The hassle of finding happiness

by | Nov 2, 2019

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In my mid-sixties now, I can claim to have seen the four generations starting with that of my parents, born before independence. Few would make it to college and living simply and frugally was the order of the day. Saving was seen as a virtue and Jo bachaya so kamaya (whatever is saved is indeed earned) was the wisdom that ruled mindsets. Living within one’s means was appreciated as a sign of efficiency and control. Most people took life as a matter of fate and showed great sense of humor even in the oddest of situations. They also had a high poetic sensitivity to life and nature.

Then came people born after independence and till the start of the Green Revolution, or the end of the famine years, whatever we chose to call it. My siblings and I belong to that generation. Most of my friends from my university days and later, my colleagues belong to this generation. They, I included, carried a streak of idealism. A lot of dreams got added into the reality-rooted mindset of my parents’ generation. Elders perceived the dreams of the young generation as heartache and worried themselves with the fanaticism in the air of those days. My father once told me, “It is important that a man dreams, but it is perhaps more important that he can laugh at his own dreams.” 

Then came our children’s generation – born in the 1990s. They retrieved humor from their grandparents and created their own fantasies out of the dreams of our generation. They used their common sense to dilute all traditions and reduced them into a common problem of the pursuit of a happy human life. They characteristically refused to think too hard or to believe in any single idea or faith or school of philosophy wholeheartedly. The arrival of the Internet further fueled their fantasies and whatever little faith in the old we were trying to pass on to them was shrugged off. My son told me once, “I call no man wise until he has made progress from the wisdom of knowledge to the wisdom of foolishness.”

Finally, the millennials, people born in the 21st century, most of whom are in college, abandoned their villages and are struggling in the cities, trying hands-on neo-professions like delivery of products purchased online. They are biting reality better than their earlier three generations. They are not sandwiched between heaven and earth, idealism and realism, and lofty thoughts and the baser passions. They take life with all that it brings. They have no wish to start families and build homes. They are the New Age nomads. They do not know when to laugh, or what to laugh at. For them, the thirst for knowledge and the thirst for water are same. They eat Chinese food, drink beer and survive on credit cards. 

Since 2014, we are talking about New India. I even wrote a blog recently on what is new about New India, leaving out an important feature – the growing up of millennials. Man is made of flesh and spirit both, and it should be civilization’s business to see that the mind and the body live harmoniously together, that there be a reconciliation between the two. Development is not an online product. Life is not like a shooting duel or a boxing match but a track and field competition. The days of a table d’hôte, called thali meal in India are over. Now is the time of à la carte where not only does one choose what to eat but also worries about the next person ordering something better than one has. 

Our parents gave birth to us and we gave birth to our children. What else have we done? Somehow survived, managed, adjusted our lives, realized some dreams, and passed on the unfinished ones to our children in the hope that they shall achieve what we couldn’t, thus contributing their bit to our happiness, largely as a repayment for all that we have done for them. Great expectation, isn’t it? 

The best that we can hope for in this life is that we shall not have children and grandchildren of whom we need be ashamed of. Only the development of our life to bring it into harmony with our instincts can save us. Happiness is largely a matter of finding one’s life work, the work that one loves, and doing it to the best of one’s ability without the expectation of appreciation or the sorrow of criticism. However, this in itself is the biggest challenge in the quest for the elusive treasure of happiness.



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  1. Sir, Very well captured. I find a lot of anxiety and fear of missing out in youth of today. There is that correlation between consumption and Happiness is being hammered in by advertisement and marketing and many young fall for it.

  2. Whatever is saved is indeed earned! I am a twenty-first-century citizen not obsessed with fate plays a major role in our life. Today’s present is the past and is indeed for the future. I often think that what is the purpose of reading biographies? Most of the world-famous figures gone through ups and downs in their life. What is it teach us? It is a matter of relevance to one’s life. Change is inevitable but we can’t change the past happenings and it will teach us how to go ahead. Life has no specific route to flow it flows on the surface. Sometimes it as smooth as a melody everyone likes. That is all. Simple. I like Kalam because he is simple and gorgeous all through his life and earned the minds of the people. He stamped a model on the canvas of our society. A role model. I wish at the end I laughed but the world cried. Thank you, God bless

  3. Phenomenal changes are expected to happen in the social system as the nation develops. With the passage of time, our culture, traditions and value system gets modulated. The social fabric, the bonding and the value system also gets affected as we move from a developing nation towards a developed nation. Our principles, moral values and ethics are getting diluted day by day due to our inclination towards westernization and trying to adapt their life style.
    In the ever changing scenario, best thing is to adapt ourselves to the changes that are taking place, maintain a harmony between the present and past preserving the basic values, principles and traditions of Indian culture.

