How-to-be-Happy Curriculum

Psyc 157: Psychology and the Good Life is reported to be the most popular course ever offered at Yale University. Within a week of registration being open, nearly one third of Yale undergraduates had signed up for the twice-weekly lectures. What is the course all about?

Basically about teaching college students how to be happy! In an age where “getting there as quickly as you can” and “excelling” are seen to be the key indicators to success, it is sad that young people who are just about entering one of the best phases of their lives—with so many journeys of exploration and discovery ahead of them, need to take a course that teaches them how to lead less stressful, more satisfying lives. Such is the irony of the times we live in.

I think back to my undergraduate days as the most enriching, exciting, and yes, some of happiest years of my life. Ok, so I did not go into the ‘pressure cooker’ of an IIT or a medical college (I was “one of those Arts types”) but I did get into an Indian equivalent of an ‘Ivy League’ college. For someone who had never enjoyed her school years as much as many seemed to have done, stepping into college, was from day one, a joyous journey that lasted three years. It was indeed a time of the opening up of the mind, not just in terms of the curricular, but more so in the extra-curricular. It was the Film Club that opened windows to different ways of seeing; the Hiking Club that opened up unforgettable vistas of nature; it was the invaluable exposure to music and dance and theatre, all of which we always had time for.

Even more precious it was the making of friends that have remained so for almost fifty years! This was the gang for hanging out with in the canteen, with laughs and giggles, and the pouring out of woes. It was the bunking of classes to go see the morning show, or catching a bus to go all the way to centre of town just have a lassi between classes, and the book fairs at which entire wholly satisfying, and oh-so-happy days were to be spent.

College was indeed the cradle for what was later to be described as the “all round development” of the personality, for which today there are Life Coaches and Grooming Gurus (not forgetting the ultimate go-to-Guru Google!).

Sadly college life today sounds different—unhealthy competition; the pressure of justifying the sky-high fees that parents are shelling out; the continuous looking at how to ‘plan’ one’s future career; and the dangerous encroachment of politics into campuses….and news that young people are ‘burning out’ at an age when they should be blossoming into vibrant human beings…What a tragedy indeed!

To top it all we need a Yale Professor to remind us that feelings of happiness are fostered through socialization, exercise, meditation and plenty of sleep! How sad is that?

PS: I am proud to be an LSRite!   (And yes, intercollege rivalry was healthy and produced excellence rather than antagonism).


Proud to be a Mirandian

The newspapers have announced the results of the higher education survey, and Hey! My alma mater, Miranda House, is right on top there as No. 1 college in India.

Ahead of Stephen’s, ahead of Hindu, ahead of LSR. For those who went to DU, it is obvious why this feels so good. MH, after being queen of the campus in the ‘50s, ‘60s and early ‘70s, went to playing 2nd, 3rd and nth fiddle to these.

It is such a long time that I passed out that it takes an effort to remember what college was like. Lovely old red building and green lawns. A fiercely dedicated and committed faculty at the Chemistry Dept from where I graduated. We had Dr. R. Usha, Mrs. Sunita Narayan, Dr. Popley, Ms. Adarsh Khosla, and many others. Good infra, good labs, no shortage of equipment or reagents.

For some reason, MH students who took Physics as main or subsidiary had to go to the main University Physics Dept for classes. I never quite understood why, and not sure if the situation still persists. But we had no complaints—it was lovely walking across the DU campus, especially in winters, with a riot of flowers blooming in the lovingly tended Univ gardens. And it sure made us feel grown up and important, to go to the Dept for classes!

The saddest thing I think was this paper called ‘History of Science’ a compulsory subject for all Science students across the University. What should have been a fascinating and mind-enlarging foray into understanding the spirit of science and the spirit of enquiry, was reduced to a thin ‘kunji’. I think it is a real loss that generations of students did not take this seriously. But students will be students. Maybe the system should have ensured that it was taught better.

I do remember I enrolled for the NSS, but nothing much ever happened. Of extra-curriculars, I cannot recall much. And anyway, being ‘sciencies’ we were a bit lower down in the pecking order overall, and were probably not included.

But the taste of the college canteen samosas and kaddu sauce (passed off as tomato sauce), remains etched!

I recall an interesting story about the name that my father told me. Apparently the college was named by Sir Maurice Gwyer, who was Vice Chancellor of DU from 1938 to 1950, and who founded MH in 1948. He named the college after his favourite Shakespearean heroine, Miranda of The Tempest!


B.Sc (Hons) Chemistry, 1977-1980.