Saturday, May 4, 2013

Exclamation Marks!

This morning I logged onto our parallel world of Facebook and was shocked once again to see how many "Weekends back Yipee...", "Thank God the weeks over", "So looking forward to the weekend", status messages and updates had flooded our newsfeed. Alarmed by how much we all look forward to the weekend I asked myself, "Why can't we look forward to each day like this?"

A week ago I saw a television commercial about how our life is consumed by 'impatience'. That's how the commercial summed up our lives, just one word - 'impatience'. Why couldn't that word be 'happiness', 'love', 'peace of mind'?

I am not saying looking forward to the weekend is a bad thing. We all know how busy we are. How we wake up every morning, yawn, brush, bathe, gobble up some breakfast, run behind the bus / train / taxi, yawn again, reach work (late in most cases...) and yes yawn a bit more(1). How we have to skip our daily home packed lunches only to gulp some junk food in a blink-and-you'll-miss moment, while we run around trying to finish our work(2). How we do overtime, day after day, only to reach home late for dinner. How we tire ourselves so much that it takes away our appetite for dinner; all we wish to do is crash(3) on our bed. So yes, I agree, the only way to get back on track is a good weekend! And so we all look forward to it eagerly after five days of sheer chaos. Do the math your self. 365 days in a year, 260 of which are spent in a race to beat the other, in our bid to work and earn and work and earn. Just a mere 105 days that we look forward to, in the whole year, because that's what constitutes the weekend! Why can't we look forward to all 365 days with equal excitement and sense of relief?

I think I know why. May be because our life and times don't allow us to. It is because society is replete with standard concepts of work, life, corporate life, education. Because we are taught from the very beginning, laws that make no sense when we give them a second thought. "You have to grow up to be a big man", "Money is important", "How will you sustain your family if you can't stand upon your own feet", "You must get a distinction at least if you can't top your class", "You can bunk class but please go for tuitions. They'll fetch you some good marks", “When is the next pay rise?”. It all comes down to this, marks, work, money, the works, the monotony. We hear so much of all this and see so many around us manage their lives around these laws that we start to believing in them too. 

Everyone is running behind their goals, which are often a result of the 'laws' and not results of what people really want to do. And there is always this foreboding pressure, that if we don't chase these goals we might lose out on something. We have been so preoccupied with what everyone else in our lives is doing that we don't have the time to stop, take stock of our lives and plan our future. All we want to do is a bit more than everyone else. Just a bit more. More enough to beat the other. Now multiply this theory by a million. Imagine a million people all running around to take the lead and beat the other in this race called life.

Who made these rules? Who said we need to be up on our feet 24x7, running around to sell bank accounts or sit in front of non-living entities called computers(4) for eight hours a day or spend time freezing appointments and business deals over carcinogenic radiation producing gadgets (read : cell phones)(5)? I don't know who made the rules, but all I know is that everyone is following them for sure. Some wish to break off, but cannot muster the courage to do so. Others are ignorantly going with the flow, not knowing where their life is heading. Not knowing what their purpose in this world is. One sheep jumped of a cliff (and made the law), all sheep are following suit.

Don't get me wrong. I am not of the opinion that corporate organisations are bad or a nine to five job is torture. I am not saying don't get distinctions in your exams or don't be responsible to your workplace. I am not saying we are all hopeless young people with pointless goals. What I do want to say is this. Lets lower the force on the accelerators of our lives. Lets slow down a bit and lead a balanced flexible life. Not a predetermined, rigid, nine to five, blocked, robotic one (unless you really enjoy this!). And it is precisely because of this that our life is overpowered by impatience. And that is why we look forward to weekends. 

Come Friday and we put these full stops to our busy schedules to enjoy a nice weekend. Why can't we lead a punctuated life with some occasional commas, if that means to take a minute out and do something we really like, to mould our day like we want to. Or for that matter why a comma? Why not put in a daily dose of exclamation marks in our lives by the random surprises we give, by just giving our parents a warm hug, by doing something that will make us say, "Oh! that was great!" 