  4. Read twice and went through comments too… I feel there is no change in the words of your father and your son… The previous generation asked to be able to laugh on your dreams and next one asked to find wisdom in foolishness … The tools have been evolved with time and technology.. The globalisation has poured money not only in life but in mindset too….The earlier generation was living under many form of fears that included isolation from society… which made them pseudo humble… but as soon as they entered into the era of stable pension and continuous TV serials… their virtues changed in no time … But the generation born in 70s who witnessed the pre independence generation, born to post independence generation, the generation , that saw pre and post globalisation era , technology eruption and facing millennial’s as their coordinates and having teens as their children can firmly say that…If there is any hurdle in finding HAPPINESS.. it is only the virtue… Because the child born today is as primitive as it used to be 10000 years ago… and so is the HAPPINESS… I loved walking holding my Grandfather’s finger and my nephew barely 5 feels the same…

  5. Prof. Arun Tiwari’s writings and thinkings have always excited thinkers, philosophers and people especially who are deeply connected with their roots and traditions that has helped generations sail their boat of life successfully for generations. The dilutions in those ethos hence are forcing people of that generation think that how the next generation will live a peaceful life happily. Today is Thursday and tomorrow will be the Friday, over the scale of time tomorrow will be the next generation that will be different than today. I my self will have a different day, feelings and challenges tomorrow. Time is the ultimate decider what will happen next. The thing is that, we must try to live life (If it is in our hand and control) to its best level. Satisfaction and happiness are relative terms that changes according to situations. Sanatana Dharma teaches quest of liberation from all worldly disturbances and finding who am I, not the happiness. My great grand fathers traveled by foot, grand fathers by bullock carts, father by bicycle, and I drove scooter, motorcycle and car, very often by aircraft. In terms of gravity, elder generations carried loads, so they were heavy and settled. The new millennials are lighter, they want to fly and enjoy the moment without thinking or waiting for the next moment to come. We should watch and enjoy their way of life, while living our life own our way.

  6. Lifestyle, this small word has huge changes hidden in it. Old people were living a golden lifestyle where physical work is more and a bit of mental. So they stayed healthy, strong and disease free till even in their 80’s. But the lifestyle now we adapted is working late till night, hardly able to have a glimpse of rising son, sitting on chair before a desktop. This is taking a lots of mental input and less of physical and hence we are facing many ailments at a too early age of 30’s or 40’s. I hope somehow a balance can be reached and we can adapt a lifestyle more suitable for our well being.

  7. Thank you for this post Prof. Tiwari. Happiness is quite the profound subject. Here in the U.S., Dennis Prager has a “happiness hour” once a week on his talk radio show. I agree with much of what he says, for example, that one must be grateful to be happy and have a spiritual foundation. Many of his quotes can be found here: Too many seek happiness in other things. I feel one must be content, grateful, work hard to better society, appreciate others, and have a relationship with God to be truly happy.

  8. It an excellent post on the current issue Sir. I consider myself fortunate to have been your student at University of Hyderabad. I love all your posts and they simplify many complex issues and makes me to realize importance of life. Your posts are thought provoking and I motive myself when I read your posts. “Happiness is largely a matter of finding one’s life work, the work that one loves, and doing it to the best of one’s ability…” beautifully explained Sir. Thank you very much Sir.

  9. Wonderful article Sir. The moral decay of society as it is developing materialistically is very obvious. The root cause is arrogance of rich children, well paid by MNcs and encouraged in wining-dining lifestyles. I share a verse from Holy Quran to emphasise your point. “Your Lord has commanded that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to your parents. If one or both of them reach old age with you, do not say to them a word of disrespect, or scold them, but say a generous word to them. And act humbly to them in mercy, and say, ‘My Lord, have mercy on them, since they cared for me when I was small” (17: 23-24). Keep writing and spreading good thoughts.

