Reena Kallat: Visa to Happiness

Everybody looks for it. The hope is that all roads will lead us to it. When we’re lucky we get glimpses of it along the way. It’s that ever-elusive feeling that plays hide and seek with all of us- Happiness. Is there an ideal recipe for happiness? What if there were keys to happiness? What would a visa to happiness look like? What does happiness look like?

Through a 14-hour workshop, contemporary artist Reena Kallat asked her young student artists to define happiness. Art1st’s Partner a Master workshop series gives young minds an opportunity to look at the world and its contents through different artists’ eyes whilst developing their own perspectives. The objective of this program is to expose students to contemporary art.


Reena’s workshop on ‘Visas to Happiness’ began with her introducing the students to her body of work. Having explored different media in artwork herself, Reena brought attention to the several ways in which art takes form. Through this presentation she hoped to inspire and equip their young minds to explore different possibilities. All of 15, Simran said, “Reena’s talk helped me realise that there is more to art than just pen and paper. It inspired me to draw out my deepest emotions in my work during the workshop.”

The assignments were simple. Or so they seemed at first. Keys in the shape of different countries, piecing together to form a map of the world. Each student was to paint the keys with their ideas of happiness. The students were also given their very own passports that they had to colour with their thoughts and definitions creating their “visas to happiness”. Over the two sessions, Reena engaged and encouraged the students to push themselves and dig deep for answers. She told them that happiness is different from pleasure. Pleasure is just for the moment or for the day. Happiness is forever. To be happy would be to be fulfilled forever.



The result saw reflective, intelligent and thoughtful work produced by these student artists. Young Shahnawaz’s idea of happiness was as beautiful as it was genuine- to see everyone in his family smiling. His key to happiness was a world without religion depicted by three women praying to god but belonging to no particular religion. Rehaan felt that “happiness comes from within. It is something beautiful and to enlarge it you must share it with the whole world.” For Vikram, “happiness is a friend. It comes out of nowhere and just lights up your day.” Rheea realized that “happiness is actually a part of you that is locked up inside… It will never get over… as long as you know it’s still there, inside you.”



To someone who grapples everyday with the concept of happiness and what it looks like, articulate definitions from a group of 14-somethings were almost therapeutic.

‘Happiness is not a station you arrive at but a mode of travelling. Happiness is an emotion sensitive to success and satisfaction.  A day without happiness is like a day without water. Happiness is a part of us, caged inside us. There are multiple keys that can open and bring it out. Happiness is infinite.’


(Reena Kallat graduated from Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai in 1996 with a B.F.A. in painting. Her practice – spanning painting, photography, video, sculpture and installation, often incorporates multiple mediums into a single work. You can read more about her work here)

One comment

  1. Reena this is from Shahnawaz: “While going to Reena Kallat’s class I realized that even if there are many problems in life, there are so many things that can give you happiness. Like for me, my bicycle and praying to God gives me happiness. I enjoyed her class very very much and I am telling this from the bottom of my heart. Thank you Ms Reena Kallat.”

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