A to Z Challenge

S for Schadenfreude


Language: German

Meaning: A feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people.

“The mind is not a book, to be opened at will and examined at leisure. Thoughts are not etched on the inside of skulls, to be perused by any invader. The mind is a complex and many-layered thing”

– JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoneix

The mind is a multilayered thing. Each person’s thoughts and the way they perceive happiness and sadness is unique, totally different. Some people enjoy little pleasures in life, some people are constantly on the search for greatness, and some others are whiners and complainers, and there are people who take an unnatural interest in other people’s life. This sometimes veers towards offensive and intrusive.

Psychology terms sadism as taking pleasure in inflicting pain on others. And this English word defines the harm actually, consciously inflicted on another person. But there is no other proper word to define the enjoyment that comes just by hearing or seeing other’s troubles, without actually doing anything that causes them pain. German comes up with a word that has slowly found its way in our conversations, so much so that I have personally heard people using it in actual everyday talk.


Flash Fiction #19

Sathya looked with semi closed eyes at the old man on the stage. He seemed comfortable and relaxed, as if he knew what he was doing. It was nice to look at him. Sathya’s trained eye went over his demeanour once and concluded that this was cultivated confidence, practiced over the years after a lot of trial and error. She saw the way he stood, the way he held his mike and the way he walked casually across the stage in measured but casual steps, indicating that he had made the same presentation many times before. He timed his ‘random’ movements so that he highlighted various parts of the projected image.

Grinning lazily, Sathya decided she would listen. What harm would it do? The older man was droning on.

“… So that is why you should practice caution. Being a doctor is never an easy job. It requires the utmost concentration. You are playing with human lives, and though the medical doctors say that they play god with every surgery they do, you guys are no less. Playing with human minds is much more subtle and intricate. You need equal amounts of passion for the job and also a clear understanding of the stakes. First of all, you need to be able to define what exactly brought you to this job. You have in your hands a form that has a few questions you could answer before we could go further with our seminar…”

The dimmed lights and regular talk made her eyelids droop again. She shook herself awake and looked at the face of the colleague beside her, who was listening with rapt attention to the speaking doctor.

“… you are trusted with most people’s intimate secrets. They come and say things to you that they wouldn’t dare to say others, sometimes not even close family members. What should be your first step? Listen to them with a sympathetic ear and hear them out. You will glean more information about them from the way they talk than what they talk. But most of all, you should like what you are doing. If you hate whiners and complainers, this is not your job, at least you are not right for this job.”

Sathya tuned him out and looked down at the form in front of her on the table. A quick scan down the questions confirmed that it was another regular questionnaire. But one particular question caught her attention.

‘Why Psychiatry?’

Grinning evilly, she thought she could tell that old doctor a thing or two. He wanted honest answers, why not give him one? A moment’s thought later, she wrote, ‘I enjoy it. Schadenfreude’


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