  10. The problem of loosing happiness starts when we start finding it in outwardly things. Physical/ outwordly changes are the law of nature. We can feel happy momentariy by observing them. On the other hand, happiness is our eternal characteristic. While trying to appreciate outward things, we become a part of them but forget focusing our own own nature and characteristics. Even our body, thoughts, actions and intellect become a burden on our happiness when we divert our thoughts away from our own self. Things appear as per our belief. One thought process is-‘seeing is believing’. Another thought process is – ‘believing is seeing’. Things appear as we believe. If we believe that this thing will give us happiness then we can find happiness even in the forest. If we believe that this thing will give me sorrow then we can feel bored even in the most liked celebrations. The only wise way is that see everything but always feel yourself completely away/different from it. You are not the part of this unending process. The process will continue to change every moment but you are always the same changeless, complete, whole and cause of happiness. Everything happens to express numerous forms of your happiness. In fact, nothing can give you endless happiness as it is only a part of your eternal and whole happiness. You enjoy outward things not because they have happiness in them but because you believe that they will give you happiness. You are the eternal cause and source of happiness for everything in the outward world. You only observe them as a witness as per your faith and belief. You are only a दृष्टा and not a part of this process. You are complete in yourself and do need any outward thing to fill any gaps in your happiness as there are no gaps in your whole, eternal, omnipresent happiness. Persons with this knowledge and approach liberate themselves from the cycle of berth and death. They enjoy bliss of happiness even while living in the present body. One of numerous such examples in India is the King Janak who is known as ‘Videh’ – the person who was free from the hassles of complexities of worldly pain and pleasure – a muktatma even while leading worldly normal life. So, the whole topic of conversation is linked only with the right focus. The more we try to find happiness from worldly things – the more confused we shall be.

  11. Namaste Sir, Beautiful description of the changing scenario of ‘the quest of happiness’ through generations… Happy to see so many enlightening articles in the blog, Thank you so much.

  12. It would be apt to call your & mine generation as transitional generation. We studied while sitting on the rugs at floor , with slate, bamboo pen and looming stick of ‘master jee’. disobeying the master jee or father was unthinkable.

    Our parents did care for us , but never showered love on us, lest we would be spoiled.

    We however groomed our generation with over dose of love, care & high degree of education, and are not sure if will get the same amount of respect , which we had for our parents.

    Our generation witnessed the dawn of Mobiles, Computer, Internet, social media, whats app, air travel i.e. 360 degree change in the living style.

    All this has exhausted & drained us.

    Still the God has been kind & generous to us, as we still have the childhood memories of ‘Ramayan’ ‘Shrimat bhagwat’ which provide us much needed guidance & solace. That to me is the key to infinite happiness, special privilege of our generation.

    We would go from this world as satisfied & grateful souls.

  13. A very complex issue summarised beautifully. First I thought what could I write with my limited ability. But could not stop from saying whatever comes to mind.

    Very nice summary of evolution over 4 Generations ! How interestingly the way of life changes every 25 years … We always tend to think that what we did and believe is the Best and proudly keep on narrating to our children “Hamare zamane me to ….” But they surprise us by taking the world forward whether for Good or Bad or MIX, As far as we have equipped our generation to deal with every situation to the Best of our ability they will move forward. Our parents did the same for us.

    After all KARTA HARTA is God Almighty and he has his own way of giving everybody the ability and virtues to get ahead individually and collectively. Hope we have done our part deligently and honestly.

  14. A peek into your mind gave me a fair idea of your family and the values that bound you all together in the pursuit of dreams and of self. Happiness isn’t feeling good but it’s a life worth living. Many parents don’t stop with giving birth but make sure their children’s lives are one of moral rectitude. A society functions well and happy if people possess the steadfastness that clings to a good judgement based on righteousness, justice and conscience. This may sound idealistic to anybody who doesn’t pursue cardinal virtues. So, there will be no hassle in finding happiness if we don’t trade moral rectitude anytime, anywhere for anybody and set a good example for our children and may be children’s children.

  15. The real picture of development has been depicted . In which direction the development is taking place where it wl take to next generation has been beautifully elaborated. Let us go back to our roots to save the humanity. Development with spirituality can only save the future generations.

