Enforced Happiness

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

In a world where happiness is mandatory, is feeling sad a crime?

(01)

Smile.
Stretch your cheeks as wide as you can. You have to smile. You MUST smile.
If you don't smile, you will face 2 years of imprisonment.

They say happiness is contagious. If you see someone else happy, you'll also start to feel happy 'automatically'. But not anymore. Because I know very well that most of the smiles that I see are fake.

When you walk, you must smile. When you talk, you must smile. When you are having a fight... you should still smile. Even when you're in tears, you can't but smile. Don't remove that smile off your face. Because they're watching you, all the time.

I saw a person sighing in the corner of a street the other day. While doing so, he was facing the wall. He was being very careful so that none may see him not smiling. However, some people in plain clothes surrounded him a few minutes later. Then he was forcibly taken into a white car that stopped nearby. The car had cute-looking blue logos on both of its side. Seeing the logo, I could easily tell that the car belonged to The Happiness Bureau. And those people in plain clothes were the agents of The Bureau. Everyone knows them as the 'happiness police'. After the man was taken in, the car disappeared almost instantly, as if it got teleported to somewhere unknown.

But I know where the car is going. I mean, isn't it obvious?

 

(02)

My heart is feeling heavy, I don't know why. But I didn't dare frowning. I must smile all the time.

'You must smile you must smile you must smile you must smile', I continued to mentally affirm myself.

Actually, the fake smile was literally imprinted into my face. Long ago, my facial muscles ached like crazy due to prolonged smiling. But now I can smile all day without any trouble. I can even smile while sleeping. However, I don't exactly know if I continue smiling while I'm asleep. Nevertheless, the 'happiness act' doesn't require you to smile while asleep. So I don't bother much about it. But I must have to tell you, I've seen many people smiling even in their sleep. It's an involuntary smile, though. They have lost the power to control their facial muscles which helps them smile.

"Ah shit, here we go again", I muttered, still smiling.
I got stuck in the traffic jam for the third time this morning. Well, what do you expect? It's the Dhaka city, after all, famous for its narrow, jam-packed traffic ways.
Sitting at the back of the car, I was listening to BDBC 24 on the radio.
I looked at the watch, it was 8:40 AM. Looks like I'm gonna be late for work.
A funny dialogue was being broadcast. Just as the woman in the radio was getting to the punch line, a static was heard.

"We apologize for the interruption. An emergency message for you." Another female voice read, "We have just received words from the police department that a shooting is taking place in the Diganta Shopping District."
A WHAT? Can today get any worse?
"A seemingly middle-aged man armed with a machine gun is on the loose."
Happens all the time.
"We recommend you to steer clear from this area. If you're still within a hundred meters of the area, leave immediately. For your safety, I repeat, LEAVE THE AREA IMMEDIATELY."
I'm probably a few kilometres away from the place. So I've got nothing to worry about.

But I'm still wondering, why'd someone go to kill people in Gigante? It is known as the 'Akihabara of Bangladesh.' Almost all types of electronics can be found there. But people mainly go there to get a taste of Japanese pop culture. In other words, it's a gathering place for all the weirdos in the country.
Why'd someone want to kill the weirdos? If they'd really wanted to kill someone, then I suggest they should kill the 'normies', like me, for example.

The traffic congestion took about 15 minutes to clear up, fortunately. You can never expect getting out of a 'Dhakaiya' traffic jam this quickly. I wonder how the happiness police shows up everywhere so swiftly.

 

(03)

The 'Happiness Act' was enacted a few years after the World War 2.5 happened. Luckily, it wasn't World War 3. WW 2.5 is a series of disconnected giant wars between different nations. I forgot when it happened, as I'm not good at remembering history. As far as I can remember, the war continued for about seven years. Bangladesh, like all the other nations in the world, was also affected. Many people lost their income, many lost their relatives. There were many more who lost their income, their relatives as well as their body parts. I was lucky enough not to witness the horrors of the war. Thankfully, I was born at a later date.

Every war is followed by social disorder and economic depression. This war was no exception. Due to the social anarchy and economic troubles caused by the war, many people fell into depression. Most of them ended up commiting suicide. Bangladesh also faced severe economic crisis and a constant threat of civil war. However, all the trouble ended when 'The Matriarch', called 'Mahamata' in Bangla, came to power. She was like a goddess, who came down from the heavens to help us rebuild our nation. She was the one who enacted the Article 271(A), popularly known as the 'Happiness act - 2048'. This law made smiling obligatory. Under this law, everyone must smile at all times. Nobody can frown or make a sad face in public. She also installed cameras in every house of our country to 'monitor our smiles'. Because of her great undertakings, Bangladesh has currently become one of the happiest nations in the world. According to various international statistics, Bangladesh has one of the lowest depression and suicide rates in the world. But at what cost

Hey, you forgot smiling.

