The Pursuit of Happiness – #HappyDay

BjIrOt0CMAApyty

Today being the International Day of Happiness compelled me to spend some time researching and thinking about ‘happiness’.

The Greek language has a beautiful word for happiness – ‘eudaimonia’ – the exact translation of which is ‘human flourishing’. Eudaimonia is central to Aristotle’s philosophy that ‘happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.’ I often struggle when I think about the purpose of my life, and reading this quote put my mind at ease. Is it really that simple?

Happiness means different things to different people. The World Happiness Report says income levels are not the only indicators of well-being in rich and poor countries. Political freedom, strong social networks and an absence of corruption are more important; and at the individual level, good mental and physical health, someone to rely on, job security and a stable family are central to happiness.  But then again, to people living in poverty, fighting for food and water – 3 billion people (!) – is ‘happiness’ even relevant?

Happiness was put on the global agenda because of Bhutan, a tiny ‘land of dragons’ with a population of about 750,000 people. Happiness has been an organizing principle for governance in Bhutan since the early 18th Century when it declared that “if the Government cannot create happiness (dekid) for its people, there is no purpose for the Government to exist.” In 1972, Bhutan launched the Gross National Happiness Index recognizing happiness as a more important measure of prosperity than the Gross Domestic Product.

Following their inherent way of functioning and to extend it beyond borders, Bhutan called for a high-level meeting at the UN headquarters to discuss the importance of happiness as a universal goal. In the meeting held on April 2nd 2012, it discussed the need to have a new global sustainability-based economic paradigm for human happiness and well-being of all life forms to replace the current dysfunctional system that is based on the unsustainable premise of limitless growth on a finite planet. The full report of the meeting can be read here; it’s fascinating to see how happiness can be incorporated into governance.

Some call the meeting a fantastic public relations stunt by Bhutan, but the concept of happiness is so engrained in the policies that govern the country, it’s definitely more than that. Hats off to them for getting the world to recognize this fundamental need for a better planet, even if it was just for publicity! This year happiness is even on Dubai’s agenda.

And then I was pleasantly surprised to find movements such as actsofhappiness, projecthappiness, actionforhappiness that work towards making people happy and encouraging people and companies to spread happiness and drive socio-economic change.

Today, fortunately or unfortunately Pharrell Williams owns the word Happy. And I really don’t know what to say about that except that you can’t hold anything against anyone who is promoting happiness J.

#Day 7, post 6.

Ode to my little brother

ImageI’ve changed his nappies. I’ve made him cry. He has made me slam doors and scream my lungs out.

He has made me happy. He has made me proud. He has made me feel like the best human being on the planet.

He has shared secrets with me. I have given him good advice. I have given him bad advice. He has protected me. He has supported me unconditionally.

He drank his first beer with me. He hated it! Now he loves it. So if he ever becomes an alcoholic it will be my fault.

My brother is one of the most sincere, positive, generous, and open hearted people I know. He is also one of the most creative people I know –- except for when he designs his own tattoo. Thanks to me, he now has the coolest tattoo ever. His thoughts, my advice = great result. You are welcome, Anish.

He has a precocious mind. He knew what he wanted to major in, in the eighth grade. His first short story was published when he was in grade 10. He started his own business with his friends when he was 15. He is a football fanatic and I know he will work and excel in that industry one day.

He has numerous unique, multi-dimensional skills:  Intelligence (he passed his CFA the first time round, after studying only for a week!). A diligent and responsible work ethic. Can dance hip hop, rap and bhangra equally well to the same song. Can sing without embarrassing anyone. Superb design and video-editing skills. Taught himself to play the guitar. Can cook Indian food (!). Can do the tough-mudder.

He is amazingly patriotic, even though he hasn’t really lived in India. That feeling along with his talent, could make him a game changer for our country. I hope India doesn’t disillusion him irrevocably.

He has taught me to believe in who I am by always looking up to me. I feel a responsibility towards him as a big sister; it helps me make decisions sometimes. He is the most mature 24 year old I know. I won’t make big decisions without his opinion. He inspires me in many ways.

I hurt when he is hurting, and also when he acts stupid. I want to protect him, but still be the cool big sister. A tough balance to keep.

I worry who he will marry, only because in my mind no one will be good enough for him. But I do hope he finds genuine true love and is able to keep it for life.

He was born on my request when I was 9; I was a lonely child. He is the best gift my parents could ever give me. I am blessed to have him as my brother, and really wish he didn’t live 13,334 kilometres away.

Happy Raksha Bandhan, my dearest brother. I miss you.

Bachchan struck at Dubai Film Fest

Working on the Dubai International Film Festival is as exhilarating as it is exhausting. My main role has been to manage real-time updates from the festival, i.e. live-tweet /Facebook from the event as much as possible. Fun, eh? Anyhoo, with a million things happening at the same time, my responsibilities extended into doing anything needed on site in relation to PR, and helping handle the red carpet.

Honestly, I am not at all star-struck, never have been. But, when I saw Amitabh Bachchan get onto the carpet I was like a little child overwhelmed and excited by the tangible presence of one of the most saught after stars on this planet. At 67, he looks great and sounds even greater.