  16. You have asked the right question–what is happiness? To me happiness is finding work that you love doing. Chuck Schumer (Democrat-New York), the Minority Leader in the U.S. Senate, once told me, “Happiness is when you can’t wait to get to work on Monday morning, and when you can’t wait to get home for the weekend on Friday afternoon to see your family. Then you have a pretty good life.” So you need work that you love and a sound family environment for true happiness. Walt Disney said that if you can dream it you can do it. To me life is a succession of big dreams. Of course you will constantly be falling short. But sooner or later you will hit a home run, and if you would not have had the original dream you would not have hit the home run. Apart from individual accomplishments is the happiness that comes from service to others, living for something larger that yourself.

  17. Prof Tiwari Jee, you have very nicely depicted the progression of society and societal values; not always necessarily ascending and hence needs attention. It reminds me of three important issues. One is on loosing cultural diversity and moving for a homogenous culture; diversity is the rule of the nature. Secondly, we are good starter, but poor maintainer! And the third one, are we so poor in marketing that we could not convey the goodness of our tradition to our progeny? Probably, we do less of talking, less of interaction, and less of story telling to the our next generation.

  18. If one is not happy with oneself that is the biggest failure of one’s life. No amount of money earned, status in society, list of friends, can buy that simple feeling happiness inside that is available at no cost in the simple and silent moments of life. Your blog took me down memory lanes and made me live those simple moments when my parents send me off to the U.S. both crying and smiling. When my infant child looked at me and smiled and my wife laughed at the scene. Life is a great blockchain. We have so much credited already. The problem is not there. The problem is we have lost the password. We are unable to access the account.

  19. Dear Sir, Very welll explained the role of values, culture, tradition and beliefs and suggestions from parents in the pursuit of happiness in any ones life.

    People are searching for happiness in money by bringing themselves away from family, moral and cultural values. Most of the time we are ignoring suggestions from our elderly thinking their view as stupidity of old days but actually those suggestions are gems to be implemented in our lifestyle.

    After coming to Sydney, I actually feel that getting dollars in bank account doesn’t give me happiness but playing with my babies, telling them stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata, talking to my parents, family members and old friends are the source to happiness.

    The value system, traditional knowledge myst be transferred to our children. It is the only way to help them out of the stress and challenges of coming era. Thank you Sir for such a valuable post.

  20. Arunji, Thank you for your post. In my opinion, much of this is true. We have, in general, pivoted to a neo lifestyle based on material acquisitions.

    My Father’s generation and prior to his did not actively look for happiness in the way we do. They looked toward their duty and their obligations living a life of relevance dictated by dharma. They did not hanker to be happy per se. I feel the word happiness becomes re-defined with each succeeding generation; today, we have wealth but poor health; we have technology, but we have compromised our social skills.

    I’ve seen the new generation sitting at mealtimes playing videos on their devices rather than engaging in lively conversations. A meal is meant to both nourish the body and family relations.

    Simplicity in action, thought and deed is the stuff that happiness is made from. All of this being said, I support the millenials for they do have a lot of things to offer but are faced with greater stresses today owing to a fast dizzying lifestyle.

    Happiness has become a quest. We buy the latest phone to make us happy. We take a vacation to make us happy. I believe that previous generations looked at happiness as being borne out of our need to make a difference, to be helpful to others. If I had to give a term then I would call it spiritual satisfaction and it doesn’t require money but a very different perspective.

    In conclusion, maybe more people need to encourage and inspire this higher sense of living based on universal values. Thank you again.

  21. The life of young people in India has become highly stressful. During the last few years, I have a met a lot of young people who are in quest of happiness and peace. The mobile phone, computer and TV have enslaved many people, especially the young. Mental health problems are increasing rapidly among adolescents and young people.

    In this backdrop, this article highlights the importance of Indian values and our spiritual traditions. in this brief blog, the life philosophy of four generations has been captured very well. The underlying message is loud and clear.

  22. As usual, such a thoughtful article which spans across four generations, while highlighting the drives and aspiration of each peer group.

    This article gains further significance as it can really work as a reference point for the millenials, who to their advantage have a lot of things working for them. Believe me…it is one of the best periods in the history of mankind to be 25 years of age. For starters, they have immense information available to them on their fingertips, which enables them to make more informed decisions. Again, they are not inhibited to work on any kind of jobs that will help them pursue their dreams. We have so many youngsters venturing into start-ups and also simultaneously driving Uber cabs to help them get by till the time the start-up takes off. They possess immense drive and display a huge appetite for success, which was so appropriately summarized when you mentioned “They are biting reality better than their earlier three generations.”.

