In Revolt Against Busyness

by on July 13, 2012

A friend directed me to a post on the NYT earlier this morning. I feel obligated to comment on it since it resonates so greatly with the way I and so many I know have chosen to live our lives.

In the post, the author critiques the apparent busyness of our lives. I choose the word apparent because much of this busyness is self-imposed. We feel compelled to burden ourselves with work that does not need doing, to learn skills that we do not actually need. There is an underlying sense of guilt everytime we take time off or head away on a vacation. I know it because I can’t seem to enjoy being idle anymore; unless my inbox is filled with unanswered emails and every hour of my free time squeezed dry for productive work, I can’t relax.

It is a dangerous state to be in, and not just because the stress will eventually kill you. It is dangerous because it comes from a philosophy that seeks betterment for reasons that are very seldom clear or defined. I am a writer. My work is not essential to this planet’s survival. If I were a farmer, an engineer at a power plant, a policeman or an emergency room doctor, I might be required to make sure that the world doesn’t collapse in its own chaos. And yet, I delude myself with the busyness illusion, assuming that every waking moment ought to be filled with work to earn my keep on this planet.

This delusion of self-created busyness is particularly evident in the self-betterment ideal emphasized in self-help books and productivity websites. Underlying this ideal is a particular romanticization of the human – that we are compelled almost by destiny to seek more for ourselves. If you aren’t busy with work, you need to pick up a productive hobby – learn to play the guitar or pick up a programming language, slacker!

Suddenly, goofing off is looked down upon. If you have free time, you must certainly be doing something wrong with your life.

I can recognize the stupidity of this thought process in my own life. I do not need to be busy. Nor is it necessary for me to pick up a productive hobby. I have a fantasy about living in a house alone for an year with no TV, no internet, and only a big shelf of books, but I often worry that I will never be able to enjoy my year long ‘rehab’ unless I am being productive.

Of course that is delusional. The world will not miss my services for a day, or even for an year. Few people I know need to report for work everyday.

Let us all revolt against busyness.

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The Irate Indian

by on June 2, 2012

The Indian is argumentative no more; he is now irate. The intellectual prodigiousness supposedly native to our culture – and venerated by Amartya Sen – has given way to a narrow minded irrationality that threatens to shake the very foundation of our nation. I’m not dealing in hyperbole; the strength of a democratic nation is measured in the strength and volume of its public debates. Ours, unfortunately, are ominously silent. And in the few cases where the powers that be have been affronted, retribution has been swift and unjust.

I can’t necessarily concur with Amartya Sen when he harks on the intellectual pluralism that has been a supposed hallmark of the Indian civilization since its inception. For as long as I can remember, the intellectual sphere in the country was woefully absent and lacking in courage. As a nation, we toe the status quo – that is a native trait I’ve associated with India and Indians as long as I can remember. We raise our children to lower their voices and follow the patriarchal norms sans question; we bend over and kneel when our governments spread mass oppression under the ruse of Emergencies; we choose to render an entire political movement – that of the Maoists and the Naxalites – as the equivalent of terrorism based merely on statements made by self-serving politicians.

That we have scant regard for intellectual discourse would be amply clear to any outside observer; pity that we remain oblivious to our own lack of said discourse.

A professor emails a cartoon critical of a state chief minister and is reprimanded – harshly – even though the cartoon is well within the freedom of speech supposedly guaranteed to every citizen of this country. The political class thumps its chest and sees not a violation of the constitution, but an opportunity to blow its own trumpet across the wide space of the nation’s political discourse.

Another cartoon amusingly critical of a beloved national leader – B.R. Ambedkar – is pulled from textbooks because a particular section of the nation takes offense. The political class, knowing the future votes in store, concurs, paving the way for future arm-wrangling through even minor political turmoil by any oppressed parties.

Next, the chief minister who couldn’t take a joke – Mamata Banerjee – goes ballistic on TV and accuses everyone present of being a maoist. The next day, news channels aren’t filled with reports of the media’s horror at such paranoid accusations (some of which were even investigated) and subversion of democracy, but updates on the latest soaps and hour long discussion on IPL strategies.

It’s a woeful, woeful state. If Amartya Sen were to re-write his book today, he wouldn’t extol the intellectual virtues of our nation; he would weep at its sad demise. All that is intellectual and all that is rebellious has been replaced by a vapidity and unquestioned connivance. I’m not one to blame materialism, but it has become amply clear in the past few years that as a nation, we’d rather buy clothes and eat good food than create, discuss and dissect. Maybe that was the way things always were, but I can’t help but ascribe this to a concentrated effort to hide all that is unsavory and challenging – by the individuals as much as the media.

 

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“Welcome to the Jungle” and the Eroding Soul of Rock

August 15, 2011

Listening to GnR’s “Welcome to the Jungle” in my car today, I couldn’t help but think that this must be the song they must play in Hell. If the devil had an entrance theme, this would certainly be it. The scream that opens the song is almost primordial (no wonder I felt compelled to accelerate […]

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A Life Sans Adjectives

June 19, 2011

How do you describe a life? Well-lived? Wasted? I find obituaries particularly interesting in their attempt to distill an entire life into a few, select phrases. What arrogance and faith do we have in the capability of our language to narrate entire lives! But can words ever really describe how a life was lived? We […]

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Why I Will Never Get an Arranged Marriage…

June 7, 2011

…besides the obvious fact that I won’t need to ask my parents to find a girl for me… I was recently browsing through the matrimonial section of TOI. Don’t judge; it had been a long day, I had spent five hours studying for an exam and wanted to dumb down and read whatever I could […]

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Current Indian Literature (and How Much it Sucks)

May 8, 2011

As someone who has been neck deep in literature much of his life (upon graduation, I will have 6 years of formal education in English ), I find it only appropriate that I should write. As a friend says, “ek novel bhi nahin likhi to kya kiya yaar”. It hasn’t escaped me that I have […]

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Glitch

April 18, 2011

It’s ironic that for someone who had so steadfastly refused to do engineering, my primary interest today as far as entrepreneurial ventures go, is technology. Half the day, I work on my internet marketing business. The other half on studies. The rest is spent thinking up and fine tuning ideas for internet startups. Of course, […]

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Negotiating Camus

April 15, 2011

Keval was right. Existentialism is appealing to an adolescent. At least the half baked, crudely understood version of it. As an adolescent, I was something of a nihilist. Or what I thought was nihilist. I remember making Orkut communities titled ‘Nihilism’ and ‘Anarchy’. I also remember photoshopping a pointy beard, horns and a tail on […]

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Cricket, IPL

April 12, 2011

I wanted to write on the World Cup, but that’ll be a much longer post. Without doubt, the World Cup win was one of the most memorable moments in my life, something I’ll remember for many, many years. I wrote on my Facebook wall after the win that I’ll tell my kids about April 2, […]

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What Lies Ahead…

December 26, 2010

2010 is just about to get over. Can’t say that it has been a good year, but at least it hasn’t been as unkind as the year(s) before it. I have a feeling that 2011 will be good. And I certainly hope so. I’ve got a lot on my platter, none of which I’m willing […]

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