 

(04)

Happiness Act, 24/7 smiling, WW2.5, mass shootings - with all the shit still jumbled up in my head, I arrived at the office twenty minutes late.

Updates about the shooting : The mass shooting was over. It lasted for not more than nine minutes. The attacker was killed by the police. But before he died, he ended up killing 79 people and injuring 257 others. What game did he play to acquire such skills, GTA 9?

As anticipated, I got a scolding from my boss for being late. However, I brushed it aside and went to my desk. I also had a small chitchat with a colleague of mine. He eyes seemed to have sunken. Despite smiling all the time, the sadness on his face was overwhelmingly evident. He was getting divorced - that was the reason for his sorrows. Seriously? Why'd someone be this much sad about such a mundane matter? I just couldn't understand.

Then I came across Shudeep, the Einstein of our office. He has an IQ of 164. I'm trying to avoid him at all costs. But for some unknown reason, we come to see each other's face every single day. It's not his fault that I'm avoiding him, nor the fault is mine. Rather, hanging around him makes me uncomfortable. I repeat, he's not a bad guy. Actually, It's the truth that I came to know about him is what forces me to avoid him.

Two years ago, he was accused of showing sadness in public. He was arrested and sent to the Happiness Bureau in Pabna, almost 132 kilometers away from Dhaka. He came out just a few weeks ago.

"Those bastards would torture you physically and mentally for being sad. They'd brainwash you. Then they'd torture you again. And then they'd brainwash you again. They'd kill you if you don't say "I'm happy" and smile all the time."

Each and every word he said is still ringing in my mind. Whenever I see his face, his brutal description of being tortured pops up in my mind. And that's what makes me feel uneasy. The truth isn't very easy to digest, after all. I guess the sighing man who I had seen the other day would face a fate not so different from that of Shudeep.

 

(05)

Shudeep went as far as giving me something to compare his tortures with - the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp tortures. I didn't know what it was. So I, as a conditioned reflex, searched about it in the Mikipedia. Then I realized I shouldn't have done that. The truth I discovered made me even more uncomfortable.

Long ago, after some nine-eleven thing happened in the far away land of the American Empire, many innocent people of a minority were unjustly detained in a place called Guantanamo. Inside there, they were mercilessly tortured for many months (some were tortured even for years) to make them confess that they're terrorists. And these were all done under the supervision of the then President, whose name I can't remember. He had a dirty political agenda behind all these, which was revealed a few years after his death. It was hard for me to believe that a civilized nation like the American Empire could do such a thing.

"And we, the Bangalees, have surpassed them in civilization." Shudeep sarcastically said, "Judging by the standards of our very own Guantanamo, we can say that we've become more civilized than the Americans."
What's worse, it is said that thousands of people are still being tortured inside the Happiness Bureau, which was once a mental asylum.

I heard Shudeep saying, "And the conditions of the female prisoners are even worse. They're repeatedly raped after being drugged. Some are raped for as much as fifty times a day."
I felt a churning on my stomach just by remembering what he said. I don't want to remember anymore. I want to forget them all.
But whenever I try to forget them, I begin to remember more of what he said.

If the conditions inside the Happiness Bureau are so deplorable, then why did nobody speak out sooner? Because all of those went inside the Happiness Bureau came out traumatized, horrified beyond limits and mentally broken for life. Shudeep was the only exception until now. He surely has a heart of titanium. He didn't succumb to the system. Rather, he became vocal about the tortures he had faced in Pabna. I heard that he even filed a case against the government, demanding compensation for the harms done to him. Along with that, he started joining different anti-Mahamata rallies and seminars. He became well-known as Mahamata's biggest critic.

 

(06)

Now, if you check out our history books, you'll see that we've got a long and GLORIOUS tradition of silencing the opposition by force. So you may think that the poor Shudeep might get killed or be abducted someday. But this is where you're gravely mistaken. Our country is a democracy (always has been, though) . "You have all the right to speak as well as we have all the right to not listen", is how our democracy works. You can even go as far as to badmouth Mahamata and nobody will do anything to you, not even Mahamata herself.

"It is not fitting for the lioness to reply to the criticisms of the dogs", she says with a tone much resembling the Queen Victoria of... I don't know... England, maybe? This is main reason that people love

Mahamata very dearly. She's always majestic, forever prudent and never angry. Despite being a titular head only (though I doubt her powerlessness), she holds immense popularity among the general mass. Never before had the country experienced such an outstanding democracy. Before the war, you had to watch every word you speak. However, now you have watch out for only one thing. That is, not to criticize the Happiness Act under any circumstances. You may criticize anybody and everybody, even the queen, but you can't criticize that particular segment of the law book. It's totally forbidden. Criticizing the Happiness Act is punishable by death, under the Law 217 (A), Section 4 - if my memory serves me right.

