‘Happy Street’ explores a new economic paradigm. It embraces in addition to social, environmental and governance quality. Sweeping changes are expected as the idea of a cleaner India has taken us by storm. Now what is needed is action, more action. This and other issues are handled in the Happy Street.
Japan was a winner in the World Cup, though they lost the first match they played. They caught the world’s attention, when all the Japanese fans and players cleaned up their part of the stadium after the match! They set a new gold standard for civility and educated cleanliness. Japanese teachers and students stay back half an hour after class to clean up the classroom and keep it ready for the next day. One of the airlines requests passengers to do the same to get the aircraft ready for the next flight. The idea of cleaning up should become the job description of every person in India. The feeling that ‘others’ will clean up after you is what creates all our hygiene problems. Gandhiji cleaned his own toilet. NRI’s clean their own toilets when they live abroad. But in India, since someone else is doing it, we are totally careless.
Every toilet, every park, every vehicle should be cleaner when you leave it, than when you enter it. Let us start with our own homes and offices. Let us set an example by picking up pieces of paper or plastic strewn in front of our homes. Example is the most powerful motivator. Keep your own doorstep clean.
For years in India, activists have used the pictures of Gods to prevent people using compound walls as street toilets. Let us involve religious leaders to get across the message that cleanliness is next to Godliness. Let us start with our religious places. Let religious leaders make people see cleaning up as seva.
The Singapore Government achieved a clean Singapore by fining those who litter. The Japanese are doing it by making it a part of education and mindset. In India, let us use every possible method: psychological, social, economic and religious methods to make Swacch Bharat a reality! But cleanliness alone is not enough
Happiness is the key to the well being of countries and cities. It is the Gross National Happiness that Bhutan has measured for 30 years that speaks louder than the more familiar Gross National Product. Today, Los Angeles, Dubai, Seattle, Victoria, the state of Vermont and hundreds of local communities are measuring their levels of happiness. We can improve the well being of societies by increasing understanding and appreciation of the factors that lead to life satisfaction, resilience and sustainability. The Happy Street is the third in a series of books: The Happiness Quotient and Innovate Happily are the first two. The Happy Street is a grassroots endeavour to building happy communities street by street. Based on many years of study the happy street is a step by step guide to happier communities.
Shangrila has been a mythical idea of a perfectly happy place. It has lived in the minds of thinkers as a kind of a Utopia: There is a place in the distant mountains which is always calm and peaceful, where the earth is laden with luscious fruit and wholesome grain, where people are vibrant, healthy and happy, where every edifice is artistic and beauty clothes every home in the loveliness of hand-made artifacts. Lush greenery carpets the land, dazzling your eyes with its colourful butterflies, exotic animals and birds. The air is fresh and the water is pure and the sound of holy mantras is carried on every gentle breeze. Here the whole community is a family and smiles bind the hearts of all. You too can live in Shangri-La . . .
In every case, this dreamland imagined by writers is cut off from the real world protected from outside influences and the people there lead simple, natural, pastoral lives. The Garden of Eden, to which no one can return, is the earliest image. We lost our keys to Eden due to our loss of innocence, our knowledge of good and evil and the sin of disobedience. And there is Atlantis, the paradise which Plato describes, ‘which sank into the ocean in a single day and night of misfortune’. But we too can build a Shangrila on our own street.
Once you begin to practice the principles of happiness and the innovative thinking tools in your own life, you can build a happy street. Your happiness will be infectious. Make many friends who can get together to laugh, work, read and share. Plant more trees, clean up the roads, start walking and playing together with your kids. Share knowledge, play, beauty and wisdom. Create your own village which is needed to raise a child in your little corner of Chennai or any other city. Everything will be bright and blooming. You can create your own Shangri-Las in the world. For Shangri-La is not a really a place. It is within everyone’s own heart. The dream city is only a reflection of our own peaceful, happy hearts. Realize that what the world needs today are small acts of kindness, gratitude and optimism, not some fantasy about returning to the lost Garden of Eden.
