Some year after 2070...
Finally, after many years, there was some positive news for mankind. The much-anticipated product invented by Dr. Thomas Fassbender of Germany was soon going to be launched across the world. Dr. Fassbender had spent years in research and after testing endless prototypes, the final version of the product had successfully passed all tests. With all clearances in place, it went into mass production and the announcement was made that within three months, the miracle product would be available in the markets for worldwide distribution. Happiness had become the most elusive and sought after 'thing' in the world. For the past five years, a deadly pandemic even more life-threatening than COVID-19 of the 2020s had plagued the entire human race. With indefinite periods of lockdown and no social life, the majority of humanity was experiencing frequent bouts of depression and anxiety. Deaths and suicides were daily news and the possibility of a vaccine being developed shortly soon seemed unlikely.
This pandemic was merely the tipping point of the human crisis. The process of mental degeneration and social disintegration had been going on for decades. The evils of modern living
like hyper-consumerism, excessive materialism, and individualism had significantly contributed to humans feeling more isolated and lonely. Plus, the devastating impacts of climate change were also threatening to push human society to the brink of extinction. Already, many coastal lands had become submerged in water, resulting in the mass uprooting of the human population and their consequent migration to higher altitude locations. It was like the doomsday scenarios of many sci-fi movies turning into reality.
Amidst all this gloom and doom, the news of Dr. Fassbender's invention served as a ray of hope for humanity. It was an electronic machine in the form of a skull cap that could evoke positive memories from one's past and help an individual re-experience those pleasant feelings in the body. The product was named Happiness. Though it seemed ironic that a tangible product was being named after an intangible emotion, but like any product, happiness had now been commodified!
In a day, Happiness was going to hit the stands. Bookings on e-commerce websites witnessed unprecedented traffic and retail stores across the world were prepping up for miles-long queues of desperate people. Even the Apple iPhones had never attracted such massive crowds and mass hysteria. Governments across the world relaxed lockdown rules, especially for the revolutionary product that was going to bring smiles back on the faces of people. Within hours of the launch, the entire supply of the dream product got exhausted despite the one person-one machine rule at the time of purchase.
All manufacturing units producing this wonder machine were operating at peak capacity as stocks had to be continuously replenished at every store and warehousing facility. Most stores were running out of stock in no time as the demand was going through the roof. Those who could not afford the product started selling off their household items or taking loans, just to get a piece of Happiness. It was reasonably priced, equivalent to the price of a low-end smartphone, making it affordable for most of humanity.
Dr. Fassbender's machine had become the miracle for curing depression, anxiety, and stress. The world was becoming a happier place with people reliving their pleasurable past as and when they desired. Deservingly, Dr. Fassbender was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his extraordinary invention. He decided to attend the award function at the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, along with his wife.
A day before the function, Dr. Fassbender and his wife left their home in Berlin and were on their way to the airport to catch a flight to Stockholm. As fate would have it, their car crashed into a heavy truck that lost its balance on the road. Both husband and wife were rushed to the hospital where Mrs. Fassbender was declared dead on arrival. Dr. Fassbender managed to survive with heavy injuries to his head but the trauma of his wife's death was unbearable for him. The otherwise outgoing doctor started retreating into his shell and became reclusive. Slowly, memories of the past started getting blurred. After a while, he could not recollect any incident before the accident except for the car journey with his wife. It was detected that he had developed retrograde amnesia - a rare illness caused by an injury or traumatic incident in which one is unable to remember most of the past but can form new memories post the injury.
This meant that Happiness would not be of any help to its creator! Unable to cope with the loss of his wife, Dr. Fassbender started developing suicidal thoughts. He didn't have any offspring and being an orphan, he had no one to call his own. It was such an irony that the man who had made billions of people happy again through his invention was struggling through loneliness and depression. One day while at home, a friend paid him a visit and advised him to adopt a child, saying it would bring back happiness into his life. The friend made him realize that if old memories could not be recollected, at least new ones could be created! The absence of an offspring had always bothered Dr. Fassbender and his wife. This was a golden opportunity for him to fill the void in his life and also to provide a better life to an orphan kid. The very next day, Dr. Fassbender went to an orphanage and adopted a small boy. He raised him and loved the child like a doting father. Both lives had been transformed. Dr. Fassbender was happy once again and that too without the help of Happiness. While billions of people had become addicted to Dr. Fassbender's invention, the man who created it had discovered the art of real happiness!
Author Arun A.K. is a communications professional working in Mumbai, India. He admits being guilty of showing more love to cinema and food than to writing. Most of the time, he ends up losing his frequent fights with sugar cravings. Arun holds an MBA degree from Symbiosis International University and B.E. in Electronics from Mumbai University. Twitter Handle: @arunusu