The Pursuit of Happiness: Why I took a sabbatical from MTV and Mumbai #Blog

In Bahrain (at home) for the next 3 months or so. This next phase of my life will be called ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’ . This sabbatical from my career and the madness that is Mumbai has been taken due to certain circumstances to do with the heart than the mind, but having had some time to reflect in the 2 weeks since my last day at MTV, I have come to realise this is possibly the most important decision I have taken in my life since the last one six years ago, when I decided to switch from engineering to media after graduating from NIT Kurukshetra.

I have always had trouble understanding why we conform to the notion of ‘the norm’ defined by our elders, or peers, or our education system, or our culture and traditions, or just generations of people doing the same thing over and over because it ‘works’, against the much underrated desires of our heart, and consequently, against better sense. Because when you think of it, what our heart ultimately desires is the various and glorious ways of finding happiness, whether through momentary joy from the fulfillment of a little wish or the complete and irrepressible exhilaration from achieving a big dream, or the continued and blessed bliss of being in the company of the people you love, or spending your days doing the things that are your life’s passion, the things that you care about and the things that somehow still matter in the chaos of all that is the world today. And if that doesn’t make sense, what does?

July marks six years since I shifted to Mumbai seemingly against all better sense or judgement, as defined by what constitutes ‘the norm’. I didn’t know anyone in the city, I had no ‘contacts’ or ‘network’ or any real understanding of how to go about getting what I wanted – and to be really honest, I didn’t even know what I really wanted. I wanted to write and create and ‘executive produce’ a TV show full of awesome, because Aaron Sorkin did that, but I didn’t even know what an executive producer does; all I knew was that it must matter somehow because Sorkin does it. I wanted to do something related to movies, because that was the only thing that ever come close to the definition of what constitutes ‘magic’ to me, but I didn’t know what I could possibly do because I never believed myself to be a magician. And I wanted to write, because when I write, I realise the full extent of what it is to be alive, to live, to breathe, to be; but I didn’t know what I wanted to write, or even if I really did want to write, because writing was what artists do, and I was a product of a system where conventional thinking teaches you that you will die poor and lonely and hungry, if you take up art.

I didn’t know what I really wanted to do, but I was pretty determined about what I didn’t want to do – and that is to spend the most magnificent hours of the day of my life in front of a computer in a cubicle, somewhere in an office filled with computers and cubicles, only because everyone else does it, because it is safe, because it pays, because someone told me to, or because it is ‘the norm’. Trust me when I say this, there were several times in these six years, where I lamented the fact that I wasn’t born as one of those fortunate enough to enjoy the 9 to 5 life because it fulfills them or because they actually have a passion that involves a computer and a cubicle. There were many times I regretted not being wired in a way where I could earn an honest living doing what so many others do, because I had got placed in two companies in NITK, and it would have been so easy to take up on one of those offers and spend a well-planned life in a well-planned way as part of a well-oiled machine that sees the life and death of so many others just like me, and none of them really ever seem sad. But my problem was, I didn’t want to live a life not being sad, I wanted to live a life being happy. And most importantly, I didn’t want to live a life with the regret that not only did I not have the balls to do what my heart really desires, but that I robbed someone who wanted the same life I didn’t want because that’s the life that would give them happiness, only because I took up their seat in that company I was placed in, just because it is THE NORM.

The six years since that decision have been the most fantastic years, because even when I had a horrible day at work, or a horrible week, or a horrible month or phase, at least it had happened in the midst of doing something I love, and that was always a reason to find a way to overcome it. But of course, these horrible times have been few and far between, and the universe has generally been overwhelmingly kind in these years, and even though I only had a vague idea of what I really wanted, I have somehow miraculously (to me) managed to create, write and executive produce in television and in the movies, and it has only led me to believe that if you listen to your heart and do what you love, you may just get what you really want.

But you know what’s funny about all this? I didn’t have these epiphanies about happiness during most of these six years because during this time, I was only following my heart because it made sense to me. And so, the achievement of these dreams at times was almost like a ruthless goal that I *had* to fulfill because I had many things at stake, and sometimes different things fuelled me at different times – that I had a degree I had no use of, that I had made a promise to my parents, that my batchmates were doing well in the field that I had left, that I had to pay the bills, that I had to ‘settle down’ at some point, and sometimes, just the fact that I had a lot of pride and not doing well wasn’t an option. All these things inspired me, yes, but it was only recently that I realised that while I did attain this intangible ‘happiness’ at the end of achieving a goal, all the time in between seemed lost to me. At one point of time, I had almost completely stopped being social, stopped speaking to or meeting friends, stopped giving time to my close ones, didn’t give a shit about my health (I ADMIT), because I was so driven to ‘achieve’ happiness, I didn’t really care much about being happy in between. Happiness seemed to be some sort of a destination to me, and I had to just focus and spend all my time and energy in trying to get there. I was really moving from one goal to another, one stop to another, doing all the right things, but for some of the wrong reasons.

So now, I want the reasons to be right too. There are many, many things I still want to do, and hopefully, I will someday get to do those things too, but right now, I am taking this break because I’m horrified at the thought that my parents and the majority of their generation all but chugged along from one goal to another, without a larger perspective of the things that really matter; just like I had been doing since the past six years because without realising it, I had somehow still managed to succumb to the norm in some small way. So I’m going to use these months away from the chaos of Mumbai taking care of my mother, spending quality time with family, working on my fitness (finally!!), planning the wedding (because it happens only once so it should happen properly and not for two weeks in between work projects) and of course, writing, writing and writing some more, because these are the things that really do matter. In the middle of all this, I’m going to try to accomplish little things that make me happy: like finishing the IMDB 250, getting back to reading fabulous books into the night, taking long walks and discovering new music along the way, blogging, reconnecting with old friends, ORGANIZING MY COMPUTER & MAIL, possibly learning a new language, taking in the sights and sounds of Bahrain again, and making sense of all the many things that I have really not had the time to understand all these years – from taxes to politics to shares to FCP to the macbook to what women really want (I’m prepared to fail). The six films I did at MTV will be releasing along the way and I’ll resume my journalism gig, but mostly, and as may be obvious from the length of this post, I’ll be writing a lot, so there’ll still be lots of updates from my end.

I don’t know when I’m going to go back to a ‘conventional’ job again, because over the next few months, even after this break, I want to ideally spend some time in figuring out what I can accomplish on my own, without having a brand to leverage. The possibilities are endless and I’m already excited at the thought of going back and finding a worthy cause to get consumed by, and for all I know, I may find the cause even before I go back. But whatever I do from now and everything I do from now, I know for a fact: it will be in the Pursuit of Happiness

Note: This piece was first written on July 27, 2014
Link: https://www.facebook.com/tanejamainhoon/posts/10152547197633618

Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

Follow Nikhil Taneja on FB: /tanejamainhoon, on Twitter: @tanejamainhoon, on Instagram: @tanejamainhoon, on Youtube: /tanejamainhoon

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