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Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Nightlife and Daydreams

In art, Holidays, Motivation, Retirement, Wage Slaves, work life balance, work stress on October 5, 2019 at 17:26

How many more traffic jams before we realize that fast city life is the worst way to die slowly? Days, weeks, months and ultimately decades spent in a state of mild to moderate agitation. On constant alert from noise, crowds and smells. A compounding cluster-fuck of short-shortsightedness and macroeconomics. Every day, thousands of people alight at Mumbai Central station in search of a better livelihood even as existing city dwellers dream of a quiet life.


I have always been a Mumbai boy. Since my family migrated from Karachi during partition we were left with no real hometown. A fact I was reminded of every summer vacation when the entire class came back with farm stories and I had only seen wrestling and played cricket with myself for two months. I am thankful though that my family landed in Mumbai in ’47. Had they gone to say…Raipur, I would have been working in a call center right now and been grateful for the opportunity. On weekends I would probably be making TikTok videos or attending RSS rallies.


In our country, if you are already in Mumbai, the only bigger thing to aspire to is moving abroad. One could also aspire to move to town from the suburbs within Mumbai. But getting into Harvard is easier than moving to Colaba. I wonder if the real estate prices will remain as high after the city is permanently submerged 10 years from now. Yet we power on.

Most of us know we can’t do this all our lives. And if every TCS employee’s retirement plan came through, Goa would become an extended suburb of Mumbai. Thankfully, after the second baby and third mortgage, most people give up any hope for salvation.You keep postponing your prison break: after another promotion, after I buy a bigger house, after my kid goes to college…until mortality catches up with you. If you dwell on your regrets long enough you can convince yourself that they were sacrifices. It is tragic but at least it helps you live with yourself.

Romanticization of country life is also not without its pitfalls.  If you think the uncle selling Maggie by himself over a view of the Himalayas is the happiest person in the world then you have read one self-help book too many. If you have never left the country side you probably cannot appreciate the clean air and solitude. Which is why city dwellers are at a vantage point. Having seen the breadth of what modern civilization has to offer you can now seek depth. You would miss creature comforts for a while but eventually you realize that you do not need 54 varieties of waffles for life to be meaningful.

I spent years daydreaming of being a published author who would send his profoundly sexy books out into the world and the world would send enough dollars back to my dream home in Goa. I also spent some years trying to make this happen. But ultimately a profession has to be close to where the action is. So I have entered a new kind of rat race, a higher level of the Matrix. The cost is always too high though. Cities are oppressive at all levels. The ugliness of its structures, the ridiculous lack of space and the constant fight or flight. Very often, I have to remind myself to look up at the sky. Not much is visible now but it helps put your life’s struggle to scale. At one level we all know that neither our deepest sorrows nor our greatest joys are unique. But the competition does not let you dwell on it. It is like we are living under a dome of haze that cuts us off from the humbling experience of space and our place in it. Even within the dome we increasingly move from one air conditioned bubble to another not able to stand ambient temperature or ambient thoughts for more than a few minutes.

I have spent more than 90 days outside home this year across 20 different towns and cities for stand-up and personal work. And while the experiences have been varying and enriching, none was as unique as the few days I spent in Himachal, alone and without a plan. It reminded me that there is the quiet life to be lived too with nothing to fight for and nothing to prove. Away from clocks, deadlines and anxieties. When I came back down to 2019, I couldn’t perform with full gusto for the first couple of shows. I just didn’t have the aggression in me to impose my jokes and my thoughts on the audience. A lot of what we accomplish is only possible in the pressure cooker of the cities. But there are millions of people living the quiet life, without leaving a carbon footprint. They may not consider themselves successful but they are content. We just don’t hear about them because they are not on Instagram. On a geological timescale, they are the real heroes. We in our vain attempts at leaving a mark only end up hurting others and the environment. 

One can still practice art for art’s sake but any produced entertainment is essentially slave to the same economics and corruption that make perpetual growth a religion. Saying ‘no’ and ‘enough’ is therefore the most important thing to learn. Happiness is for uneducated people, contentment is a more wholesome goal.   


 – Punit Pania

The Drop of Diwali

In Festivals, Holidays, Office humor, work life balance on November 12, 2012 at 15:26

‘Mr. Pai?’

Speaking

I am calling to confirm your office address

My office address? What for?

For the drop.

Err…

It is that time of the year Mr. P

But what is it?

Let’s just call it a surprise

(now in a whisper) But I…don’t like surprises. Nor does my boss. It is against policy in fact.

We can always send it to your home

(now in a quiver) My home?

That’s right

But…I can’t

Tell you what Mr. P…Here’s what I am going to do. I am going to hang up this phone and wait. If you want, you can message me your home address in the next half an hour. After that…the window closes

Click.

Yes this is what you do on holidays. No, unfortunately, you do not work for the mob. At least that way you could have saved on tax. You are a regular slave at a regular galley. In fact, you seem to be worse than regular for only you seem to be working today.

So on D-day when no orders are being punched, you can still come to office and guess what? Decorate the place! That’s right. It was not exactly part of your job description. But here it is. Do it and act like you are loving it or be a non-conformist.

With the number of hours you spent rowing, your fellow slaves are more of a family to you than your blood ties. So might as well observe all sins and seasons at your desk. In fact, anything you can do at home, you can do it at office. It is really taking the work-life balance to the next level where all traces of life are wiped out. All traces of personal life anyway.

What do you do on Diwali anyhow? Dress in garish new clothes, put on some lights and ingest some suspect confectionary, right? You can do that here. Come on over. And what else? Give and receive gifts? Mostly give? Tell you what, we can do that too. In fact, we should do it. How can we not treat our customers like family? All these mass produced and bulk procured gifts are not going to mail themselves. And a courier service is just not personal enough. So you have to take this opportunity to further our relations with our customers.

On your ninth call, you start feeling better. You feel like you have effectively killed Diwali and survived! Leave it to business to create clarity. Festivals and holidays are not a time to get together, pay respect to our ancestors and in general create a hum of good wishes. Festivals and holidays are a time to shop. And you can do without this vacuous consumption. You work here long enough and Nirvana doesn’t seem that unattainable.

But you still can’t get over the fact that only you are working today.

You and Mr. Pai. And he did come around by the way. In half an hour, he messaged his residential address. Just when you need your faith in humanity restored, it fails you miserably. But at least, it doesn’t give no false hope.

– J.