Exclamation marks! That’s what life is about! Not a full stop.

Wouldn't it be great if we were all given a weekly working plan of doable things and it would be left up to us to divide our time as per our liking and finish the given work in our office hours within a stipulated time period? Say we finished our job faster or earlier, we could use the time that we saved for anything we wanted to do. But the reality is that if we were promised a given amount of work for a week and if we happen to finish it in three days. Then we are given more work to finish before the week ends. Again this is because it's a chain reaction. It all starts from the top. Less time but more and more work, fast business means more money!

Wouldn't it be great if we substituted money with another more meaningful medium to live. Like say happiness. Then there would be no fluctuation in the currency value. All humans would have equal happiness to take and give. If a farmer grew crops he’d sell or should I say exchange his harvest with a carpenter in terms of happiness. The carpenter in turn would render his services in terms of happiness. Exchange of warm smiles, excited jumps, cheers and hugs! The stock market would reflect the happiness levels and companies would be rich not with monetary profits but on the basis of how much net happiness they earn. And earn it only to dissipate it among other members of the society. Happiness would multiply as the product/service was shared. The exchange happens in terms of things that individuals can use their skills to provide - build a house, stitch some clothes, bake some cakes, render transport services. It’d all be about giving and taking. And then who cares whether how much you give and take is the same or no, as far as it’s happiness that’s being exchanged. Probably the most peace-loving country on the planet has understood the true value of this, Bhutan quantifies Happiness Quotient of their country, not GDP. Various parameters are laid down to ensure that the country’s development and welfare is on an upswing.

Things are rather different in most other countries. It’s alarming how people are dragging their lives along. Lack of sleep. Lack of healthy eating habits. Lack of relationships. Lack of “Me-Time”. Lack of free time. Lack of smiles(7). But then no one seems to be asking more of all this from life. What some might be bothered about is the lack of money. Let's wake up from our fairy tale and let's stop being in denial.

I know this all sounds too depressing and I have been way too extremist in my views. It's not like we have no joy left in this world at all. Just that a majority belong to this impatient life and we need to do something to turn the tables. 

Well, I can already see your minds feeling uneasy. I suppose it’s been a good ten minutes that you've devoted to this blog and that’s a lot considering it’s your precious weekend time that’s being utilized… Give it a thought though. On a parting note remember to get a bit of this in your life - ! 

P.S. - Get in touch if you want to trade in happiness.

(1) Just do this small activity. Try counting the number of people you see yawning in one day. May be even count the number of times you yawn in a day. You will be alarmed to see how many people around us are so sleep deprived. (Including you!)

(2) Its one of the worst insults to the sanctity of home. Our mothers cook the most sumptuous meals for us only to have it left over because we can’t seem to find the time to relish it during hectic work hours. Once, I came home late after work. Mom opened the tiffin. She felt so bad I hadn't eaten a morsel. She woke up early in the morning only to ensure I don’t stay hungry. I felt so shameless. Never give into this one. Come what may home made tiffins must be eaten.

(3) Crash…the word reminds me of this Oscar winning movie on racism. A must watch! Let me know when you see it. I wouldn't mind joining in. It’s super!

(4) Just think about it. We spend so many hours in our lives attached to non-living things. Computers, I-Pods, cars… Hard copy books are acceptable though, reading gives you an experience like none other and makes you wiser.

(5) This is not a lie. I really hate cell phones. Wish we could just burn them all and throw them away. The radiation can really affect your brain cells and cause cancer. This is no joke. They are the biggest enemies of “Me-Time”

(6) I just used inverted commas within inverted commas. I thought it must receive a mention. From brackets in brackets to now this, my random writings have come a long way.

(7) I think this happened may be a year or two ago. One of my friends mentioned this to me while traveling in a Mumbai local. He pointed towards the crowd of passengers in front of us in the compartment, “Look at them, a hundred faces but none of them are smiling”. And since then I have been occasionally noticing this, in the bus, on the roads, people really just don’t smile. So please smile occasionally.

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