Doing by Undoing

What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare?..echoed W H Davies in his seminal classic poem ‘ Leisure ‘. And he ends by stating,  A poor life this if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.

The biggest lie we’ve been told is that ‘ productivity is all about doing ‘.

Working is Not Productivity. The message once(and even now) was loud and clear. Relentless self-optimisation was a way to cope, but is it really? Humans are NOT search engines !

There has been always something obscene about the cult of the hustle, the treadmill of alienated insecurity that tells you that the moment you stop running for even an instant, you will be flung flat on your face.

Productivity is not a synonym for health or safety or sanity. I will go onto add that frantic productivity is actually a fear response. It’s a fear response for 21st-century humans in general and millennial humans in particular.

Productivity, or the lack of it, has become the individual metric of choice for coping with the international econo-pathological clusterfuck of the Corona Crisis.

Have you taken the path not trodden, step into a void and, by design decide NOT to do anything? And then witness something strange happening? Ideas begin to flow, collide, offering solutions, relief, succour, insights, inspiration, closure..

Our best work will come from undoing—from slowing down and giving ourself time and space. The Japanese call this vacuum ma—an empty space that’s intentionally there. In Hebrew, the same concept is called selah. The word appears 74 times in the Hebrew Bible as a direction to stop reading, pause, and contemplate what just appeared in the text.

There is no preamble or drum roll when ideas arrive. There is no parade. If it’s big, it is not going to wield a megaphone and yell from the rooftop. At first glance, the big thing actually looks quite small. If there’s no void in your life—if your life is full of constant chatter—you won’t be able to hear the subtle whisper when it arrives.

Banish the FOMO that if you slow down, you will get left behind. What you would do is use less energy, you’ll go faster, and you’ll go deeper. The pedal-to-the metal mentality is the enemy of original thought. Creativity isn’t produced—it’s discovered. And it happens in moments of slack, not hard labor. Yes, counter to popular thinking, but true.

During those moments, it may appear like nothing is happening, but appearances mislead. Still waters run deep. As you stare out into the nothingness, your subconscious is hard at work, consolidating memories, making associations, and calibrating a new math while marrying the new with the old to create unexpected combinations.

So, don’t avoid the void.

Mute down the noise, just for a little bit, throughout the day. Give yourself permission to lounge in bed after waking up. Put yourself in airplane mode. Sit and stare at the ceiling. Wander aimlessly through a park.

Allow interior silence to oppose contemporary chaos.

Sink into the rhythm of no rhythm.

Step into the void—where all things that never existed are created.

Relentless self-optimisation is NOT a way to cope. Humans are NOT search engines !

Charles Richards on productivity: “Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One person gets only a week’s value out of a year while another gets a full year’s value out of a week.”

You’ll find that taking your foot off the pedal can be the best way to accelerate.


What are your thoughts on INTERPOL’s recruitment policy ?

