Hosted by the Odyssey Bookstore, this is a live, reflective, non-commercial Conversation Series anchored by both Vaani and AVIS. the happynesswalas explore the lived experiences of guests who have faced Life's upheavals stoically. Sharing from their own journey and those of their guests, Vaani and AVIS showcase learnings on the value of choosing Happiness in any situation or context, despite the circumstances. Audiences take away inspirations and reflections on living fully with what is!
Please scroll down to see pictures and videos from Editions in 2020.
the happyness conversations on Saturday, August 29, 2020
Featuring Vidya Shankar!
10 years of incapacitating, futile, fertility treatments, followed by years of shaming by family and society for her inability to bear a child, and a debilitating phase of depression that came soon after her hysterectomy procedure in 2017 – well, anyone else may have given up on Life! But not Vidya. She took all her pain, from her numbing experiences of over 25 years, and poured it into her art – poetry. Today she is an acclaimed poet who has authored two anthologies – The Flautist Of Brindaranyam and The Rise Of Yogamaya. Even as she wrote, blogged, spoke and shared with whoever cared to listen to her, she resolved to only do what makes her happy – no matter what people said or thought. Important, she has learnt to move on from her past, dissolving all bitterness and resentment. She believes she is living a Life of Purpose now – “happy and content with living in the present”! How do you let go of bitterness, especially when you have lost a significant part of your lifetime fighting decadent social norms? How do you move on when Life has been so unfair to you? How does acceptance transform your ability to deal with a crippling situation? And can your pain really lead you to create art? the happynesswalas, Vaani and AVIS, explore these questions, among others, in this meaningful Conversation with Vidya. Listen to her inspiring story – of awakening, of breaking free from what was shackling her and of choosing to be happy with who she is, with what she has.
the happyness conversations on Saturday, June 27, 2020
Featuring Gazal Raina!
In 2013, when she was in her mid-30s, Gazal realized that she was in a very dark place in Life. She was going through a painful divorce. Besides, 18 years of facing domestic violence in her marriage had made her anxious and fearful. She had no money and her self-esteem too was at its lowest. Worse, when she declared that she was walking out on him, her husband denied her access to their (only) teenaged son. Even so, Gazal made a courageous choice – not to be a victim of her circumstances anymore. She sought help from her family, friends and spiritual guides. The support from them, and the perspectives she gained from her volunteering efforts, helped her go within herself and drop anchor. She resolved that, despite all her challenges, she must unravel her Life’s Purpose and live by it. A slow, cathartic, process of healing followed, but Gazal plowed on. Along the way, the divorce got messy and eventually she has had to deal with complete estrangement from her son (now an adult). Yet, she has let her pain lead her to live meaningfully, offering to serve her immediate circle of influence, selflessly, wholesomely. In 2014, she set up Bodhi – a support group for people who are single and are dealing with traumatic separations. In April 2019, she set up Milaap – an organization that provides support for non-custodial parents like her who are either denied access to their children or are estranged from them. Gazal’s journey from darkness and pain to living a purposeful, happy, Life is an amazing one. Listen to this Conversation, you will surely take away several important Life lessons.
the happyness conversations on Saturday, April 25, 2020
Featuring Twyla David!
Twyla’s father died suddenly in 2004 when she was barely 14. Taking advantage of her vulnerability, one of her uncles sexually abused her. Shocked, not knowing how to process what was happening, Twyla initially bottled up her trauma. Battling depression, she even attempted suicide. Then, when the man brazenly persisted, she exposed him at a family dinner. What followed pushed Twyla into a dark, lonely, space. Her family collectively ordered her to keep quiet to “protect their reputation”. Only Twyla’s older sister stood by her. Dealing with pain, anger, shame and grief was a long, debilitating, journey for Twyla. But she soldiered on – completing her Master’s in 2012 even as she always kept a job that gave her both money and dignity. Yet, the “feeling of numbness over the unfairness of it all” kept weighing her down. In 2013, serendipitously, she got an opportunity to tell her story to 50 women at a congregation at a chapel. Several women in the audience confessed to her that they had been abused too and thanked her for inspiring them with her courage, with her sharing. That day, Twyla believes, she found her Life’s Purpose! So, she started anew, telling herself that the man “did not deserve even her hatred”. She has since dedicated herself to help survivors of sexual abuse to cope and recover. Remarkably, through supporting others, Twyla has healed; and she has found love and Happiness! Her book, Time Unstitched, in which she recounts her cathartic journey and miraculous awakening to “light and meaning”, released recently. Listen to this beautiful, powerful, Conversation! You are sure to glean unputdownable takeaways – on how you too can find Happiness while groping through darkness and pain!
the happyness conversations on Saturday, February 29, 2020
Featuring Umasree and Raghunath!
On their wedding night, in August 1997, Raghu confessed to Uma that he was dealing with schizophrenia; he had been forced into this arranged marriage by his family. Despite being shocked by the unfairness of it all, Uma decided to give her relationship with Raghu understanding and love. It wasn’t at all easy. The social stigma associated with mental illness, his family wanting to hide his condition, the endless domestic pressures and an attempt on Uma's Life – camouflaged as a fire accident – inside their house, brought the couple to the brink. Desperate, one day in 2005, Uma went up Raheja Towers on Mount Road, in a bid to end her Life by leaping off the top floor. In the elevator though, serendipitously, she bumped into Siddharth Jayakumar, the superstar banker-author with a cerebral palsy condition. Inspired by the encounter, Uma decided in that nanosecond to give her Life, and love, another chance. Laboring through compassionately, Uma and Raghu have helped him overcome his mental health challenge. They live a meaningful Life together now, leading thriving careers, championing for mental health awareness, supporting social causes and doting over their daughter Aishwarya. Listen to them share their incredible journey – of how they found meaning and Happiness by celebrating Life despite its imperfections!