THE FACE OF HAPPINESS

Aditi was going through the toughest phase of her writing career — and her life. She hadn’t written a word in two months. It was that writer’s block which she didn’t know how to break. Her publishers had given her another deadline, which possibly would be her last. For someone who sold more than 20,000 copies for her debut book, she could see her promising career, crashing in front of her eyes.

Her first book Finding your way home was an overnight success. The critics called it a breath of fresh air for its storytelling and originality — the plot revolved around an Irish woman falling in love with a Brit during the unrest of 1970s in Britain. Aditi drew her inspiration from her own marriage that was nothing less than a fairy-tale for her. She was in love, happily married to her darling husband, until one day he left her for someone else.

Aditi always looked inward for inspiration. That is why while writing about The Face of Happiness, she didn’t know where to begin. Her own life was a mess — a failed marriage, anxiety and addiction to Vicodin had left no space for happiness to take wings. She had no clue what happiness was. Nevertheless, her counsellor advised her to write on the topic. She told Aditi that many authors had touched upon it but only a few got to the depth of it — in the hope that it would help Aditi fight her depression. But that had helped precious little. Aditi was having second thoughts about listening to her counsellor.

What does happiness look like? She wondered as she sipped on her fourth coffee in one hour. Her typewriter lay there in front of her, with a blank page jutting out of it. Aditi slammed her fist on the table in frustration. If I knew, I wouldn’t have been feeling so dead inside for so long, she thought.

Dejected, Aditi took her car keys and drove to Central Park to get some air. On the way, her mind kept flashing back to memories — when her husband was not a cheat but a loving companion, about the first book she wrote without any ‘blocks’, counselling or angry publishers.

At the park, Aditi was sitting on a bench alone, still lost in her thoughts, when she saw a man, not very far, playing Tag with some children. The man was in his 30s, much younger than Aditi. He was wearing a denim jacket, cowboy boots and a blindfold with his arms in the air, reaching out to tag someone. The man and the children were laughing hysterically, while the parents sat on the benches nearby taking pictures. It was a moment where, everyone looked happy — the parents, the children, and the man. The game continued for another 20 minutes before the parents called their little ones to go home. The man shook hands with the parents and thanked every child to let him play with them.

Looking at them from her seat, Aditi wondered if she could have such moments in her life. She was looking at the man who was now removing the blindfold, smiling. She turned her gaze away as she didn’t want to pry. While she was staring at the ground still thinking if that’s what happiness looks like, she sensed someone coming and sitting next to her on the bench — the same man she was observing a few moments ago. He didn’t say anything, pulled out a book from his bag, turned to the bookmarked page and started reading it, with his fingers. It was her first book.

Aditi kept looking at the man, while he read and turned the pages of the braille copy. For every passage he read, he nodded in affirmation with a smile beaming on his face. “Reading something good?” Aditi asked him. “Oh! Hi! Yeah. Finding your way home by Aditi Richard,” he said. “It was suggested by a friend when my life was ebbing away. Her outlook towards love, hope, and courage gave me strength to stand-up and spread happiness wherever I can. I wish I could meet her and say thank you for writing this book.”

Aditi’s gridlock opened, her writer’s block vanished, and her smile was back. She thanked the man in her heart, drove back to her apartment, sat at her desk and began to type.

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