I loved Mahamata, just like most of the population did. I used to love her until I came across a person who said, "Why is feeling sad a crime? Isn't it natural to feel sad sometimes?"

A person, probably a college professor, was trying to convince the public that the Happiness Act - 2048 is an oppressive law. What happened to him? He was publicly executed the very next day.

 

(07)

He was 'drugged to death', as it's popularly known. It's known as the 'most civilized' method of death. But I want to disagree. Hanging is a better option in my view. And if I had to choose a method of execution myself, I would've chosen beheading. Yeah, it may look all bloody and messy, but I'll have an easier way out. Getting drugged to death is probably the worst type of death anyone can have.

The middle-aged professor was locked up in a cage. Then the cage was placed on a big stage for the audience (meaning us) to see. After that, he was given an injection which induces painful and frightening hallucination. The professor then screamed and ran around the cage for almost two hours. And finally he committed suicide by banging his head with the bars of the cage. I don't know about the others, but I feel like a psychopath for watching him die agonizingly with a smile on my face. What choice did I have anyway?

Ding-dong-dong.
A bell rang. It's 3 o'clock. Time for the routine affirmation to start. From the big speaker fixed at a corner of the office, chanting of the usual mantra started, "You are happy, you are happy, you are happy, you are always happy, you are happy all the time, you are happier than yesterday, you are happier than ever..."

I was thinking too much. I need to calm down. So I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and started lip syncing with the immortal words. These words are heavenly for sure. Every time you hear them, you feel an intense amount of serenity in your heart.

The mantra is known as the 'Hymn of Happiness'. We need to hear 'You are happy' three times a day. We can't live without it. In the morning it is broadcast at 7 AM, the time when we wake up. It is broadcast at 3 PM in the afternoon. And finally, it is broadcast at 11 PM, the time for most people to go to sleep. Even if we are in a place with no broadcasting device available, someone will start reciting the hymn in due time. Then the others will eventually join him/her. It's sort of a reflex action of ours. Many of us (including me) can recite the hymn from our minds without a single mistake. Because it has been embedded into our minds.

Yes, I should be happy. I should stop thinking so much about everything else. Thinking does you no good. So stop thinking.

 

(08)

Bangladesh has been one of the happiest nations in the world since WW2.5. But that doesn't mean people don’t commit suicide anymore. On the contrary, some kills themselves almost enthusiastically. I have witnessed such an incident almost a year ago.

I was taking a walk on a nearby park with Mona. We were newly married back then. So anything we did together felt romantic.
There was a ten storeyed building nearby. People gathered in front of its entrance.
"What's happening?" Mona asked.
"Wanna go and check out?" I asked back. Both of us were curious to see what was going on.
We approached the crowd and asked a person among them, "Bhai (bro) , what's happening here?" 
He pointed upwards.
We saw someone sitting on the roof of the building. A young woman, to be exact. I looked at her closely. She seemed to be barefooted.
"Oh no, don't tell me -"
Another person said, "Look, her shoes are down there."
And pretty soon, she also came 'down there'. Blood splattered all over the ground. Thankfully, Mona didn't have to see the whole thing. I covered Mona's eyes and pulled her out of the crowd as fast as I could. She's can't deal with things like this very well.

I wished that my eyesight would weaken as I grew older. Then I wouldn't have to see all these things in HD mode. But that didn't happen. So I had to notice her enthusiasm to die. She was dancing in a slow rhythm before she jumped off. When she jumped off the roof, she acted as if she were performing a dive in a swimming pool. Then she topped it all off with some stupid hand gesture moments before hitting the ground. How much plan did she make to take such a dramatic leave?

I have seen so much shit in a single life. I don't want to be reborn in this world again.

 

(09)

When I returned home, I saw the lights inside the rooms were already turned on. Looks like Mona came home earlier today.
The assistant bot, standing half of an average human's height, came to the door and welcomed me.
"Thanks, pal. What's for dinner tonight?"
The bot replied, in a generic manner, "Preset 3, hilsa replaced by rui, just as you ordered."
To be honest, I don't like eating hilsa. It takes a lot of time removing all the small but sturdy fish bones from it. Rui is a better option in this case, since it has lesser bones than hilsa.

