Manu Joseph writes about people and spaces around Spui, in the tourist hub of Amsterdam. His dry humor is enjoyable as much as his reading of the place interesting. The trams disappear just that way!
His is going after happiness as a theme, as I figure from his columns. If it is to bust this whole idea of happiness as a goal and that life pivots around happiness, I am with him. Some lines hint at a slightly roughed up man within.
Is so much happiness, and richness, in plain sight vulgar? Especially for the unhappy and the unfortunate. To be a loser, or to be physically or socially defeated, in such places is more painful than being so in India, where the fallen have the companionship of the majority.
I tell a Dutch interviewer that from an Indian’s point of view, Amsterdam is so outwardly joyous that I feel I am inside the Facebook page of a whole town. As a native of Amsterdam, she is not so sure though that the Dutch are happy. Many locals tell me that. One fiction editor told me with a chuckle, “As you go north of Amsterdam, the suicide rate shoots up.”
In such places… exactly what someone thought after spending time there. This isn’t quite true. One READS happiness in these places and goes on to emulate it.
Walking around Spui, I remember having fought with my travel mate. That night she walked around alone. The next morning I bought toys from a store called Gone With the Wind. We left for Paris on a bus. The roughness continued. While all around people milled and behaved just as Manu describes. Brings back memories and that happiness isn’t a central theme. While here, live a life to its full potential that seems to be the brief. The veneer of happiness is incidental.