I was right up the front of the celebrity carpet where I was put to take a picture of every talent and upload to Twitter instantly. Amitabh Bachchan was the first celeb to arrive and the next thing I hear is “Abha, please walk Mr. Bachchan down the red carpet.”

WHAT!? ME? OKkkk! Omg. So awesome.

I stood next to him on the red carpet for atleast 15-minutes. Neither did he look at me, nor did he acknowledge my presence. I did give him the occassional poke when his publicist was pushing me to get him to move quicker through the media (very uncool), but those pokes were conveniently ignored. Obviously. I’m lucky he didn’t growl. Anyway, it was still awesome. I’ve grown up admiring Amitabh Bachchan; being physically next to him was surreal and just simply cool.

I have no proof or tangible evidence of this little event other than this ridiculous picture of the back of our heads.

I frantically searched online to see if SOMETHING was there that put me in the same frame has AB, only to find a video of him at the red carpet with, again, the back of my head. Argh.

It’s ok. It’s all in my head.

The second best highlight for me at the festival was being able to watch the world premiere of the first Emarati feature film on Dubai – “City of Life”. Excellent film about many realities of this city that are not often talked about. I will surely review it soon.

The Dubai Film Festival is on till December 16, so if you haven’t checked it out yet, do give it a look — some really cool films are playing.

Movie review: MJ’s This Is It

This Is It

I went to the premiere of MJ’s This Is It with child like eagerness. This was really it. His last days on the planet were spent practising for his final world tour, one that he had no idea he wouldn’t be on.  The elation and the glory behind all of it reeked through the screen with a strange, sad, and strong undercurrent of finality. 50 sold-out concerts were cancelled. Cause: death by drug-related cardiac arrest. What fucked up fate.

Irrespective of the controversies that cocooned MJ over the last few years, there is no doubt that his effect on people was unique and overwhelming. The man was pure passion, talent, energy and understated (perhaps even undermined?) genius.

The film glorifies MJ in his most natural state of being: pre-concert rehearsals. That time when you function with pure excitement as you put everything into prep for a performance that promises to take you and your audience to a land never been to before. The film does well to give us genuine and unmanipulated glimpses of the man the world loved but never really understood completely.

Physically, however, he appeared a mess; a blaring fact in the film that I suppose just could not be hidden; it was sad to see him physically ruptured and strangely skeletal. But, you overlook it as a minor flaw in his otherwise phenomenal element of being. He was not a normal person, not physically, nor mentally — something that seeps through the entire film; but then which world famous legend was?

Other than MJ’s musical talent, the film sheds light on what MJ was like to work with and his relationship with crew, musicians, and dancers.  The movie is filled with genuine sound-bites and anecdotes from them, on and off set. You’ll notice an interesting chemistry between MJ and his gang: formal yet warm and loving, fun yet peaceful, thrilled yet patient, determined and disciplined, yet having the time of their lives. I can’t imagine how traumatic MJ’s death must have been for those people.

What is also amazing to see in the film is what goes into putting together a massive, mind-blowing concert: the sets, the lights, the outfits, and the mechanisms involved in making every second on stage special.

One of the key differentiators of MJ was that he has always told a story through his music. He never just sang. He invented, he created, he dared to imagine insanely — and then he took you there to experience it all with him. That’s what made him stand out from the rest and that’s what would have made MJ’s final world tour unforgettable.

The film cleverly tells a story that is insightful an interesting. It also weaves in beautifully rehearsal performances to almost everyone of MJ’s blockbuster hits — you’ll often find yourself tapping your feet and lip-syncing to the songs.  The man’s energy, passion and genius exudes throughout the film.

After watching the film, I felt like I had been part of his prep to give the final concert of his life, and that I got a peek into otherwise unchartered territory. I think the film aimed to re-capture and portray all the aspects of MJ that made him magnificent, and it succeeded.  A must watch for anybody who can sing  along to one or more of his songs.

Here’s his latest track in case you haven’t heard it already: This is it. Beautiful.

Overwhelmed by TEDxDubai

IMG00054-20091010-1626TED is the best thing that has happened to the planet. When TED went online about 2 years ago, it became the best thing that the internet has given the world. TED reminds us that we all have the power to change the world, and gives us the inspiration to do something with that thought.

So when TEDx was coming to Dubai, I was thrilled. However, as hype for it started building ferociously, I was afraid that it would turn into a large commercial gambit where corporations would banter about their success and people would hob-nob for the sake of it.

To be brutally honest: I went expecting the worst, but hoping for the best.

I stayed for all the 20 speakers (10am-6pm), yawned perhaps only once, and left feeling motivated and truly inspired. TEDxDubai truly over delivered.

There was a standing ovation at the end, which is when I lost the little black book I was taking notes in the entire day. I was going to share all my learnings from the day and some of the fabulous quotes from speakers that really stuck. But, unfortunately I don’t have them anymore. Luckily, the TEDx bloggers have posted their notes from the event, do check them out to get a speaker by speaker summary of key points.

