A few days back I shared a poem ‘Leisure’ by W.H. Davies.
What is life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
Yes, what is life if we can’t stop to ‘be’? Can’t stop to enjoy the present?
How does my average day go? ‘Wake up, don’t get out of my bed, switch on my iPhone, read through RSS, Facebook, Twitter, news aggregators, email & messages then go to work in traffic, work, and at end the day repeat the morning ritual.
One day there was no power at home, and in my cell phone. With no good book in hand, I went nuts. I wanted to do something, anything, I couldn’t just sit doing nothing. I wanted something to put my mind to. I became very restless and just when I thought I would go bonkers, power was restored, and I jumped to charge my phone and reconnect to the net. It was like an umbilical cord between the world and me. I felt sad at my situation. Why was I so afraid to become disconnected? Why do I always want to ‘do’ something?
When I was a kid, I would goto a less visited nursery/park and sit under a tree in one corner and just take-in the scene. I would watch street kids playing, ants going about their daily work, sounds of crickets and Koils and sometimes just the silence and loneliness of the afternoon and the evening wind. I was at peace. I would just breathe-in and exhale contendly. It was my ‘daffodil’ moment. How long has it been that I experienced such calm?
Later, when I was 16, my friends and I used to drive to the outskirts of the city to ‘explore’ uncharted – less trodden – territories. They called it adventure, I called it escape from the incessant noise and busyness of the city. Two such places I visited were ‘Lake Villa’ and ‘Vanasthali Hills’. The views were spectacular. One had a lake and fields and the other had rolling hills.
When I first saw lake villa, it was from a bridge on it’s bank – to the right was the lake and to the left were beautiful green fields – reminding me of prairies from the ‘Little house on the prairie’. Watching the blue sky with slowly drifting clouds, green earth, buffaloes grazing in the distant, one-two farmers working, I was lost to the world, only to have my reverie punctuated with the honks of a passing bus or lorry. If this was on one side of the bridge, the other side had the lake with sparkling water. A few locals were fishing standing knee deep in the water, tall grass and few trees were at a walkable distance from the bank. I sat on the bank happily as my friends waded in. We lost track of time until the sun started to set.
Vanasthali Hills on the other hand was a huge piece of land which was cardoned off and landscaped for construction of villas but was later abonded when the land came under legal dispute. Roads were laid, an artificial pond constructed, among hills which were not completely razed to the ground or rock formations disturbed, grass and weeds had taken over the land, the area looked like a giant neglected garden. We would stand at the top of a hill which offered us the highest vantage point and look at a garden slowly reclaimed by nature or watch a peacock fly and land on a nearby tree or just see the city on the horizon in detachment. With a song in my head and the wind touching my face, I lost myself in the silence that could be felt only on a less trodden path. Time was still and the moment felt like eternity. Was that nirvana? I never knew but ‘am tempted to agree so today.
‘I would visit these place every month after I bought my own bike’ I told myself then. But, it’s been nine years since I bought my bike and I’ve visited them only once. Society values individuals with packed calendars, who are ‘productive’ – always working on something – making themselves useful. Given this perception it is difficult to sink-in the importance of doing nothing. These days I even stare at my phone – even when it is silent – expecting it to ring or bring-in some new information from the web, only to be disappointed when it doesn’t. I have to have something to ‘do’ all the time or else it’s time to panic. I may be more productive today, but, am I at peace? When did work stop being critical & urgent? When did Facebook stop getting updates? It’s their nature. If we wait to get on top of it to enjoy the present, we never would. When was the last time I stayed without my cell phone? I don’t remember. When was the last time I took a bylane? I don’t remember. When was the last time I spent time doing nothing. I don’t remember.
But, why do I have to force myself to sit quietly. Why should I be bothered about ‘not doing anything’ if I’m happy doing what I’m doing? There’s absolutely no need to be bothered. But, when we come to stage where we cannot live without a device we could live without 10 years ago, it’s a sign. If we don’t remember when was the last time we were fully present in the passing moment without a thought about the future or past, it’s a sign. If we start panicking when we absolutely have nothing to do, it’s a sign. A sign that it is time enjoy stillness and discover the beauty & peace it offers. A sign to just be. To stop and smell the roses. A sign to realize – dolce far niente – the sweetness of doing nothing.