Special issue with the Sunday Magazine
From the publishers of THE HINDU

Well-being : March 12, 2000

It's a state of mind

Piali Banerjee (Mumbai), R. Krithika (Chennai), Anita Joshua (Delhi)

The standard definition of well-being is "a state of being well, healthy and contented." But ask a person to define well-being and the first response is either "whose well-being?" or "that is such an abstract concept." Give them some time and they spell out their thoughts.

Dr. Anjali Chhabria

"I think the first step to physical, mental, social and even emotional well-being is to "know yourself completely. Once you know exactly what you want from life, the next step is to live a hundred per cent in the present. Most of our problems arise because we either look into the past or think about the future. The easiest way to feel good is to do what you are doing at a given moment without thinking about anything else. It's also the least tiring way of getting a lot of things done."

Shabana Azmi
(social activist and actress)

"Working for women's primary health, I'm convinced that well-being means a basic empowerment of women. Where they can at least have a say about their own health. I have seen rural women being denied even a patch of sunlight for drying the cloth they wash and reuse during menstruation. They are forced to hide them under their cots - a surefire way of developing infection. The day every woman in the country becomes master of her own body, we will have achieved basic well-being in India."

Prahlad Kakkar
(advertising guru)

"They say 'merge your soul with the ocean and you'll become as huge and powerful as it'. And that's exactly what I do as an addicted scuba diver, for my well-being. Diving into the water is like diving into myself. I can face all my phobias, stresses and baggage of self-doubts, when I'm underwater. For then I'm in direct communion with God and nature."

Madan Kataria
(laughter therapist)

"A burst of laughter is the most precious of all human experiences. Laughing can help us feel healthy and alive, two essential components of well-being. Every time we laugh, we are fortified and uplifted. And yet happiness and laughter seem to have become a lost art in modern life. We are in danger of forgetting how to be truly happy within ourself and with each other. And I feel only laughter can get us back on track again."

Lisa Ray (model)

"For me, well-being comes from establishing a direct relationship with God. There was a time when I used to lead a life wildly out of control, but it was neither really happy nor peaceful. That is when I found a friend who led me towards God and spirituality. And we spent the happiest New Year's day ever, praying at a gurudwara, instead of partying... Today I feel I can tackle life head-on because of the strength I get from my relationship with God."

Jackie Shroff (actor)

"Well-being comes from thinking positive. With prolonged practice, I find that it's not so difficult to watch the mind and control negative thoughts which only give you stress. If you think positive and welcome people into your heart, they almost always respond well. It's important to be a nice person before anything else, in order to achieve anything in life, whether it is success or well-being."

Pankaj Udhas (singer)

"Experience has shown me that security provides the best sense of well-being - both physical and mental. Coming to Mumbai from a small town like Rajkot, I learnt the hard way, what it feels like to be completely out of sync with one's environment. Not being able to speak the language of those around you, nor understand their mindset, is a frightening thing . . . ."

Sister Godavari (nun)

"Well-being comes from leading a life based on soul consciousness rather than body consciousness. Where we see ourselves and others as detached, peaceful souls - not as friends or neighbours or bosses or any other role they may be playing. For instance, if anyone gets angry with us, we realise that their anger is temporary and not intrinsic to their true nature. And instead of reacting angrily, we can become detached and even understanding."

Nawaz Bathena (motor racer)

"Hey, well-being surely means lots of good food and a happy family? Jokes apart, my philosophy in life has always been to do exactly what I want. Regardless of what others call me, which is a jack-of-all-trades. For apart from racing, I do TV programmes, write, and look after the family business. Dipping my fingers in many things makes me happy and it doesn't hurt anyone else. So perhaps that's well-being?"

Mahesh Bhatt (film maker)

"People talk about peace and happiness, but I would say that well-being has a lot to do with courage. With raw guts to discover your own voice and own up to it too. For me, well-being has been making the kind of honestly autobiographical films that I've made. Films which have been cathartic enough to take the edge off pain in my life. Films which have taken out anger from my life and left only understanding . . . ."

Srinidhi Chidambaram
(doctor and dancer)

"Well-being has three aspects - physical, mental and social, but without the first, the other two are unattainable. One does not know what it is to be ill unless it happens. For mental wellbeing, it is important to keep busy. One learns the pleasure of relaxing only after a good day's work. And social well-being includes your relationship with family, friends and others."

Dr. Shrinivas K. Rao
(Sankara Netralaya, Chennai)

"Physical fitness is very important to be mentally responsive. It is equally important to have healthy pursuits to recharge your mind. Though paradoxical, you need both stability and challenge in life. Philosophy only gives you a base on which to build."