At the eating table, I asked, "How was your day, Mona?"
Mona had a towel wrapped around her head. She was drying her hair after taking a shower. "Using the hair drier is a pain", she says. Shaking the towel a little, she replied, "Same old, same old."
I don't think it was the 'same old'. She performed at one of the greatest concerts of our country today.
"What about you?"
"Nothing special, except that I've got a promotion.", I replied.
"Wow that's fantastic. Congrats!"

After the dinner, she sat down to practice the piano. Meanwhile, I allowed myself to get lost in the world of books. Despite the popularity of e-books these days, I still like to read hard copies. It's sort of an obsession, I guess. Actually, I love to collect hard copies of different books. Besides, I take great pride at preserving them. It's a hard job, no doubt. But I wanted to remind myself, 'this is how our ancestors learned'. Learning things is just too easy nowadays. We don't have to go through much ordeal like they did, thanks to the advancements made in technology.

After diving into the books for a considerable amount of time, I resurfaced into the real world. I looked around the room. Edel, our home assistant bot, is cleaning up the room. Mona was still on the piano. She likes to play it while keeping her eyes closed.

 

(10)

"Say, how does it feel like to be a pianist?" I asked her, just to strike a random conversation. I haven't chatted much with her lately.
"Feels awful, Shovon. It... feels... awful."
While sighing, her smile was almost fading. So I instantly gestured her to keep smiling. Despite smiling continuously since her childhood, she hasn't been well accustomed to the act of 'smiling for no reason' yet. A black eye was watching us from a corner of the ceiling. If the camera notices her not smiling, she will be arrested and promptly sent to Pabna.

"What? I thought music helped you to relax better."
"Get real, Shovon. Music does no shit to help you feel good. Rather, it fucks up your mind."
Yeah right, she's mad already.
"It only gives a temporary illusion of happiness. Consider it like cocaine. You need to take more and more of it each time you wanna get high."
I haven't seen a musician hate music as much as she does.
"Well, okay", I said.

She continued, "I hate music, especially the piano music. I can't get back the peace of mind until I play the piano for 48 hours a day. Sometimes I wish I could become an average jobholder like you."
Just as they say, the grass on the other side of the fence always looks greener.
"It isn't all fun and joy in my job either, y'know."
"Yeah, but you get a lot of free time in your job. So, I think -"
She was interrupted by the telecaster. The routine affirmation program has started.
It's 11 o'clock already?

A calm and composed motherly voice started chanting, "You are happy, you are happy, you are happy, you are always happy, you are happy all the time, you are happier than yesterday, you are happier than ever..."
"You are happy' for a hundred times in a single dose.
Three times a day amounts to 300 affirmations daily.

"My job never gets interesting", I said nonchalantly.
Mona slowly got up from the piano.
"Because the one who's doing the job is very interesting", she said.
"What d'you mean?"
She took the book from my hand and sat it down on the table beside me. Then she took the place which was previously occupied by the book, that is, my lap.
"You know exactly what I mean", she replied in a seductive voice.
Then our lips met together, and our tongues did a handshake with each other. I know it's very stupid to put it this way. But it is what it is. The animal instinct was working between the two of us.
After a considerable amount of time, I came to realize something.

Uck, she's heavy! But how can you talk about a lady's weight on her face? Even then, I somehow managed to carry her to the bed.

 

(11)

We undressed each other very passionately, and got under the blanket.
And then... we did nothing but cry.
"What's this feeling? What's happening to me?"
"I don't know, but I'm also feeling the same thing", I replied.

Under the blanket, we hugged each other and cried. All these pain, all these problems - we just couldn't take it anymore. We had to press out mouths hard so that no sound could be heard. Only warm tears overflowed our cheeks. Mona's true expressions of frustration and anger wetted my arm and chest. The big black eye sitting on a corner of the ceiling was still surveying the room from corner to corner.

We hugged each other tighter than before.
Mona whispered, "Sometimes I wish I could just die."
I replied, "Me too. It's better to die than to live in a world like this."
After a blissful moment of silence, I continued, "But I'm too afraid to die."
Mona chuckled, "Me too. I hear dying is a very painful thing."
"Don't know, maybe we have to try dying someday."
While saying this, the face of that suicidal woman flashed in my mind.
I can remember vividly; she had a giant smile while jumping off the roof. A smile like which I've never seen before.
Was that a genuine smile?

(This story is dedicated to my all-time favorite anime, Psycho-Pass)

[Note : Sorry if the story is a bit disappointing. This story is just a collection of my ideas from a discontinued Bangla novel (Baddhotamulok Ananda). Anyway, thanks for reading. Be sure to leave your thoughts below.]


Submitted: October 29, 2020

© Copyright 2021 abdubinsaj8. All rights reserved.

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