This journey is the search for knowledge, knowing how to create this happy town, city, and finally, this nation. It is a search carried out in Bhutan, the land that gave the world the term Gross National Happiness. Every street can be a Shangrila if you decide to make it so. Adopt your own street and form a committee with four members, each handling the following:
The Four Pillars of Happy Communities
• Encouraging sustainable use of environment.
• Economic Growth and Development
• Preserving and promoting cultural heritage
• Establishing good governance.
Encouraging sustainable use of environment.
Environmental sustainability is the duty of all. The story of Happy Streets weaves into homes and high rise building, gently introducing the subject of composting for every dwelling. The handling of paper to create income and the creation of wealth from waste are part of the story. Swacch Bharat finds its place as do water and sanitation. Each of these issues becomes the daily life of the people on the happy street. The planting of trees, the sowing of seeds blend gently into the greenery environment, which also encourages pyramid of vegetables.
The principles of building a happy community are woven around. Happy Street is a simple love story of how Rohan a conservative young man from Chennai, meets a fiery Bengali girl, Ammu and how they both work together to create a happy street. Through a series of letters, Rags, a wise hi-tech coach, with a spiritual bent, points the way. Happy Street shows you how to create a community full of well-being and joy based on the four pillars of the Happy Street.
Grandmothers teach ancient recipes to bachelors and girls learn intricate kolams. Painting competitions for children recreate the child’s vision of the happy street. Reduce, reuse, recycle, repair become a daily theme. Adults teach kids to transform waste into beautiful art. Nothing is wasted. Paper is sold and miraculously there is a happy street budget – about Rs.100/- a month from every home with 50 homes it becomes Rs.5000/- a month. Songs, old stories and mantras are recounted. People meet and eat together so that there is a great familiarity among all who live on the street.
Everyone on the street should strive to improve the economic conditions of those on the street – the domestic staff, the people who sweep the street or provide services like ironing, electricians and plumbers. Vegetable and other vendors too fall within the preview of this concern. Elders can be mentors to young people on economic freedom and planning the future. Funding jobs should be on everyone’s agenda.
The Committee should build relationships with various government bodies that keep the street functional – corporation, the police, the forest department etc. The Government and civic authorities have a major role to play to keep the physical infrastructure of the street in good condition. There are lot of stories of children who drowned in an open manhole pits. Of a newly married man electrocuted on a monsoon evening due to hanging live wires. They are all part of the folk love of the street buried in the hearts of inhabitants.
A face to face with these authorities should solve a lot of problems. The sitting committee of the street can keep track of civic problems, law and order problems and ensure that they are sorted out by the appropriate authorities. The links ensure that Government and people fulfil their duties to each other.
The New Broomance is blooming and happy streets are blossoming in different parts of India. Start by loving the broom, implement of cleaning. ‘A broomi puja’ or worship of the broom is a good idea. In Telegana, brooms are bought on Friday, the day dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi. In many parts of India, the broom as an implement of cleanliness is worshipped during Dhan Teras. India, incidentally, has over 100 varieties of brooms.
To know more about the happy street look at one on http://mindspower.com/the-happy-street/. This will give you an idea on what to do for your own street today. Remember social capital is far more important than your bank account.
Let’s stop talking and start sweeping changes on our own street!
I am happy to introduce an innovative method to keep our streets clean and green to create a model world class city or town. The idea is for each individual to adopt his own street and create a happy community.
Let us adopt our own street with five members on a committee
1. To adopt cleaning, greening and composting bio-degradable waste as a regular practice (http://mindspower.com/the-happy-street/compost-bin/)
2. To build close bonds between neighbours and to mentor and teach young people special skills: sports, art, dance, music and storytelling.
3. To help economic development of disadvantaged domestic helpers , working on the street.
4. To build close relationship with officials of public utilities and government to ensure that problems on the street are solved fast.
5. A Chairperson to provide co-ordination and leadership
The Happy Street needs the foundation of positive attitude. On the street there are certain intangible qualities. The immeasurables are intangibles. Just like it is impossible to exactly measure the effect of sunlight on plants, it is also impossible to measure the exact impact of loving kindness, compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity, on the corporation. But without them, in some measure, no human institution—including business—can exist.
