Taking it easy….by Pritish Nandy

Years ago, when I first went to New York, what struck me about the city was its incredible energy, its joie de vivre. That was the first thing that struck me about Shah Rukh when I first saw him on the screen. Energy sets a city and a man apart. You either have it or you don’t.

There’s nothing wrong with not having it. People run away from high energy cities to find R&R on sunny beaches or quiet mountains, to spend some time with themselves or those they love. It helps to introspect, heighten one’s own search. While high voltage cities excite you, you must occasionally escape them if you want to find yourself. In Mumbai, for instance, there’s simply no opportunity to do so. You are either hanging from a crowded train or caught in a nerve-wracking traffic jam. Or rushing from one meeting to the next, accomplishing nothing.

Breakneck cities remind me of Parkinson’s Law. That work expands to fill up the time available for its completion. Everyone here is so busy running around that I often wonder when they actually get some work done because most real work demands a certain degree of stillness, contemplation, thought. No one has time for that any more. Everyone feels that if they don’t rush around, they will miss out on something they can’t afford to.

This fear of missing out drives the new consumer obsession. Advertising offers us unbeatable arguments for buying anything, from a fairness cream to a fourth cellphone or a tenth pair of distressed jeans. It persuades us that the absence of that product or experience from our lives lessens us. So someone who lives in a lovely rented flat for Rs 5000 a month goes and buys a home for Rs 5 crore on borrowed money to become a slave to EMIs for 20 years. There was a time when we lived comfortably, well within our means. We did what we wanted to do. We had choice. Today we are yoked to compulsive ambitions forced upon us. Like Pavlov’s dog, we run on a treadmill that won’t stop. What’s worse, we pretend to enjoy it. Even our holidays are typical. The same Goa or the same Dubai, to hang around with the same friends. Oxford Street, to shop for the same silly stuff. Or boring Bangkok to pick up fake brands and cheap sex.

Mumbai’s energy is now boringly predictable. Perfectly decent roads are being messed up to build walkways in the sky that no one uses. Exquisite old villas are being torn down to be replaced by highrise slums, where you pay monthly maintenance bills that could fetch you a fine 3 bedroom flat on rent. We pay fees for clubs we seldom use, gyms we never visit, doctors we have no faith in, time share resorts we will never go to. It’s all part of the same syndrome. Keeping up with those who you think are better off than you. It could be a friend, a neighbour or that guy in the office you hate the most. You want what he has without figuring whether you really need it. Or even want it.

That’s why our homes are crammed with stuff we have grown out of. That stupid music system no one uses because we each have our own iPods. DVDs we buy instead of hiring the movie from the video library next door. Those ridiculous sneakers we bought that promised to tone our butts as we walked or that joke of a cream that claimed to stop ageing. We are idiots, blindly responding to the stimuli of commercial messaging.

Is it possible to get off this treacherous treadmill? It is. The answer lies in breaking the sameness, deconstructing the routine of our lives, finding new things to do. None of this costs money. What costs money is staying on the treadmill, constantly running. Migrating from your Nokia to a Blackberry may be expensive but leaving it at home and hanging out at the local bookshop is not. No, it doesn’t diminish you if you carry last season’s LV or drive a Nano. You don’t have to afford that paint job in your house every Diwali. Instead, frame those family pictures and hang them up. You may recall many lovely memories that a spotless wall can’t offer. Skip some episodes of Bigg Boss; learn to play the guitar instead. Drop that Ceasar’s salad; try a vada pao. It won’t wreck your diet plan. Even if it does, it won’t matter as long as you’re happy. Feed a street dog. Buy a flute from that young flautist outside the Jehangir. Go trekking. Skip the newspaper. Stroll in a park. Put up a sparrow shelter outside your window.

Live easy. It’s much more fun. Do I? Not always but I try. It’s like breathing. Whenever you remember, just take a few long deep breaths and exhale fully. Most times we don’t because we have forgotten how to breathe right. Rush is the new seduction. Stay with cool. That’s my New Year resolution.

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30 Responses to “Taking it easy….by Pritish Nandy”

  1. Mr. Nandy and Sharmila,

    Interesting resolution, Sir.

    Last vacation, I was standing alone on my plot, the highest point in South India at 8750 feet above MSL near the Doddabetta hills in Ooty and wondering if there was anything I wanted to do.

    My first thought was, I should go back to my first profession of designing ingenious machines for making medicines, tooth pastes, soaps, weaving, pumps, electrical generators etc because those are required here where I live. People in the hamlet go to Coimbatore or Metupalayam for purchasing this stuff.

    Then I thought I should do something more generic like source electricity from natural power like wind, humidity, cold temperatures etc.

    Then I checked my bank balance with my Personal Relationship officer in the bank at Ooty. She says I have enough for another 25 years if I don’t do anything, only eat and sleep.

    Cool.

    Thats my lifetimes resolution. 🙂

    • 🙂 Well, I doubt Mr Nandy is asking us to give up everything, he is saying, take time to smell the roses else we will be getting jabbed by the thorns all the time..

