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The road to joy A self-described fashionista whose voice assumes an infectious energy as she expounds on her role, Roumi seems to be — well, happy.
The fact is, she initially swore off government work.
When she learned it was happiness minister, Roumi admitted to being a little befuddled.“What am I supposed to do? Happiness patrols, positivity officers and days of optimism She set off across the globe in pursuit of clues, visiting Bhutan and Denmark, among other countries.
Armed with tips from other nations, Roumi spearheaded several initiatives during her first year in office.
Other times, Roumi picks up the phone and handles the query herself.
She called the woman who wanted help in getting her parents to accept her husband.“I told her, ‘You need to convince them,’” Roumi said. I’m sorry, I would love to help, but this is not part of my scope.”Then there was the case of fishermen who were upset after the government banned them from fishing from four months to allow fingerlings to mature.
Roumi is believed to the first minister of happiness in the world, and certainly in the Middle East, a region racked by violence and often more associated with anguish than joy.“Some people may laugh at [the idea of nurturing] happiness, thinking it is silly and fluffy,” she said. “Sometimes they think I am the complaints officer for the government, which is not my role.
But I help.”Where possible, her office puts people in touch with the appropriate government entity.
“It’s the authentic, long-term happiness.”Several Dubai residents, randomly questioned, said they liked having a minister of happiness.“I think it’s a good idea because people are caught up in their work and their lives and their routine,” said Halah Hussein, 27.
Her position, the brainchild of Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and the ruler of Dubai, is to promote happiness and a positive attitude in government, and life.
Roumi says it’s no laughing matter.“This is serious business for the government,” she said during a recent interview in Dubai, one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE.
After all, the United States enshrined the pursuit of happiness in its Declaration of Independence nearly 250 years ago.
But the idea of making society’s happiness a governmental responsibility is far from universal. The tiny Himalayas kingdom of Bhutan has led the way since the early 1970s, when it instituted a Gross National Happiness Index, which measures happiness based on psychological well-being, ecology, health, education, culture, living standards, time use, community vitality and good governance.