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Column: Heidi's recipe for Happiness

Updated: Mar 6



an illustrated image featuring an old man and young girl. Heidi's recipe for happiness

Image credit: Pinterest

Dear Reader,


Have you ever tried to weigh lost time? 


The world is becoming busier that ever. We have all the right technology for everyone to lead a comfortable, healthy, joyous, and peaceful life. Still, most of us are running as if there is no tomorrow, to be the light before dawn under a new moon sky. After years of burning out fiercer than the sun, we all gasp for the cool night air as we fall trying to weigh lost time. In our chase after lonely dawns, we leave our present behind. The present that will haunt us as ghosts of tomorrow, in a vicious cycle.  


Time is as elusive as thoughts. Yet, like some of our thoughts, some moments are as heavy as happiness repressed. I find it paradoxical that most of us complain about leading a hectic life whilst adding more to the plate. Why can’t we relax a bit? When not giving your everything is labeled as mediocrity, which is a sin in the capitalistic world that only promotes going upward and onward. A busy life may not be a necessity for the capitalistic mode of life. Nevertheless, a life devoid of moments of contemplation enables a life without meaning or purpose of value to the individual. Perhaps this is why many prefers to be busy all the time?


Now, as individuals, we are all prone to existential crisis. However, as communities, we can fill the void in our hearts and feel connected. Being part of a bigger whole adds purpose and meaning to our lives. Another way to ease our souls is to spend time in the nature. Industrialization has transplanted our lives from hamlets, valleys, and woods to concrete jungles. By escaping as much as we can to unspoilt nature, we feel rooted and all our worries fade in the grand scheme of things   


The short novel begins with a gorgeous description of Mayenfeld, a town at the foot of a mountain range in Switzerland. We are then introduced to the five year old Heidi and her aunt, who can’t wait to reach her destination, climbing the mountain. As someone who lived his childhood in hills and valleys, I was filled with joy from the first page. Nature has that power. For all its precariousness, nature fills us with awe and peace that we, in spite of all its dangers, feel safe. The aunt passes the baton of responsibility to Heidi’s grandfather, who lives alone on the mountains, commonly referred to as Uncle Alps, who is feared and distanced by everyone. As the story progresses, we get to see the true nature of Uncle Alps and how\k Heidi transforms the people’s perception of him. Heidi’s story is not all butterflies and sugarcups. More than anything, Heidi shows us how to face difficult situations with grace. From the moment she got separated from the mountain and her Grandfather against her will, she faced a lot of changes and difficulties. While a few treated her like an angel in her new house in a foreign country, few saw her beastly and wild. Heidi was grateful to the people who loved her but never held any grudge against those who mistreated her. 


Heidi teaches us a lot about happiness which, like a butterfly, can’t be chased as the popular sayings go (Although I do think that we can chase butterflies. But, that is a topic for another day!). The secrets to Heidi’s happiness are simple. They are as obvious and commonplace as sugar and salt in a kitchen: gratitude and acceptance. As cliche as it may sound, sometimes the solutions to our problems are that simple. Just try having a curry without salt or a Payasam without sugar! Except, unlike our popular preachers of wisdom, Heidi doesn’t use words to show us the secret to her happiness. Heidi’s whole life, or at least as far as we are given a glimpse, shines radiant with these secret recipes. She is always grateful when she is by the mountains. And, whenever she has been taken from the mountains and the people she loves, she has learned to accept that as phase of life, a tunnel interlude if you will, which will add more sweetness to her memories and more hope to her future. 


As we fail to interospect, we spent more time meandering in a world unknown to us: a world of billboards and bright lights. We seek to solve our problems by accumulation of material substance we don’t need. We consume products in the hope that those will elevate the mental state of happiness. But, happiness is a mental attitude as it is a mental state. Our attitudes can never be changed by interacting with the external world alone. That’s why learning to accept the present whilst forgiving the past is so crucial. Only then can we live in the moment, ready to fly towards tomorrow, without the baggage of yesterday pulling us down.


Many novels have stolen my tears between their covers and I can recall most of them. But all of them were tears of sadness. However, it was different with Heidi. All my worries evaporated and vanished and it was glowing everywhere I took the book. I am not exaggerating when I say that it took me quite a while to read Heidi as each chapter filled me up with joy. It is not because Heidi’s story is veiled by rosy glasses. Rather, Heidi reminds us of the innocence we couldn’t have waited to lose, only to forget that innocence can be repossessed.  


Johanna Spyri, the author of Heidi, has been said to be inspired by a young girl near the Swiss Alps. Now, most of us don’t live anywhere near alpine habitats. Yet, we long to spend time with nature’s sublime creations. Be it a mountain, a beach, a river, an island, or a jungle. Our isolation from nature keeps us awake at night, digging a hole in our conscience.   


There is a strong element of christian faith in the novel. Although the power of faith and devotion may raise some questions in the mind of readers, all of those doubts will be submerged under the power of love demonstrated by Heidi, her family and friends. Heidi explores the nature of religiosity and the transformation of human minds to wield a positive outlook towards life. I was left pondering on the stark differences between rationalist and religioustic ways of life. Towards the end of the story, we witness a miraculous action. God or nature, who performed the magic? I will leave that for the readers to decide for themselves! 

 

A new year has dawned upon all of us. But the world is only growing darker. There is no better time than ‘right now’ to read Heidi and spread her joy of living: the happiness of witnessing nature, her ability to borrow light from the past and the future to a dingy present. 


Like Heidi, I hope you give warmth to the ones stumbling in the fog.


Love,

Akhil Thekkepat 

 

By: Akhil Thekkepat 

Akhil Thekkepat is an aspiring novelist from Kerala. He likes to read, feel, imagine, write, and think. When he isn’t doing any of these, you can find him on the football ground or on the badminton court. His hobbies also include cycling and playing chess. Akhil was part of the twelfth cohort of the Young India Fellowship and holds a master’s degree in physics.

 


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