The new year is supposed to be a time of joy, new beginnings and resolutions we are unlikely to keep but as the Omicron variant pushes covid-19 cases up again along with fear, “being happy”—a rather slippery concept at the best of times—seems less certain. Yet there’s a group of entrepreneurs and their clients who believe happiness can be cultivated, one step at a time, or pursued (with the right training) like a medal in a marathon.
Happiness coaches have “created tools, methodologies and frameworks designed around the science of happiness” that Indians are signing up for in droves, hoping for the kind of return on investment they get from stocks and bonds. Can one really learn to be happy by following a list of instructions and flow charts? Is it something you master with time and practice, the way one does ceramic pottery or carpentry or the veena?
Our cover story this week finds out what it is these coaches are trying to teach, whether they put one on the path to true contentment or just sell you momentary joy, why people sign up for these courses, and how the pandemic has led to a boom in the happiness industry.
As events move online again, our ideas for how to spend the weekend are largely confined to the virtual world—from storytelling workshops to watching Olivia Colman in The Lost Daughter. We have also made a list of the young artists whose work you should follow in 2022, as well as the best TV shows that you might have missed in the year gone by.
And keeping to our commitment of featuring original works of fiction, commissioned especially for Lounge’s readers, through January, we have a short story titled The Apprenticeship by author and environmentalist Ranjit Lal. It’s an oddly prescient story as we track the rise of covid-19 cases again and are pulled back into memories of the second wave when each day brought worrying news about friends and colleagues, and more rules and restrictions. It does make one wonder if the peddlers of happiness have probably caught on to a good thing.
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