      • You Said It! Take time to smell the roses! Thats the copy-line of the post!!!

        My idea of a great time is:

        Food, Silence and a Wodehouse omnibus!! 🙂

  2. Mr. Nandy and Sharmila,

    Funny how the same abbreviations have different meanings in different fields.

    R&R for an employee in a multinational company may mean Roles and Responsibilties while on page 3 of a respectable national daily it probably means Rest and Relaxattion.

    This last year of scams has succesfully scored off any wild dreams of wealth that middle and scum level enterpreneurs thrive on. I feel they’ll probably prefer R&R to doing anything ambitious.

    On the other hand, employees and laborers like me who do not own their work will continue to R&R on the job as we have always done.

    Artists, craftsmen, small-scale producers and manufacturers cannot afford planned R&R as their revenue begins after the product is up for sale and they must continue to work for the next season.

    Government employees and their crony bootleggers like media intellectuals have R&R written in their job descriptions. Its what they are paid for. So they don’t need a time-out.

    Remaining lot are celebrities and big time indutsrialists. Your article is probably for their reading, in which case, you forgot to mention perfumes, dress-codes, protocol, flower shows and a suggestion for the most suitable contents in their vanity cases. Perhaps a few words about Golf and Equestrian pleasures might have added some more elite flavor.

    Living within affordable means is what life in Mumbai is about. How does that gigantic machinery of 90 million mumbai-kars take a day off unless there are some riots or a civil war?

    I feel you are inadvertently mocking at the hand that rocks your cradle of luxury. Perhaps I am wrong. You are from Calcutta. So, I assume some grassroot socialistic views in your opinions – meaning – I hope you do not exclude the 90% population of workers, taxi drivers etc in cities who do not take holidays (R&R) because they have to send money to the towns where they come from.

    I guess you are speaking to the 10% idle rich and the lazy sons of the soil who employ these rootless, migrant workforce that drops in at their doorsteps.

    I have read the article above thrice but I am still not able to connect sensibly. Need a break and re-visit again. Perhaps my perception is distorted!

    • Hmm… the 10 %? Does this 90% read TOI or the 10% do?

      • Good Morning! See, When one sleeps at night over something, one finds the light in the morning..

        You are right. PN is speaking to his readers. He is an amazing wordsmith and when he serves, he serves well!

        I got mislead by the initial references to New York and hanging out of trains in Mumbai.

        Also, the article is too short. There is no time for a reader to connect the dots.

        It reads like a message from one twit-heart to another!!

        Is PN in love?

        🙂

  3. Taking it easy:

    Do you know: Reliance Communications, L&T, Satyam and similar big-wigs wrote off the dwindled value of their financial investments as a loss in their balance sheets and P&L statements in 2010. The RBI is now supporting them by allowing OTC forex derivatives from February ’11. So, in Q4 each year, do a forward deal, crash the market by the year end and save taxes in 100s of crores. (Rel. 468.73 Cr, BP 1.75 Cr, L&T 171.53 Cr, Satyam 227.7 Cr saved in 2010)

    Will the common man be allowed to deduct food inflation from his net payable taxes?

    For every 100 Rupees earned, 30 are spent on food, 48 on direct and indirect taxes, 15 on shelter and services, what is left… 7… for R&R?

  4. Taking it easy:

    Back in 1989-90 when I was a 25 year old smart-alec I had said to my interviewer: I need xyz salary, I cannot spend less than that.

    I was ahead of my times even then. What I had worked out was that the job was in Mumbai and the company was providing accommodation, transport and food at the site. The salary was net take-home!

    I got the job and I have never paid any taxes for my basic necessities.

    I remember the negotiations went on these lines:

    HRM: We’ll pay you perks and allowances as per the company rules. Mumbai city DA is 3500. You can save some if you economize!

    Self: No, thank you. Give me the company facilities. I don’t want any perks and allowances.

    HRM: 50% of your Provident Fund is paid by company that is compulsory as per the labor law.

    Self: Thats 50% of basic, right?

    HRM: Yes.

    Self: Change that. I don’t want a PF account. Keep the basic on minimum wages as per law. Pay me through other imprest accounts.

    HRM: You are nuts. Whats the point mister?

    Self: The point is, for me my income is the remuneration for my work. For the rest of the world, including the government, shop keepers and my family, it is the money available for expenses.

    HRM: So?

    Self: So, let the company pay the expenses. I’ll only keep the money against my work. The world will come to you for the taxes and other things.

    HRM: Okay. As you please.

    Self: Deal. Thank you.

    So, in the two years that I served in that company, I saved 100% of my income without spending anything on food, clothing, shelter, transportation or direct and indirect taxes. The Labor Commissioner’s Minimum Wages Act ensured that the salary was enough for me to call it job satisfaction.

    That was 20 years ago. It has worked very well so far.

    I am taking it easy, am I not?

