Having lived all my life in the materialistic and consumer orientated West, I have always understood money to equal happiness. The more I have, the happier I will be. This is what we are prepared for in school and university: study hard, so you can get a good job to earn loads of money. I just assumed that it is the same in most countries. But when I walked through the small and incredibly crowded market streets of Pune, I realized that this is certainly not the case.
While searching for some good deals on the market, I stopped for a minute and looked around. I could see many different people sitting on the streets, begging, sometimes selling their goods, and smiling. Yes smiling. It seemed most of the people I came across had a friendly smile on their face even though their conditions were less than optimal.
Talking to these people created some of the most memorable moments of my time in India. One of them included three men who were manning an aromatic flower stand. I asked if I could take a picture of the flowers and them, to which all three replied to with an enthusiastic nod and an invitation to join them behind the stand. And so I did.
We encountered a very similar reaction when we took a picture of one of the woman sitting in a chair on the side of a shop. She asked to see the photo of her and the joy that was showing in her face could not be measured in rupees. Close to tears, she showed the camera to her friends next to her and called out for her husband. He came hurriedly and a big smile appeared on his face too. Slowly, a little crowd wanted to be part of the moment and see the picture.
These experiences reflect so uniquely how happiness lies in the details and how Indians are taught in opposition to us, to appreciate these little unexpected moments. In India, importance is given to gratitude for life, the beauty of nature and time spent with family and friends. Travelling to India has taught me more about happiness than 23 years in Europe and four years at university have been able to.
I understand more clearly that true happiness lies in small moments, which you share with friends, family and sometimes strangers on a street market in Pune. Not in how much you earn or what will be your next expensive buy. When you decide to travel to India, just have a look, happiness will surround you.