Is the Gallup poll a fair measure of happiness? Should generalities matter or cultural specificities while measuring happiness? How happy are the men in Khakhi? Is internet a threat or a support? Is happiness a private affair or a state concern? How can governments create happiness?
These were some of the questions that came up during the deliberations at the 2nd International Workshop on Happiness and Wellbeing organized by IIT Kharagpur’s Rekhi Centre of Excellence for the Science of Happiness. The workshop from April 4-6 addressed two themes – Wellbeing of communities, cities and states; and Happiness and the Networked Generation.
Among several speakers of national and international repute at the workshop was Jeffrey Sachs, editor of the World Happiness Report, who reminded the audience that India’s consistent slide in the World Happiness index was a matter of concern not only for the country but also the world. “This is a significant decline among all nations in the past 10 years,” said Mr Sachs.
However, not everyone was ready to see the Gallup poll survey or the World Happiness Report as the one and only measure of happiness. Dorji Penjore, a researcher at the Centre for Bhutan and Gross National Happiness Studies, asked, “Should India, a population of 1 billion people listen to the opinion of 1000 people who were interviewed by Gallup?” Penjore elaborated on the Gross National Happiness index of Bhutan and like the GNH – “a program of social and economic change towards operationalizing the notion of development that keeps happiness at its heart” – he asked each country to evolve its own measure of happiness. Prof. Manas Mandal, visiting professor of psychology, IIT Kharagpur, too stressed on the need for self-standards for the evaluation of happiness.
While there were deliberations on how a nation’s or community’s happiness can be measured and improved, senior bureaucrats such as Mr Debashis Sen and Mr Akhilesh Argal brought to light how state governments in both West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh had taken it upon themselves to improve the happiness quotient. Mr Sen is additional chief secretary, government of West Bengal and Chariman of the New Town Kolkata Development Authority (NKDA). Mr Argal, an IFS (Madhya Pradesh cadre), is CEO of the state government-run Rajya Anand Sansthan. Both the administrators have worked extensively with the Rekhi Centre.
At the inauguration of the workshop, Prof. Partha Pratim Chakrabarti, Director, IIT Kharagpur, pointed out, “The aim of the Rekhi Centre is to strengthen happiness not only around the key themes, but also around experiences.” The Rekhi Centre, founded by alumnus Satinder Singh Rekhi, who was also a speaker at the workshop, has been assisting governments, corporates and the paramilitary forces to improve mental health and wellbeing.
“We are stressed because of our fragile monkey egos,” said Mr Rekhi. He suggested helping others to beat this ego and achieve what he termed as the “Helper’s High”. S. Raveendran, IG, CRPF, and K. Raman, Executive Director, SAIL, talked about how with the help of the Rekhi Centre their organizations were being able to help their personnel beat stress.
A team of CRPF officers were trained by the Rekhi Centre through a workshop on “Resilience and Happiness” in March 2018. This has resulted in the CRPF developing a “tailormade program” with several features such as wellness sessions and greater attention to the health and financial management. The Management Training Institute of SAIL has also benefited from the Rekhi Centre’s training and outreach activities. Ms Raman talked about how training and consultation with the Rekhi Centre had led her institute to create the EMPOWER program for its executives, Kshmalaya – a space at the MTI for regular Happiness and Wellbeing sessions and the Ananda@MyChoice program for senior executives.
Happiness at the workplace emerged as a major point of deliberation. Entrepreneurs such as Joulan Abdul Khalek from Beirut and Vineetha Mathew from Dubai showed how their start-ups were helping organizations and governments sustain their interest in general happiness. Others such as Kimchi Moyer, founder of the Centre for Living in Resonance, Srikant Annavarapu, retired professor of IIT Kharagpur and practitioner of heartful meditation, gave live demonstrations of how alternative practices of healing, cure and meditation could help.
The workshop tried to bring together scholars, practitioners from all over the world as well as students, policymakers and leaders to interrogate, deliberate and come up with ideas, suggest interventions, bring in technology, assess various existing and new ideas in the emerging field of the Science of Happiness. There were also paper and poster presentations, exhibition, round table and networked sessions.