  5. Today is R D Burman’s death anniversary:

    Just one song in his memory. There are thousands of good ones. But I am too tired.

  6. Okay. That one didn’t show up. Here is another classic from R D Burman. I play this one on the keyboard…. Good Night…

  7. Sorry but I found this article very idiotic. Not everyone has to recharge the way Mr. Nandy has in mind. And it’s not as if given the chance and the time, people wouldn’t be organized in how they live. Not everyone has a high paying blog writing job like you.

  8. I am sorry for not giving RD Burman his due yesterday. It was his anniversary.

    He was known for introducing exotic musical instruments of tribes in the north east.

    Here is an example. He brought a strange haunting piece for a train traveling through the plains at night. Pure magic….!!!!

    • Its his voice too… sings, plays the music and puts his audience in a trance!!! Like weaving musical notes into one large lyrical fabric…

  9. Lessons from History or why I believe the US and UK are using the USSR model for breaking up India into a Union of Autonomous States of India.

    This is how Gorbachev’s Glasnost was managed by Presdeint Ronald Reagan’s regime and then by Bush Sr.

    Glasnost ( listen), Openness) was the policy of maximal publicity, openness, and transparency in the activities of all government institutions in the Soviet Union, together with freedom of information, introduced by Mikhail Gorbachev in the second half of the 1980s.

    The word was frequently used by Gorbachev to specify the policies he believed might help reduce the corruption at the top of the Communist Party and the Soviet government, and moderate the abuse of administrative power in the Central Committee.

    Glasnost can also refer to the specific period in the history of the USSR during the 1980s when there was less censorship and greater freedom of information.

    While “glasnost” is associated with freedom of speech, the main goal of this policy was to make the country’s management transparent and open to debate, thus circumventing the narrow circle of apparatchiks who previously exercised complete control of the economy. Through reviewing the past or current mistakes being made, it was hoped that the Soviet people would back reforms such as perestroika.

    In the late 1980s, the Soviet government came under increased criticism, and members of the Soviet population were more outspoken in their view that the Soviet government had become a failure. Glasnost did indeed provide freedom of expression, far beyond what Gorbachev had intended, and changed citizens’ views towards the government, which played a key role in the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    The rise of nationalism under glasnost also reawakened simmering ethnic tensions throughout the union. For example, in February 1988, Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly ethnic Armenian region in the Azerbaijan SSR, passed a resolution calling for unification with the Armenian SSR, which sparked the Nagorno-Karabakh War.

    During the late 1980s, as glasnost and perestroika led to the liquidation of the Soviet empire, the Dakin building was the location for a series of groups facilitating United States-Russian contacts. They included the Center for U.S.-U.S.S.R. Initiatives, which helped more than 1000 Americans visit the Soviet Union and more than 100 then-Soviet citizens visit the U.S.

    While thousands of political prisoners and many dissidents were released in the spirit of glasnost, Gorbachev’s original goal of using glasnost and perestroika to reform the Soviet Union was not achieved. In 1991, the Soviet Union was dissolved following a failed coup by conservative elements who were opposed to Gorbachev’s reforms.

    I believe the Indian media’s pseudo intellectuals and as a consequence the entire nation is being shepherded by the UK & US propaganda machines.

    Thats a no-brainer.

  10. Good post Mr. Nandy….i agree that ppl need to change their attitudes and stop rushing after useless materials following those phoney ads. Money is an imp. aspect of life but joining the Rat Race…and forgetting living life is not woth anything…
    Life is worth living…don’t Rush it…Don’t waste it…after stupid things…

  11. Aishwarya Says:

    I like the ‘doughnut’ approach to life. Take a good bite and enjoy it. Stop messing around the edges.

  12. Sharmila,

    Today is a Thursday… my weak end starts now!

  13. Watch Bombatt Bhajane on Suvarna TV. Wonderful recipe for festive sweets, though the presenter is a perfect fruitcake!

    Another one on Zee Kannada. Oggarane Dabbi – fried rice cookies. Presenter looks like my grandma’s disembodied spirit.

  14. Anand Khare Says:

    PNs article is very timely advice to youth of the country, who have no time for themselves. The rat race they are running is consuming them prematurely.Ten yers ago, my father (74 years) who is a physician ruled out cardiac related diseases in patients under forty years.Now he is forced to think otherwise.

    Good article by PN for a change. He is rediscovering himself. I happened to read hindi translation also in Dainik Bhaskar. But the translation is below standard. Some lines are wrongly translated and some give wrong interpretation.

    Anand

  15. Aishwarya Says:

    Sharmila,

    Where is Reader?

  16. Sharmila,

    Yes I am here. Please see update in the mail before you post. Please please please.

  17. Aishwarya Says:

    I have a friend, a couple of years senior to me…she is 40.
    An amazing mom, a brilliant surgeon, and a beautiful human being.
    She has breast cancer.

    How easy is taking it easy? Some of us dont, not for want of trying…

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