(Khaleej Times dated 9 April, 2023)
Happiness, one would agree, is a chimerical concept hotly pursued by people without a clue about how to accomplish it. All human endeavours are directed towards this one goal of attaining eternal happiness and a sense of well-being, and clearly, it doesn’t fall to everyone’s lot.
When the global happiness index report was released a few weeks ago, enumerating the national average life evaluation of countries in the world, it was a given to me that the United Arab Emirates would feature among the top 25 or thereabouts, not based on historicals but on my real-life experience as a long-time resident.
The UAE ranked 26th with impressive scores on almost all parameters deduced from specific well-being measurements, which often make little sense to a commoner. But ask a person if she is generally happy in the external circumstances that she currently lives in and see if the answer is an emphatic ‘yes’ or a dismal ‘no’, and you will know if she genuinely belongs in the happiness zone of life. To me, this is the most authentic way to gauge satisfaction, and it would be near impossible for us to find a person living in the UAE to answer that question in the negative.
The ranking aside, there are no two ways about the high levels of happiness that citizens and residents in the UAE enjoy, and the reasons can be given in a flurry, each one competing for primacy. For starters, this is a country that gave most of its expatriates a positive jumpstart in life. The word ‘abundance’ became a reality to us, thanks to a tax-free income structure and a work environment that aided growth and long-term prosperity. Even the smallest denominator on the social ladder here will admit that their life flourished and its quality improved phenomenally with their relocation to this country.
It is a place that is built on multicultural values that allows people of nearly 200 nationalities to co-exist in love, peace and harmony, permitting them to follow their faith without disruption or discord. The heterogeneous fabric of the UAE allows freedom to make life choices, and only a few countries in the index report have excelled it in this regard.
For the most part, no political or social turmoil that rocks other parts of the world affects the peace of the people here. It is almost as if we are insulated from all the ills of the world, including crimes of the meanest kind. I know instances of people leaving their wallet or phone in places like the metro train or food courts and retrieving them without a Dirham lost. Where else in the world but here can one walk on the streets in the middle of the night without the fear of being mugged or stalked? Rules that are laid out are followed to a tee by people, not by force but of their own volition. It is an ecosystem of good living where citizens and residents are acutely conscious of their responsibilities and have pledged not to topple the apple cart by misdemeanour of any sort.
One could endlessly extol the virtues of living in a place like the UAE, but what makes it all a perfect amalgam of happiness is the manner in which the government of UAE has put happiness of its people on priority as an operational objective. It’s creation of a Ministry of Happiness in 2016 is a pointer towards the responsibility it has undertaken to ‘align and drive government policy to create social good and satisfaction.’
Only when rulers and authorities insist on building a nation based on its people’s skills, security and satisfaction can it be called effective and empowering. A country can be labelled as successful only when its people are happy uniformly, which is not to say there will be no social and economic discrepancies, but if there are sustained positive emotions that support and drive the lives of a people, then it is a paradise on a planet that is increasingly struggling to find reasons to smile. Seen in that light, to all who have pitched their tent in the UAE, life here is a blessed sanctuary.