‘What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.’
I remember reading the poem ‘Leisure‘ by W. H. Davies when I was in my fourth standard, a very long time ago. Understanding little of the poem, save the idea of a paused life, leisure, then, to a child of nine seemed sacrilegious and not being hyperactive throughout the day was no less indulging in a heinous crime. Running about, inventing games, reinventing existing games, running with the wind, dancing in the rain, caring little, a week-long summer holiday, a two month winter holiday, falling, bruised knees, falling again, climbing atop the roof, reading in the quiet afternoons in the backyard, watching the frost melt away on winter mornings, school work summed up the life of nine year dreamy boy then. Little did I know that it was leisure in its prime all along!
Leisure was not a precious jewel that had to be protected, that was sought; it was inherent to living, to everyday. And now, as we hurry and scurry past, through busy roads, through busy lanes, elevators, escalators, never stopping, never pausing, leisure has metamorphosed to a form that demands shutting down, demands precious hours from our lives that we shan’t, we can’t, we mustn’t spare!
There is always a dearth of time! Motorists never stop for pedestrians to cross the road, pedestrians do not wait for the signal to turn green, ever so busy and peeved commuters have no patience to wait for an Uber which is two minutes away, wolfishly hungry men and women have no time to wait for the food they had ordered at a restaurant, television enthusiasts will definitely die if the next episode of the series they have been gluttonously feeding upon is not released sooner! I fail to understand the state of being perpetually busy.
Being busy now equals being important; otherwise you are are deemed lazy, someone who has been wasting precious hours, minutes, seconds of so short a life watching the sunset, watching the last leaves fall gently upon the face of earth; listening to the wind tapping at the window; waiting at a decrepit bus stop watching cars whiz past the tarred road; smiling at a cat play joyfully with a string or a dog somersaulting on a grassy patch; being joyously giddy breathing in the air intoxicated by the smell of flowers on a Spring day! ‘Oh he only knows how to waste his time, sitting and watch the world pass by‘, they say!
Gone and buried are the days when waiting led to unexpected happiness; when absorbing the surprises through the window of a car in the midst of a traffic snarl brought about a smile; when merry conversations, when serendipitous encounters seemed precious; when travelling through a slow chugging train we’d let our eyes wander over vast fields and trees, little villages, red and ochre, and not be hooked onto our phones. Sullenly, now we live by a check-list, striking off a to-do item on our list of life, happily letting go the simple joys, simple things, and little dreams. We are perpetually hurrying, never pausing, never stopping, running towards the end of a race only to the beginning of yet another race.
If only we would stop, stand and care. If only we would embrace leisure and breathe!