Last year, in the midst of a raging pandemic, an intrepid World Happiness Report (WHR) surveyor asked a Libyan mercenary carrying an AK-56 in one hand and a grenade in the other, "Are you happy?" The mercenary considered the question, surveyed the surveyor from head to foot and barked, "I’m always happy when I’m bashing up someone. Why, you think I’m not?" "No, no, I’m sure you’re very happy, in fact positively ecstatic", assured the panicky surveyor. And that is how, or at least that is how I think the World Happiness Report put Libya, a country torn apart by civil war for years, at rank 80 out of the 149 countries featured in the World Happiness Report for 2020.
People in Belarus, ranked 75th on the World Happiness Index, are also very happy, probably because they have been staging joyful protests against what they say was a fraudulent election in which the ruling president was elected for the sixth time. The European Union and the US have recently imposed sanctions against the country because of the rigged elections, adding to the merry mood.
The Thai people, struggling to prop up their economy in spite of a deep slump in tourism, are thrilled with military rule—they are ranked number 54 on the happiness index.
At the other end of the world, the Venezuelans are exhilarated with their sky-high inflation and by the shambles their economy is in. That hundreds of thousands of their people have fled the country has added to their glee. They probably didn’t like their neighbours much, which is why they rank 107th in the happiness league tables.
Niger, a dirt-poor country, four-fifths of which is covered by the Sahara desert, is often the victim of terrorist attacks and is consistently found at the bottom of the human development tables. But it has a more or less happy population. It’s ranked number 96, possibly because the folks there love the fresh desert air, along with the occasional sand storm.
People in Burkina Faso, ranked no. 113, are also victims of deadly terrorist attacks, besides being desperately poor. But the thing that makes them roll around on the ground laughing, whenever it’s mentioned, is the name of their capital, Ouagadougou.
On the other hand, look at us despondent Indians. The World Happiness Reports puts us at a lowly number 139, wedged uncomfortably between Sierra Leone (it’s a country in Africa, no relation of Sunny’s) and Burundi. We seem to be a terribly depressed nation. We are just two ranks above Yemen, a country at war with Saudi Arabia for years.
The unkindest cut of all, of course, is they rank Pakistan at 105, far above us.
We may be on the road to prosperity, but we appear to be shambling down it disconsolately, head drooping and spirits in the dumps. We may be on the verge of regaining our lost glory and our rightful place in the universe, as our government constantly reminds us, but our general attitude seems to be, ‘Oh really? Good to hear. The higher you go, the harder you fall.’ Looking at merry farmers dancing the Bhangra, the reaction is likely to be a morose, ‘It’s all an illusion, isn’t it?’ Asked about the great opportunities that lie before us, we yawn and say, ‘Mind the gap.’
This is what must have happened. When the World Happiness Surveyor asked a chap in India whether he was happy, he assured him, ‘Sure, life’s a laugh. As Terry Pratchett said, ‘We who are about to die will laugh at anything.’”
By now, you might be under the impression that the World Happiness Report is a sort of April Fool spoof. It is nothing of the kind. You might also think these happiness rankings are just a bit of harmless fun, they don’t really matter. But they do—a reputation for being a grumpy, melancholy nation could have serious repercussions.
Think of the consequences of India’s low happiness ranking. When the question of India getting a permanent seat at the UN security council comes up next, what if one of the delegates, probably Chinese, says, ‘Do you folks really want a desperately unhappy chap who will just sit in a corner and sigh and sulk and make us all feel depressed?’
Would other nations want to ink trade deals with us when they fear our chief negotiator may walk away from it any time, dejectedly muttering, ‘What is the point of it all?’ Indeed, governments would be wary of inviting the Indian ambassador to their parties, lest he cast a deathly pall of gloom over them.
Which tourist would want to come to our country if he’s worried that the waiter serving him at his five-star hotel would be weeping inconsolably into the dishes?
Companies abroad would think twice about employing Indians, worried that productivity would fall by having chronically melancholic workers.
True, the UAE, with millions of Indian workers, ranks a high number 25 on the Happiness Index. Why are Indians abroad so happy, while Indians at home are so downcast? Are they all that elated to have left the mother country?
No, gentle reader, the World Happiness Report is no mere joke, it is instead part of a sinister plot hatched against India.
You are aware of how the police exposed the global conspiracy by Greta Thunberg and her Indian agents to stir up trouble by provoking our farmers. We all know how our External Affairs minister unmasked the dastardly plot hatched by the so-called Freedom House and V-Dem Institute to tarnish India's image by lowering our rank on the democracy index.
Simply put, our miserable ranking in the World Happiness Report, brought out by what Wikipedia informs me is some vile thing called the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, is part and parcel of the global conspiracy against India.
The Honourable External Affairs Minister must denounce this attack from the running dogs of Western imperialism immediately. And we must ask Niti Aayog to work out our own Atmanirbhar Happiness Index.