All the speakers were fantastic. Really fantastic. They included a 13 year old film-maker; the creator of Freej and THE 99; the catalyst of the Arabic stand-up comedy revolution; the founder of Independent Thinking (inventor of  the concept of “thunk“); the founder of the 8-Day-Academy, and the CD at IDEO.

The production quality was almost on par with the real TED (global). Well, it’s Dubai, not a surprise I suppose. Well-organized, good food, enough supply of coffee, and not a penny spent by us attendees. It couldn’t have been better.

Those who didn’t come, you really missed out.

The only thing lacking was, in a room where 500 odd people  got together for the whole day to listen to some great ideas worth spreading, there was no way to interact with other members of the audience, unless of course you went up to them randomly and introduced yourself. Which perhaps I should’ve done (but it’s so not what you do in Dubai!) :).  In previous events such as BarCampUAE, you left knowing new and interesting people. Perhaps because they were much smaller groups with interactive sessions. Anyhoo.

All in all, thank you TEDxDubai. Look forward to it again next year!

Dubai Twestival is back!

Us post Dubai Twestival meeting

Us post Dubai Twestival organisation meeting

Those of you who missed the first Dubai Twestival (@dubaitwestival) that happened earlier this year, make sure you don’t miss the next one!

The Twestival is a global event that unites people on Twitter for  good cause. Local editions of this concept will be held in over 200 countries from September 10-13.

Here are Dubai event details:

Date: September 12, 2009

Time: 8pm-11pm

Venue: Jam Jar @thejamjar (map)

The first one attracted over 150 people; we raised some good cash for Charity Water and had a blast as well!

If you’re  not on Twitter, well, urrr, you should be (!), so register and then come along to meet other Tweeters.

The charity we are supporting this time is the Dubai Autism Centre, a non-profit organisation set-up to integrate autistic children into the community and raise social awarness for autism. Expect a fun time that will make a difference — all you have to do is show up!

Register for the event here too please, it will just take a minute and will help us get an idea of numbers. There is limited space, so register fast!

Come, tweet, meet and give!

TED India and TEDxDubai

tedindiaThis weekend I had the privilege of meeting with someone who has my (newly recognised) dream job. Lakshmi Pratury, former marketer, venture capitalist, and social entreprenuer, now works for TED – one of the best organisations on this planet, dedicated to bringing spectacular people together to change the world.

Those of you who are not familiar with TED: it’s an annual conference that brings together fascinating people who have incredible ”ideas worth spreading” and are asked to talk about those potentially life-changing bursts of wisdom in 18 minutes.

Richard Branson, Benjamin Zander, Bill Gates, Tim Ferriss, Isabel Allende, Phillipe Starck, Al Gore, are just a few of the 400 odd mind-blowing talkers that have spoken at the TED conference. TED began in 1984 where it concentrated on topics related to technology, education and design, however today, its scope is much beyond that.

The launch of TED.com about 2 years ago has made this otherwise exclusive closed-door conference of eclectic people, accessible to anyone with access to the internet. Log on, watch a talk, and believe me, you will be hooked. When I lack inspiration (which is quite often these days), a couple of talks on TED.com and I’m ready to seize the day again. The best thing is the diversity of talks you can watch; depending on your mood, you can watch talks that are “jaw-dropping”, “funny”, ïnfomative”, “persuasive”, “ingenious”, “courageous”, or just plain “beautiful.”

TED.com is one of the best gifts the web has given the world. A must, MUST look at.

Lakshmi was here in Dubai to talk about the launch of TED India. The conference will be held in Mysore November 4-7. You can still apply to be an attendee (you have to be accepted to attend) or a Fellow (deadline June 15), full details can be found here.

When I found out that Ted Fellow applications for India were open, I jumped on the process with full intention to apply. Careful study of the application process made me feel too inadequate to apply since they are not looking merely for people with potential, they are looking for people with potential who have already tried to do something that matters with that potential. I get severely stumped there. I have done nothing with my capabilities that will help anything  in any way, nor do I yet have a conceivable idea to do the same. A look at this video and a read of previously selected Fellows and you’ll know what I mean. The process, however, has made me want to look at things differently and get moving on ideas that might actually matter some day.

Lakshmi, at the session at Knowledge Village, gave us further insight into TED and what it means, and how everyone can participate if they really want to. She gave the example of William, a 19 year old boy from a village in Malawi, who built a windmill from scrap with his bare hands. That windmill gave his home enough energy to power 4 lights and a radio. The awe-inspiring session from this young African boy at TED can be seen here.

“The only thing that stops us from doing is our own mind” she said to the group of 30 odd people present. So true. That, and the lack of self-inspired motivation and commitment to doing something that really matters.

TED will make a little mark in Dubai as the licence to hold TEDxDubai has been obtained. On October 10 in the city will be a local rendition of the actual TED. Unlike TED India, this is not THE TED as it will be managed independently, but something similar. More details are yet to be revealed by the licence holders; you can follow their blog or twitter to stay updated. If you know of any speaker based in Dubai, who has an “idea worth spreading” be sure to submit your recommendation to tedxdubai@gmail.com.

TED.com. Log. On. NOW.