    But, as so aptly mentioned “Man is made of flesh and spirit both, and it should be civilization’s business to see that the mind and the body live harmoniously together, that there be a reconciliation between the two”, this generation could take a small pause daily and just go back in time a few years to learn a bit about their forefathers and the virtues and principles they held in reverence. The kind of simplicity and the healthy outlook towards life they had. The high poetic sensitivity to life and nature described in the first para. If they can inculcate this little habit into their daily lives, they would not only do themselves a world of a good, but more importantly do good for the entire world.

    Bhagwaan Swaminarayan in the Vachnamrut states that all the perishable earthly goodies have a Happiness quotient only as much as their attributes, which are finite and limited, but the Real Source, the fountain of them all is in the Almighty Parabrahm, in whom lies Infinite and Eternal Bliss.

    Once people understand this, we would be having a generation, which would not only have the “Big Data” of Technology at their disposal, but also and more importantly the Wisdom to efficiently and effectively employ the technology in a manner, which is beneficial to One and All. For then, they will have the prudence to let technology take care of the mundane, while investing time to pursue higher goals, which will address the Spirit (Brahm), where God (Parabrahm), the Source of all Happiness resides.

    Once again, Thanks a lot Sirji for such a relevant article, which is nothing short of an immensely valid signpost for the present and future generations….Thanks a lot.

    Jai Swaminarayan 🙂

  23. This articulation shall resonate with most people of our generation, i.e. people in their sixties. Artful writing brings out all subtilities sparing no one while hurting none.

    The concluding para says it all. Sustainability would automatically come, and climate change would not be an issue if we cared even a little about it.

  24. Dear Arunji, Happy New Year. Of course now we celebrate more of the Christmas New year than the Hindu New Year as a mark of our progress to the 21st century. You have written very correctly that the New India is in search of Happiness and moving for an elusive treasure of happiness. Many times I tell my children that how happy we were just getting food for two times a day and getting tea or chocolate was a luxury we use to cherish . But now in the new age of abundance all these have gone and we have become slaves of technology. I remember my travel to USA in 1995 when someone was telling how affluent we are as we can order buy anything from a car using cell phone which is now no more a luxury but a necessity. Now no one care for others, empathy, love, affection have gone and affluence of wealth has become the symbol of success no matter how much knowledge one has or how much honest, sincere one is. Being born in a village of Sabarkantha the most backward district of the Gujarat state we use to enjoy childhood vacation by playing in mohalla with neighbours, having bath in river for w hole day in the hot summer was a luxury, all has gone in search of elusive happiness and progress.

  25. Wonderful and succinct description of how India has evolved as a society where culture and tradition that were once considered as inheritance from previous generations, are now seen as baggages. For any society to succeed it needs to leverage the past to be able to build the future.

  26. Birth-work-life balance and its quest to find happiness has been our great endeavor. In this cyclic realm of happenings we get lost and search gain for our dreams to be realized. A great discovery of realized happiness is still a mirage.

  27. Looks like Dr.Tiwari put on a different thinking cap this time. This one is like the ‘middle’ on the editorial page! The millennials seems more confused than any other generation…it was always like that..but at least we did not have the aid of internet and social to confuse us more and unanchored us. It’s a difficult time to grow up.

    Very nice piece by Dr.Tiwari.

  28. Reality of life …. observed in all families… beautifully explained Sir.
    Unfortunately more we move towards intellect happiness becomes rare.

    I feel happiness can’t be experienced in isolation…..It is the sensitivity of our heart when happiness of other person becomes essential for us. So for happiness family bondage is major ingredient.

  29. Simple happiness is available at no cost, right away. Refined happiness, manufactured, created, sold and bought, is where the problem is. Instead of enjoying the natural free happiness that is with us, we are spending money and effort in trying to be happy that is indeed a feeling pf pleasure that goes away as soon as the deal is over. My take of today’s blog is: “a repayment” for all that our parents have done for us in making our best investment in time, effort and money to raise our children.