It becomes really easy if we believe that each of us is an atma, which is a part of the Paramatma or God—a drop of water in the ocean of divinity. But the Buddha says simply that, “All living beings are interconnected”. Everyone is a part of our being. But the idea of ‘mine’ and ‘yours’ is tough—even impossible—to overcome, which explains the cruelty and pain—jealousy, desire and greed—we inflict on those who do not belong to us. Imagine the culture of a whole business based on the four immeasurables. The Honda philosophy—Joy to the Nation, Joy to the Customer, Joy to the Employee—reflects this. Honda has healthy bottom-lines. But, in business, one believes in retaining the competitive edge, getting what is most profitable for you, sometimes at the cost of customers, employees, and even the country. Winning is being street-smart, aggressive and ‘me-oriented’. If you were to turn this upside down and work to bring maximum joy to everyone around you by loving and giving rather than taking, imagine how everyone would support and help you, and what energy they would bring to their jobs. Think of the give-based economy. How cool it would be to spend your time thinking of lovely new ways to inspire more joy and happiness in the people around.
Loving kindness: How different from the sad, despairing world of take-based economics—that demonic business ethic, which is an unquenchable thirst with the ‘what’s in it for me?’ model.
Compassion: To feel the pain, joy and aspiration of others in your own heart. To feel this even about your enemies. The Dalai Lama once said that his greatest fear was not being able to feel compassion for the Chinese.
Appreciative joy: Replacing envy with ecstasy. Enjoying and nurturing the joy of other living creatures. Feeling the happiness of a plant as you water it. Enjoying the thirst-quenching thrill of a bird sipping water from a bath you have set up. Turning tears to joy by your actions. Enjoying the success of your friend as though it were your own. The world is not your competition, it is just another part of you. Imagine facing triumph and disaster with the same calm mind. Equanimity or upekkha: Inviting the possibility that every person at every position is your teacher. What could a janitor teach a Nobel-winning physicist? What could a short order cook teach a global CEO? What could a child in the playground teach a world-class athlete? What value could these people offer to each other? Everything, if you’re willing to open your mind to the notion that everyone is not only your equal but also your teacher. They trigger dopamine shots that make us feel better and want more. Perhaps my master felt what I was thinking. ‘Relationships are our chance for self-development. In the thick of life’s battles, the people we love and hate, those who draw us into fights, those who provide us with intimate relationships, are like firewood in the bonfire of awareness,’ said my teacher. He was taking me deep into tantric knowledge where everything, every experience, melts into the path.
‘What about enemies?’ I asked.
‘They are the best opportunity for you to develop compassion and loving kindness,’ he smiled. ‘Just like a grain of sand irritates the oyster to create a pearl, such relationships can challenge you to higher levels of development.’
Once you begin to practice the principles of happiness in your own lives, your happiness will be infectious. Make many friends who can get together to laugh, work, read and share. Stop talking, start planting, each tree is an oxygen producing machine. A forest is an oxygen producing factory. Plant more trees, clean up the roads, start walking and playing together with your kids. Share knowledge, beauty and wisdom. Create your own village which is needed to raise a child in your little corner of the city, town or village.
Everything will be bright and blooming. You can create your own Shangri-La in the world (http://mindspower.com/the-happy-street/shangri-la/). For Shangri-La, is not a really a place. It is within everyone’s own heart. The dream city is only a reflection of our own peaceful, happy hearts. Realize that what the world needs today are small acts of kindness, gratitude and optimism, not some fantasy about returning to the lost Garden of Eden.
How to use this book?
Start with Chapter one. Practise the suggestions in Happy Street chapter by chapter for fifty-two weeks one chapter at a time. At the end of the book there are a few blank pages on which you can write down your and your community’s plans for happiness. This way, you can take proactive steps to a happier life. Happy Street, your very own guidebook to a good life, will stay with you through the annual calendar, reminding you of the things that truly matter in life. This book opens your eyes to one home truth at a time every week, ensuring that you never have a bad day. It talks about matters as varied as acting out of compassion and the importance of observing annual rituals. It takes old habits and imbues them with a new significance. If you are choosing happiness for yourself, the family and your street over everything else this year, this is the book for you. It is an ideal gift for anyone you care for and cherish.