Yes, alhamdulillah” (thanks be to Allah). Typically, this reply was followed by a questioning stare. I wasn’t sure if I had trampled on some forbidden territory with my question, or whether they actually didn’t know for sure. At first I gave them the benefit of the doubt and thought that I had become too intrusive with my questions, but then I realised that the subject of happiness is taboo. It is never disclosed for one interesting reason: in this society, it is superstition.

Happiness is considered good fortune worth guarding and people will do anything to avoid being jinxed, even if it means keeping good news to themselves for as long as possible. For example, a marriage proposal is kept under wraps until just before it is set in stone (or in a marital contract, as the case may be) and pregnancies are also hidden until at least the end of the first trimester. So until it stops becoming taboo, I hope you are all happy out there. You don’t have to keep it to yourselves.

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