P. Chidambaram
(former Union Minister)

Well-being is an environment in which you are at your creative and productive best. We live in an environment of constriction and repression - family,, school, college, government - are all inhibiting factors. One has to rise above this to achieve well-being."

Commodore A. K. Madan
(Flag Officer, Southern Command, Indian Navy)

"If one follows human values like honesty and integrity and is content with what one has, then you experience well-being."

Shalini Saran/Fotomedia

Brigadier Amarjit Randwal

"Status in society and a certain minimum level of material comforts are also essential. Physical fitness and mental peace are important, but professional satisfaction is first. People tend to forget the material aspect but ultimately that plays a big role."

P. V. Rajaram (IAS officer)

"Mental attitudes can overcome physical handicaps. The feeling of tranquillity comes from one's own attitude to external pressures. If you do not internalise these pressures then you can be at peace."

Shanti Ranganathan
(Director, TT Ranganathan Centre for De-addiction)

"One has to focus on the psychological aspect. Physical fitness is only a minute part of well-being. That comes from an ability to carry on in the face of problems and not letting them affect your mental equilibrium."

Venu Srinivasan
(CMD, TVS-Suzuki)

"Well-being is something to be applied to society and not purely as an individual matter. It makes sense, as a business man, to look at the well-being of a region, in this case India as a whole, because business begins with society. If the sense of well-being does not permeate into society you cannot have individual happiness. This is such an abstract concept. What do you want me to say?"

T.K.V. Desikachar
(Director, Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, Chennai)

"Well-being is the ability to face difficulties, accept not reject them, face and not confront them. These problems may occur at various levels - physical, intellectual, emotional - but they have to be dealt with patiently."

Mallika Sarabhai
(Dancer and executive director of Darpana Academy of Performing Arts)

"It is a complex issue for me; there are many different strands going into it. On the physical level, it is important for me to know that I am fit. Physical fitness takes a lot of training and effort, but it gives me a great sense of euphoria.

Further, I need to feel intellectually and creatively challenged all the time. That is why my sense of well-being is never at the optimum when I'm on a long holiday. I feel good whenever I steal a day's holiday.

Also, I should be able to look into the mirror every morning and say to myself that yesterday I did not consciously hurt or exploit anyone. Equally important is the knowledge that I have been able to make a difference to someone's life, however small."

Vikram Seth (Author)

"It is a state of calm with a sense of direction where a person is able to utilise all his resources to achieve the best of results. How do I achieve it? I definitely don't succeed. Probably that's why I'm a writer."

Colonel Kapoor
(Director of television serials)

"We are the creators of our diseases. At the same time, we are capable of curing them ourselves. Sickness or disturbance comes from within ourselves. We must be able to tap the vast energy around us to control it. Controlling it would mean well-being. What do I do? I try a meditative technique where you control your bodily action. It opens a new gate inside. I do that. Sit in silence and meditate. No specific time; any time of the day when I feel like meditating.

Also, I talk to Lord Siva regularly as a friend. This is something I began doing ever since I went through an open heart surgery in November 1997 and it has helped me maintain my calm."

J. J. Vallaya (Fashion designer)

Well-being to me is happiness and contentment. It does not necessarily have to be derived out of any spiritual or material fulfillment. It is just a state of being.

Mukundan (Malayalam writer)

"For me it is just a goal, an ideal. I can never reach that. Well-being is not there for me. It does not exist. I always feel perturbed.

Well-being is something to aspire and look forward to. When you find well-being, it is a dead-end. You cannot go beyond."

Rama Rao (Artist)

"The general physical aspects of comfort do not constitute my definition of well being. Financial well-being is important; but not significant. Basically, I need to be intellectually comfortable."

Achal Bhagat
(Consultant Psychiatrist at the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, Delhi)

"To me well-being means quality of life. First, I should be able to recognise my needs. Then, I should be able to give some time to meeting these needs; be it in terms of work, leisure or relationships. If there is any hindrance in meeting these needs, then my quality of life deteriorates.

While trying to meet my needs, I should also be able to recognise my strengths and accept my limitations and use the former to overcome the latter."

Geeta Chandran
(Bharatanatyam dancer)

"Well-being would be peace within oneself and trying for peace outside. You cannot try for peace outside unless you have emotional and mental balance within. This kind of balance is a little tough to get and every individual has to evolve his/her own way of attaining it."

A variety of views, different attitudes. So what do you think well-being is all about?

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