My conversation with chronicler of Madras and story-teller S.Muthiah, for my ‘The Happiness Road’ Series that appears in DT Next every Sunday. Read the conversation on the DT Next page here. ‘The Happiness Road’ is also my next Book. Photo Credit: Vinodh Velayudhan
“As long as I am working, I am happy”
Consider these career highlights: 66 years as a journalist, 56 years as a columnist, 46 years of writing on Madras, 36 years as an author and 26 years as Editor of Madras Musings! That’s S.Muthiah for you. He’s regarded widely as Chennai’s beloved historian. But he prefers being known as its chronicler, its story-teller. How’s he so energetic and prolific at his age? “I love what I do. So I continue to do it,” says Muthiah. He clarifies that he doesn’t quite “sit and think about happiness”. “Happiness is not a philosophical concept to me. As an editor, if I get badly written copy, I enjoy myself. The harder the work, the greater the challenge, the happier I am,” he explains.
Muthiah believes that Life is not to be spent thinking about what makes one happy or unhappy. Instead he says that we must learn to live with the Life we have. He cites the instance of the week, four years ago, when his wife passed away: “She died on a Thursday. And I went back to work and delivered my column that appeared on Monday.” So, does he treat work as therapy? “I don’t think of work as an antidote to something. I just love working,” he reiterates.
I glean from our conversation that he keeps debilitating emotions away by immersing himself in his work. Here’s another story from his Life. In the early ‘90s, when his employment contract with T T Maps was not renewed, he had a family to provide for. Anyone else would have been held hostage by insecurity and anxiety. But Muthiah took up writing for a slew of publications and also wrote advertising copy. He launched Madras Musings around the same time. “Always look for work. Then your mind will be engaged in what you enjoy doing,” he advises.
Additionally, he makes a significant point that is very relevant to today’s generation that seeks instant gratification: “Ambition creates desire. When desire is unfulfilled, it leads to stress and depression. Instead take pride in your work and do it very well. When you work this way, you will progress automatically and doing the work itself will make you happy!”
Way back in the late ‘80s, Muthiah taught me journalism. 30 years later he teaches me the value of intelligent living. It’s for people like him that the title Guru is so appropriate!