Saturday, April 05, 2008

Keep running on that treadmill

I had taken a week off from work last month. On one of those blissful days, happening to walk idly past a traffic signal at 9.00 am, I was happy to note that thousands of people in hundreds of cars and buses were rushing to their offices or factories, to toil, to sweat and to earn. If time-motion cameras were to be placed at vantage points, I thought, it would capture, to telling effect, the entire sequence of humanity on the move, the wheel of commerce spinning, the ensuring of livelihood by most, the pursuit of success by many… The most satisfying part was watching the whole scene from the sidelines, instead of participating in the mad scramble.

If only I could do it everyday, watch all the hard work being done, from the side lines….

In fact, during the break, I had picked up Jerome K Jerome’s book, “The idle thoughts of an idle fellow”. Just the sort of title that appealed to me. Though he lived in the nineteen century, I felt that here, at last, was an author, who was going to preach the virtue of laziness and contentment, and raise a clarion call to put an end to the insanity of this success-obsessed world. Which I would then cite to justify my aversion to hard work and burning ambition.

And, sure enough, in one of his essays, “On getting on in this world”, he gets off to a good start,

“..sitting in my arbor by the wayside, smoking my hookah of contentment and eating the sweet lotus-leaves of indolence, I can look out musingly upon the whirling throng that rolls and tumbles past me on the great high-road of life. Never-ending is the wild procession. Day and night you can hear the quick tramp of the myriad feet--some running, some walking, some halting and lame; but all hastening, all eager in the feverish race, all straining life and limb and heart and soul to reach the ever-receding horizon of success. Mark them as they surge along--men and women, old and young, gentle and simple, fair and foul, rich and poor, merry and sad--all hurrying, bustling, scrambling….

Ha, he is warming to the theme, I thought. Dripping with sarcasm. He is going to knock the stuffing out of those maniacs who perpetuate the myth that hard work was vital for success. Way to go, Jerome.

Suddenly, Jerome changes tack and puts a same-side goal. He says,

Contented, unambitiuos people are all very well in their way. I have not a word to say against contented people so long as they keep quiet. But do not, for goodness sake,let them go strutting about, as they are so fond of doing, crying out that they are the true models for the whole species. Why they are the deadheads, the drones in the great hive, the street crowds that lounge about, gaping at those who are working’.

Hell, it is as if the prescient Jerome K Jerome had caught me standing near the traffic signal, idly gaping at humanity on the move.

He goes on :

The contented people never knew the excitement of expectation nor the stern delight of accomplished effort, such as stir the pulse of the man who has objects, and hopes, and plans. To the ambitious man life is a brilliant game- a game that calls forth all his tact and energy and nerve- a game to be won, in the long run, by the quick eye and the steady hand, and yet having sufficient chance about its working out to give it all the glorious zest of uncertainty.

Why this guy must give a suggestive title of “idle thought of an idle fellow” to his book, and lure me to buy it, I can’t understand.

In another part of the book, he says “It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do. There is no fun in doing nothing when you have nothing to do. Idleness, like kisses, to be sweet must be stolen”.

I better get back to work.


Anonymous said...

Are writing intelligent and interesting blogs and reading them regularly to be classified as idling?

If no, then any activity that tickles the mind cannot be idling.

If yes, then you are the biggest idler and we who read them are bigger idlers. Reminds me of Mr. Biggar.....

In that case idling is to be defined as indulging in activities that do not improve you monetarily. Any activity that takes you forward materially cannot be idling.

There is one more possibility:
Any activity that improves you monetarily or has the potential to improve you monetarily cannot be idling. Hence you r not idling since it is likely that your site and blogs could be taken over by ( I am tempted to say New York Times, but will remain ethnic) The Hindu or The Times for Rs. 10000 crores. Hence, you are not idling.

Are we? No! It is likely that you will reward loyal and adoring readers like me with a 100 crores each for our part in making you a prime target for a takeover.

If you are confusingly clear, remember me when you are taken over.

Raj said...

Sankar, believe me, the day I get Rs 10000 crores, the cheque for Rs 100 crores will be mailed to you.

And, idling has nothing to do with money. The really successful man is one who earns money even when idle.

braindrain said...


I dont think 'idle' in this context means non-action. If so, then the later part of your blog is right. If it is taken as opposite to the 'rush' then it makes sense.

This reminds me of another book called "in praise of Slow" by Carl Honore. You may want to check on that.