  30. You have said what I feel and see around me every day – loss of happiness – but do not know why. You have expressed the unexpressed pain that is in air everywhere. After reading your blog I realize that the idealism I learnt from my parents was not bogus. It actually worked. Their reality was also hard, but it did not bite them. They accepted their failures and move on with their faith in themselves. I see my father telling me your words “Happiness is largely a matter of finding one’s life work, the work that one loves.” Thank you so much Sir for telling me this simple secret of happiness in life.

  31. When I come to my office in Connaught Place, in Metro, on road, in the lobby, in lift… there is no happiness on any face. People are living with lot of unexpressed pain. After reading your blog I get the answer: these people no more carry “a streak of idealism”. Their dreams are shattered by the hard reality and the hand-to-mouth lifestyle is no good. They are not happy because they have taken their failures as permanent. Except laughing while watching some stupid comedy show on TV, people don’t even know how to laugh at your failures and keep trying one more time. Thank you for putting it so straight: “Happiness is largely a matter of finding one’s life work, the work that one loves, and doing it to the best of one’s ability without the expectation of appreciation or the sorrow of criticism.”

  32. Pranam Sir

    This post makes one ponder on the meaning, purpose and direction of one’s life – something which one rarely does in the fast paced life. I found it touching to read your personal experiences and perspectives of the generations before and after and it made me reminisce about my interactions with the two generations before me and the difference in the dreams of my grandfather, my father and myself.

    Belonging to the third set, the 1990’s I too shared the logical ratiocination of life’s aspects that is a trademark feature of the generation and imagined my generation to be more advanced until the advent of the next generation who have been born in a far superior technologically evolved environment. Your description of the movement from “thali meal” to the ” a la carte” was very humorous and apt sir.

    however, each generation though different is following the same life cycle. Krishna in the Gita speaks about how all life-existences on earth are ensnared by time and have to pass through the stages of Janma, Mrityu, Jara and Vyaadhi .

    And in the mortal existence, little moments of happiness seem to be the closest experience that man can seek to glimpse a trickle of the Ananda that is eternal and man’s every action material or spiritual are channelled towards trying to attain happiness in different ways, as if a phantom program has been embedded into the system.

    But in this pursuit, we find only a few to have truly attained to happiness. Material dreams when selfish come falling down in the face of time and no matter what power one wields in the face of time, but the saints and liberated leaders always appear to be blissful and happy in their life’s path

    Your post sir makes me recollect the dialogue of the movie “Pursuit of Happyness” where the protagonist Chris Gardner, played by Will Smith , saying “There is no I in happiness” when he spots a graffiti with the word happiness misspelt as Happyness.

    Maybe , when we take out the I- the ego-self from our Happiness, our pursuit of happiness ends and we can be truly happy

  33. Great blog, truly inspiring!

    Far beyond pleasure, fun, joy and even serenity, a steady harmonious life of contentment and composure. Remaining equipoised in profit or loss, respect or insult, getting gold or dirt and doing the work/Seva that suits us knowing God to be the all-controller and understanding God’s Greatness and knowing Him to be the all-doer and the Supreme Being.

    All other happiness of the worldly things- may that be happiness from Son, wealth, wife, property, estate, accomplishment of worldly dreams, etc. is all momentary and is destroyed with time, and can be taken away/stolen, but the happiness associated with God’s form is never ending, undiminishing, ever increasing, and can’t be stolen.

    Aksharbrahman Gunatitanand Swami says: “Jetly Kai mayamay sukh che te dukh vina nu hoy nahi” meaning, “What so ever worldly happiness is there can not be without pain/sorrow attached.”

    Hence, my personal belief is that our quest should be for that Eternal Happiness. The state of ParamAnand; the state of ultimate and eternal Bliss.

  34. A very touching narrative to a very sensitive issue. “Saving was seen as a virtue and Jo bachaya so kamaya (whatever is saved is indeed earned) was the wisdom that ruled mindsets. Living within one’s means was appreciated as a sign of efficiency and control. Most people took life as a matter of fate and showed great sense of humor even in the oddest of situations. They also had a high poetic sensitivity to life and nature” brought so may childhood memories to my mind. Sir, we have lost a lot the way lifestyles have changed. I see more and more people suffering the pain of this loss.

  35. A very thoughtful & detailed views about all generations & eyes opening nice thoughts about ourselves.

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