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The five ages of happiness, one drink at a time?

I’ve considered writing about ‘happiness’, time and again. But the issue is plain – my definition of it changes from one year to another. Happiness is only slightly mind-boggling as a concept, you know?

But of late, I believe that I’ve found a thin thread that explains this feeling, at least in my head! And in this post, I plan to tug at this thread and twist it until I weave a pattern that finally makes sense.

Physically, this is almost identical to pulling and stretching a dough of refined flour until you create a masterpiece worthy of being called the ‘naan’. And just like the perfect ‘naan’, I hope my story does not have any holes in it either!

Happiness for me is like an addiction. An addiction that is harmless in moderation, but ironically fatal otherwise.

Why fatal, you ask? Because a fool who is perpetually high on happiness cannot hope to survive in this world… unless he’s a part of the Gandhi family of course! (P.S. my ideology is heavily biased by George R R Martin’s literary work)

And that’s the thread that I plan to pull on. Happiness is equal to addiction.

But what am I exactly addicted to? – Bottles.

Yes, bottles.

And I’ve always been addicted to them, even as a kid. The addiction started with the innocent milk bottle during infancy, and it’s probably the only one that is not a metaphor in this post. Which bottles do I talk of? – Water, Cola, Beer, and Whisky.

Stage 1 – Milk

This one is fairly obvious because happiness was obvious at that age. Milk was the only addiction, supplemented with the occasional glass of water and familiar faces! Everything else that was conceived as happiness for me as a baby was probably just that – a misconception that includes, but is not limited to, cooing noises, peek-a-boo antics, baby talk, and retarded smiles!

Stage 2 – Water

Welcome to metaphor-town. The water-bottle symbolizes the greatest addiction of my childhood – school.

Diligently paying homage to the common image of a horrendous looking water bottle hanging around the neck of an unsuspecting toddler alighting from a school bus. In India, this image carries forward until a much older age, at which, it is neither cool nor cute to sport a bottle, period. The neck-hanging only makes it worse!

While ordinary artefacts and events such as a bar of chocolate, an hour of television or the occasional toy did add to the happiness quotient, school was the real dope for me! Try not to misinterpret this as a nerd’s way to define happiness either! Almost all kids like school. Most of them just don’t like teachers telling them what to do. I’ll be honest, I didn’t mind the teachers or the stuff that they taught us. But one of the main addictions for me other than educational enlightenment was my school gang. So it was rather the promise of belonging, and the like-minded interaction that got me addicted to the water bottle until of course, I grew up to become a teenager.

Stage 3 – Cola

This phase of addiction was not with one place, or one person, but with a general feeling. The feeling of being given special attention with those lingering stares; the pop of colour on her face, and the tingling of excitement in my toes. Fizzy, bubbly, and sweet. That’s the essence of young romance, but calling it romance, almost seems to degrade the thought in my mind! Adolescent love or infatuation is relatively innocent, without a bitter note. It’s just the way cola is – fizzy when it’s fresh, and flat after an age!

Either way, with the introduction of cola, it was hard to step down to the water bottle again. Because, that’s the apparent issue with happiness – it’s an addiction that you can’t regress to, but only progress onto!

Stage 4 – Beer

There comes a time when happiness is not consistent, not always sweet, not always bubbly. This phase begins with college life, and expands into a full-blown way of living, with the onset of a job, a steady girlfriend, and probably an early marriage! The happiness ebbs and flows, and a bitter-sweet taste is left on the tongue. Almost sounds like beer right?

Co-incidentally it is also my preferred choice of alcohol at the moment, but I am NOT addicted to it, as I am to the metaphorical version even now!

Happiness in early adulthood seems light when the boss says “Good job!” or when you win a free coupon! But there are heavier moments when your partner says “I love you”, or when you say “I do too”! Some moments might even leave a bitter memory with a sweet after-taste, like a major career move or a rough breakup! But the addiction does not cease.

Likewise for me, sweet was no longer enough, and life only felt balanced with the right amount of bitter realities. But cheers I said, and bottoms-up I drank!

Stage 5 – Whisky

The time that is yet to come, probably sooner than later. Adulthood, parenthood, mid-life, call it what you will! I haven’t lived it yet, but I HAVE experienced it through someone else’s mind – My parents, my relatives, my grandparents, and my mentors, who are all passing through this phase or have gone past it ages ago!

Life as seen through their eyes always reminded me of a good whisky – a drink that gets better with age, smoother with habit, and richer with palate. An addiction that can last a lifetime. I don’t know if they’d agree with this observation, or whether I’d agree with it, a few years down. But that’s an addiction I’d love to take up, considering the associated happiness that can stand the test of time.

I am unaware of other stages, or other bottles that I may get addicted to. But the pattern that has emerged so far does ascertain a few things, and by now, I guess you’ve spotted that pattern too!

It’s unlikely that I’ll ever cease to look for the next addiction, the next bottle.

And it’s quite likely that the next bottle will only last longer than the ones before.

But it is a certainty, that each new bottle will bring with it – a happiness that’s ever so nuanced and an addiction that’s ever so intoxicating!

Hope that ‘naan’ was tasty enough! Now, back to the beer…
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