25 April 2009

On doing nothing

When I was in school, I remember having a lesson in my English textbook titled - 'On doing nothing'. I also clearly remember thinking that the author (I fail to recall who) was a lazy bum who had made a virtue of his natural sloth. Please don't misunderstand me - I've been brought up by two hard-working parents, for whom idleness was the biggest vice in the world. My mother was the epitome of busyness; she got up early to cook our breakfast and lunch. She then got us ready for school and left for work herself. In the evening, after a relaxing cuppa, she slogged in the kitchen to put our dinner on the table. Evenings she spent watching her favorite soaps on TV - but even then, she used to cut, or clean, vegetables to be cooked for lunch the next day! Indeed, I remember my mother ordering me to dust the house, help with the cooking and drive her to buy groceries etc. whenever she thought I had no other work to do(esp. during school vacations). So much so, that when I see today's youngsters get away without having to dirty their glossy fingernails in the kitchen until they get married and move to the States, I am filled with a blend of distaste and pity.

Strangely, in my case, I learned the joys of doing nothing only after my marriage! My husband is the past master of 'doing nothing'. Don't get me wrong; he is a gold-medalist and therefore must have worked hard to achieve it. Its just that since achieving it, being idle is his next ideal. On our days off from work, while I'm busy catching up on accumulated housework - dusting, vaccumming, washing and ironing laundry, he loves to relax with the newspaper or in front of the TV. In the early days of our marriage we had a tough time adjusting to each others' level of er..idleness. Over the years we have worked a comfortable distribution of tasks. Which means that I have now learned to relax doing nothing. I recently took a short break from work. Everyone, including myself, thought I'd be bored silly. Strangely enough, I never once felt bored. I loved puttering about the house, tending to plants, cleaning closets, cooking dishes that I never thought I'd have the time and energy to cook. And of course, reading and writing, my favorite pastime. I did not have to stoop to watching soaps on TV, or gossiping with the neighbours, or taking long afternoon siestas. I used to sit on the sofa reading the newspapers or browsing through magazines, filing and polishing my nails or just burying into the soft, deep cushions contemplating the climax of the latest novel read by me.

I must say that I should thank both my mother and husband for helping me achieve this mix of keeping busy and doing nothing. My mother made me self-sufficient and taught me to love doing things for myself and my family. My hubby taught me that it is not necessary for one's self-esteem to keep doing something all the time. He taught me to be comfortable with my weakness of giving in to laziness sometimes, to empty my mind of all thought and just be comfortable in my skin.

Today, I look forward to spending time on my own, doing nothing. I have friends who dread going home as they have nothing to do. They will not venture home if their spouse, roommate or some other family member, is not at home. Or even if they are, there is no 'work' such as cooking, shopping etc. to be done as its all taken care of by others. Many of them have called me to go for dinner or a movie at such times. And it always makes me wonder why they don't feel comfortable to be alone and doing nothing in their own homes.

Today, I have tremendous respect for the author who wrote 'On doing nothing'. It is indeed an elusive art that most do not learn till it is very late.


Shruti said...

Wasn't the author, J. B. Priestly? I remember the essay perfectly well. Any child who loves loafing is not likely to forget it.
Great post, BTW. Got me into a relaxing mood.

aaaa said...

REad this essay in my 10th class. There is another one by the same author "On Being Fit". This too part of the curriculam of the same class.Can some one give the correct name of the author.

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