The more I observe things and people around me, the more convinced I am about what everyone is seeking. The more I experiences I cram into my life, the more I understand what’s lacking. I see everyone moving in a sort of frenzy, stuffing the gaping void with questions, answers, desires and wants, desperately trying to be happy, desperately trying to survive. This is particularly relevant to my generation — we’re constantly in this state of ‘figuring it out’, we pressurise ourselves to meet the expectations of families, friends, peers and, more often than not, ourselves. No wonder so many of us seem to be going insane! Our lives are becoming more and more complex, more and more layered. It’s becoming about ‘more and more’.
I remember when my biggest treat as a child was a big, red, round balloon that we’d get in the park near the lake. Families went to the park in hordes, especially on Sunday evenings. Softy ice-creams adorned with neon green or pink (or both, “rainbow flavour”) swirls were sold for some Rs 5. We were a family on a two-wheeler, like most of the others were. There was a simplicity that was part of our daily lives. The kids in the flat would play all evening in the terraces or in the apartment complex — unlike today, where most free time is spent in tuition classes, on computer games and even Facebook. It was very common in those days for neighbours to walk into each others houses, for that little cup of dahi that everyone seemed to be perpetually borrowing, or just to share some chai, gossip and snacks. Nowadays, many of us don’t even know who our neighbours are, especially in urban settings, let alone inviting them for a cup of tea. Nobody lounges about the park anymore, except for a defiant young man who stands on his head every morning, invoking the stares of passers-by and creating a traffic jam. And oh, the balloons? You get them in the weirdest shapes and sizes, with Angry Birds (notice how ‘angry’ sells nowadays?) and polka dots and even advertisements on them, but gone are the plain round red ones. Softy stalls are becoming rarer and rarer, with imported brands in unheard-of flavours (“discount on family packs!”) making their way to shiny supermarkets.
When I started attempting to grow plants, I was disappointed quickly. I wanted my exotic roses and ramblers to climb oh-so-gracefully all over the wall. I had a mental image of what I wanted them to look like, and the more I tried to get these plants to meet that image, the more they were determined to wilt or perish. And my frustration increased. I wanted to wear them as a badge of honour, to prove to myself — “Look, I created something so beautiful!” I forgot to let them be… to nourish them tenderly and let them grow into healthy plants that weren’t bound by my own expectations and need for validation.
I think that’s what many of us do in our daily lives. We like to force things to happen a certain way, and we find it difficult to accept that just like you, everybody else has free will too. We are alarmed when we don’t have control over what’s happening… we like to drive, not drift. We create so much pressure on ourselves. We think — I have to love my job, I have to be passionate about it. This is true to some extent. But it’s also true that we need to be a lot less attached to our jobs. When we’re stuck in a rut, we need to think of ways to break the pattern, instead of working ourselves up into a plaguing state of unhappiness. Often, it can be solved by picking the tiniest things that make us happy and figuring out ways to include them in our lives. “Treat a job like a job,” they say, and some of us may actually be a lot happier that way. Focus on the things in your control, the smaller, simpler stuff.
A few generations ago, lives were quiet and simple. Those who wanted adventure had to really go and seek it out. They made their lives meaningful by adding to it. There was a contentment that is worthy of reverence. But we can only make our lives meaningful if we subtract from it. We have such a wide array of exotic choices in front of us, such rich, saturated colours, that we forget all about white space. We need to consciously introduce simplicity in our lives.
Simplicity is no longer a part of us, it’s something we lovingly remember from our childhoods, or longingly look at in Amol Palekar movies. It’s an alien species to this world which never takes a break from updating, tweeting, clicking, typing, swiping. We’re constantly trying to find people, people, people, forgetting all about those around us.
We’ve got to notice the small stuff, the stuff that matters, before the madness of our daily lives consumes us. We’ve got to redefine what we’re seeking. I heard someone once say that all of us just want happiness and peace. And if that’s really true it shoudn’t have to be so hard to achieve. We’ve got to stop looking at who’s ahead and who’s behind us in the race. It’s really okay to stop and check out that eagle soaring in the sky and to ‘chill out’ under a tree before resuming pace! We’ve got to stop being sucked into a vortex of enormous, self-created pressure every time someone moves little ahead of us.
As trite as it sounds, it’s the stuff that we ignore every day that holds real meaning in our lives. Reflect the smile on your child’s or parent’s face. Beam at that new shoot poking out from the damp soil. Watch annoyingly determined spiders make their beautiful homes, without caring that you can pull it down in a jiffy. Make some soap water, and blow bubbles with a straw (you don’t need the apparatus they sell in fairs). Take a walk without a phone or wristband or pedometer on you. Pet a dog. Sit on the beach and watch the crabs. Resist the impulse to Instagram a pic. Stretch. Breathe.
And please, just bring back the big, red, round balloons.