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Madhurima Vidyarthi

  • Writer's pictureMadhurima Vidyarthi

Staying In Was The New Going Out - Tribe Magazine Article (September 2022)

Published in Tribe's Annual e-magazine, Bean There - September 2022 Edition

They said ‘staying in’ was the new ‘going out’. That suited a lot of people

just fine. To wrack already over stretched brains to breaking point, to find

new and newer places to tire already tired limbs and experiment with

newer varieties of headaches was not ‘cool’ any more.

Which like I said, was fine. And even better was the thought which

followed it. ‘Mono tasking’ would be the new ‘multitasking’. One at a

time, like we tell the children. One little step at a time. One task, one

thought, one tick on the never ending list of ‘things-to-do’. Things to do,

to complete, to fold and finish up, to capture without seeing.

Ad infinitum.

Procrastination would become such a favourite pastime. Those with a

poetic streak would call it dreaming, others might say it was sheer

laziness. But ‘putting off’ – sometimes for good – would be a firm

favourite. It would also be known as ‘setting your priorities’.

Which begs the question of priorities. Which of the following would be a

priority – work or play? What, then is work? Work which brings money?

Fame? A clean home? Homework? Which is a priority?

What then should be put off? Dusting? Earning money? Talking to a

friend in trouble? The school run?

And what then should be done? Everything together? Or ‘none of the

above’ as the question papers so succinctly put it? None, and then wait

for the world to fall apart.

It doesn’t. A walk by the river in the blue-pink sunset becomes infinitely

preferable. Perhaps a snatch of song. Perhaps – oh blasphemy – the

fleeting butterfly thought of a sudden snatched mid-week break.

Wait for the world to fall apart. Or the home to shatter into a thousand

pieces like the West End production of ‘An Inspector Calls’.

But it doesn’t. Ma Durga with her multi dextrous armoury, her variegated

offspring and her Rastafarian man waiting to go cold turkey shrug and

move off.

Is it as much putting off as it is of thinking through? Why is it that thinking

through is lauded, recommended, forced on one, even? And the delay in

execution that occurs as a direct reaction of this action of this same

thinking through is the negatively charged ‘procrastination’?

An innocent spider’s web on the staircase catches the light as I climb up.

Here is a fine example of industry. Of intricate working and reworking of

patterns and lines and precision. Perfect architecture glistening with

pride as the mid-day sun shafts through the landing. No spiders yet, but

they may come.

I marvel at it, lauding the intricacy and the effort and the intensity of

labour it represents. And then sweep it into oblivion, because today I am

in the mood.

A kitten runs by me, all black. I think of the witch that owns it, of the bad

luck I am bound to have because it has crossed my path today and the

crucial conundrum of whether its siblings are as jet black as itself. I

ponder, in the midst of teeming humanity, why it should choose to reveal

itself to me at that precise moment. Whether its visitation is also a

portent, an omen. Bad luck, you say? I am rather sorry for it. To be so

tenaciously associated with misfortune must be worrying. Rather like the

‘one for sorrow’ shaliks of our girlhood. I still feel a pang when I see a

lone bird. And expend some precious moments in looking for at least

one more. All this while the solitary bird looks at me sorrowfully, head

cocked, beady eyes glittering. ‘Who me?’ it seems to ask, ‘Bad luck and

little old me?’

And you look and fret and are never sure what to say.

But to look is not always to see. To look anxiously at the sky for storm

clouds and wonder whether it will rain at precisely the moment when

school disperses and whether both the umbrellas will be needed is to

miss the golden sunlight filtering through the grey and silver of a mid-

monsoon afternoon drenched with promise. And the wind that suddenly

blows up, laughing with the leaves and tugging at your hair and playing

with the litter on the road. And you wonder why it is that the wind gets

worked at this precise moment everyday even without any rain to follow

it and whether the little road that abuts the school gate is a charmed

passage that leads off into the unknown. But just then the bell rings with

its clarion call to duty and the wind’s urgent murmurings are forgotten.

Go to the river and it will tell you how to flow on without hurrying. Of

moving on in ripples and waves and without rushing unless hurried on by

the rains. Of roaring when the time is right and whispering when it is not.

Of keeping the boats afloat or drowning them if they abuse their

advantages. How to keep both banks happy even while the ocean is

your ultimate destination.

In another world, that would be called ‘time management’ or even EQ.

Walk along a broken pavement and you will see fine examples of

procrastination. Of getting your priorities right. Many layers of stories that

rise up and swirl around and subside without a listener. Like the ant hill

that flourishes and the wild creeper that adorns the roadside flower stall.

And the man next to the snack stall who plays his tuneless mouth organ

as if he has never done anything else. And the boy at the Chinese food

stall chopping spring onions with a knife twice as long as his arm as if

his life depended on it. His life, but not his fingers. Long after the sorry

greens have been chopped to within micro millimeters of their lives, his

hands fly on. And on and on and on. The owner yells, wants him to

move on to the next bunch. But he is not an assistant anymore, he is an

artist. He whirrs on.

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