My conversation with poet and writer Arundhathi Subramaniam 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
“I am experiencing complete freedom”
“Happiness”, says Arundhathi Subramaniam, “is an understanding. It is being in a state of wonder at one level and being deeply who you are at another level.”
This understanding for Arundhathi has come about through an on-going, evolutionary journey. As a child she was wonder-struck when she first came into contact with poetry through one of T.S.Eliot’s poems, “The Love Song of J Alfred Prukfrock”. “There was music, there was dance and there was a sense of total amazement that the words in the poem invoked in me. When I relate back to that encounter I can only describe it as happiness,” she recalls. She says, years later, when as an adult she sought to find out the meaning of Life, she found more meaning in that feeling of being wonder-struck by poetry, in the happiness of that memory, than in anything else. “I believe we become unhappy the moment that sense of wonder is replaced by cleverness, by worldly desire and logic.” I ask her how she stays clear of such ‘real world’ demands. Her reply: “After my Master’s degree I was almost tempted to pursue a doctorate program. But my inner voice spoke up. It reminded me that poetry is primary to my Life. So, within 45 days of being a college lecturer, I quit. My decision has meant less stability, lesser money, but it has meant more happiness being a poet.”
But does following your bliss make Life less challenging? Surely, there’s no such guarantee clarifies Arundhathi. She recounts how, in 1997, she “tumbled into a dark space where no language, no poetry, no love, nothing, could enter.” That phase led her onward to be a seeker. “I discovered that any authentic spiritual journey involves knowing that you will sometimes be on terra firma, with free-flowing traffic, or you will encounter potholes. Happiness, I have realized, is the ability to be deeply present in both realities and know that you have been given the shock absorbers to deal with any upheavals,” she explains.
Arundhathi says that in her world, a sense of cluelessness while dealing with the pulls and pressures of everyday living, and the joy of expressing through words and silence, through her poetry, co-exist. “I have learnt to enjoy the ride for the way it is. So I am experiencing complete freedom – in a heightened, alive, state.”
That’s a truly unputdownable state. It is a.k.a happiness!