Archive for January, 2011

The Joys of Doing Nothing

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

A report on half a year of lazing around

For the last six months, I have spent my time doing nothing. Well, almost nothing. I did try to write a novel and, I think, finished it. I tried writing a couple of screenplays and, I think, did not make too much of a hash of it. Besides that, I bought a Bengali to English dictionary and started translating a 600-page best-selling Bengali novel. I am more than hundred pages through. The destination remains invisible to the naked eye.

But most of all, I have been doing nothing. And attempting to be a state where thoughts are but infrequent visitors.

Yet they do visit sometimes. With bring with them, doubts.

Do something. It’s a natural—and oppressive—edict for someone who has nothing to do. A wastrel. There is nothing for him to do, and that is a state of being he is hardly celebrating. He wakes up in the morning, and the day stretches before him like the Sahara, with nothing to promise, nothing in store. It’s just a day.

Sleep is an escape, and in winter, it’s easy to run away and huddle under a quilt. Winter is a benign season for sleep. The warmth, the soft shield against the quirks of fahrenheit and centigrade. The absence of thought, the giving in to nothing at all. The pleasure of doing nothing, the satisfaction of time going by with no demands on you. So you didn’t do it, but no one asked you to, did they?

Sleeping during the daytime, is there a greater pleasure than that? It is dreamless, and it’s sinful in what it offers you. Not for me the restive wakefulness of the daytime, the readiness to engage with whatever the world throws at you, the alert self-possession of the here and now.

Do something. But why? The treadmill of life can wait, it’s not as if it was fretting away to distraction while you were idling. You have been at it long enough, watching the timer, hastening your pace till you feel the sweat bubbling up. You have played the game by the rules it handed over to you, implacably, and you have played it till exhaustion, till the game threw up its arms and accepted defeat. Now, relax. You have nothing to prove to anyone but you. And you don’t care.

Think of all the people you know. Think of how they are never off the treadmill. Think of where they are going and whether they even know. They are in motion, and being in motion, is that a state of being by itself for them? What if they stopped? Would the world notice? Would people do a double check about them? Would anyone get off their own treadmill for a moment to contemplate, discuss, pay any attention? You know the answer. Say it now.

Bills have to be paid. At the end of the month, the domestic help will line up for their salaries. Your cellphone bills and electricity bills will clog your mailbox. So? Tell them to wait. The quilt waits too, warm and soft and comfortable. With the promise of more pleasure than the treadmill can ever offer.

And I want to enjoy it as long as it lasts. For even I know, it can’t last for ever. But we’ll cross the bridge when we reach the river.