Caveat Emptor: Written purely in jest with malice towards none and deep respect for all, living and demised. May relate only to people with one foot in the brave or baby boomers, it’s contestable, respectable pseudonym! If at the end of this(or well before that) so long a rant, you want to call out ‘ so long ‘, I will understand perfectly! It also hedges that the 1.8 people who will read this(after circumventing the social media algorithm), have seen the movie Don(the one starring the Big B).
For the purpose of brevity, acronyms have been used as below:-
OS: Late Om Shivpuri (RIP)
PK: Late Pinchoo Kapoor (RIP)
Big B: (if you don’t know who he is, time to get a life!)
NI: Nariman Irani (RIP)
DS: Dileep Sharma (RIP)
May 12, Circa 1978. A typical summer day in Bombay. Oppressive, sultry, so much so, you wanted to send out the May Day signal. But, aborted the thought. And lived to see another day. Yours truly, with one of my best friends Nazir had set out as usual with wasted interests to do what we did best. Nothing! The breeze was stiff, so stiff, it refused to move. It was when our expectations were close to nadir, did we hear a call, from up above. No, don’t get your expectations that high- it was from the third floor of one of the buildings in our society and DS (one of the most amiable blokes you can find with a perennial smile and hockey skills that would have given Mohammad Shahid a complex) and through the thick foliage of the Mayflower tree directly under the building, we could see he was calling out to us from his bedroom window. He had two tickets to NI’s Don, Amitabh’s movie that had released the same day and asked if we wanted to go. Since he was not. If there was anything called manna from heaven that was it. Big B in two doses(if anyone wanted a masterclass on how to deliver suave with wow and awe, this was it): our excitement knew no measure! Thank you so much Chandra Barot.
The next thing we know we are gaping open mouthed as DS decided to fold the tickets and hurl it (what an inappropriate description for such a gracious gesture) down. Now, if you know anything about movie tickets of those days, they were not exactly printed on 350 GSM Hand Crafted Wood Free Paper. And if they are Lower Stall tickets( Not Balcony or Dress Circle as they were in the day), the paper quality reached a new low. Lower Stall for the uninitiated are seats that are very very close to the screen, sometimes so much so that you go beyond the screen and do an auto-rotate of your neck to discover new laws of concave and convex (apart from discovering that Amitabh could also be right handed and if it’s a double role it only added to the complexity). That being said, the two of us are now witnessing a descent of the tickets of unprecedented volatility- one moment sashaying as if Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie was playing in full blast and in another defying Newton and gravity as it decides to hang nonchalantly, stubbornly, mid air. In the midst of all these, we had one of those brilliant WH Davies moments (yes of the ” what is this life full of care “…fame) as we look awestruck at the mayflowers blooming in unabashed, glorious beauty on the society’s showpiece tree(also our controversial boundary indicator during cricket matches), which every May kept it’s unfailing date with it’s namesake. That ‘ moment ‘ of distraction (shouldn’t it be attraction?) overcome, we see the tickets land firmly on the road, which at that time would have made the lunar surface look like a green top billiard table.
Armed with the most prized possession of our lives, it was destination Topiwala ( not tirchi but the name of the movie house). Before I move on, letting you in on an inside story. During the late 70’s, there was a famous inner wear brand called Dawn( and without paying too much credo to phonetics, we all know even Don sounds the same) and it was only Mario Puzo’s Godfather that gave the word Don a sense of aura and passable respectability.
Enough preamble. Will segway into the constitution now. For those of who have seen Don, would recall the prominent characters from the movie. Big B apart, there was Zeenat, Pran, Iftekhar ( yes of the ‘ born to inspect ‘ lineage alongwith Jagdish Raj, Inspector for All Seasons and For All Reasons!), PK, OS among others. OS, BTW, is not another Operating System but Om Shivpuri as already indicated right at the beginning. And here is playing the role of a ‘ Responsible Interpol Officer ‘, assigned to crack the whip, as captain of the hip. Which didn’t lie. Or so we were made to believe!
Since our growing up days we held Interpol in great esteem. The world’s best International Police Organisation. It had an unquestionable aura. Even Balram wanted to enrol(not from the Ramayana but of Ram Balram fame) into the organisation. So did Pathankar. From Budhawar Peth. And Saini from Munirka. It had a cult like following. If Ajit had his way (just like he had with Mona, Michael and Shetty), Interpol would have been headquartered in the LOIN’s Den near Dongri but sadly it had to be Lyon, France. The jury is still out on that one. How you wish geography could be history!
Time to get serious as the next few paras are all about the interview process at Interpol and how OS got the plum(p) assignment for the roll, I mean role.
To begin with, after acquiring diligent espionage skills, we took a deep dive into the Psychometric Testing Questions that OS was put through during the recruitment process @ Interpol. Psychometric Testing as we may know involves numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning, logical reasoning, personality assessment etc among others. Here goes:
Numerical Reasoning
Interviewer: Why do you think your breakfast has to be 12 Aloo Parathas?
OS: I always had a soft corner for having one two many. One and Two is 12. Hence..actually it’s a no brainer
Verbal Reasoning
Interviewer: In the fitness of things, what makes you so eligible for this role?
OS: Two and a half hours of jogging, 250 squats, 80 push ups and 45 minutes of planks…
(he gets interrupted before saying ‘ over the last 40 years ‘)
Interviewer: That’s incredible..
Logical Reasoning
Interviewer: What makes you ‘ different ‘ from other contestants applying for this role?
OS: My name is Vardan(with a V), that means blessing. I am actually a blessing(in disguise- in this case he was pretending to be RK Malik, the role played by Weighteran Actor PK, worth his weight in old).
OS(continuing in chaste Punjabi confidence): And mind you, I don’t have any Imposter Syndrome!
Personality Assessment
Interviewer: What is the one thing that determines your ‘ style quotient ‘ ?
OS: It takes two to tango- so, I am afraid I have two to share:-
1. People have bad hair days. I have a bad hair life.
2. People wear trousers around their waist and use a belt to keep it in place. I have higher ambitions. My trousers are a little above my chest(Sorry, if I am hitting above the belt!) and instead of a belt I use both my armpits to keep it in place. Giving G B Shaw’s Arms and the Man due respect!
As an after thought he adds
3. Nobody can carry a pinafore dress with a toy gun from Crawford Market with as much I mean business swagger as I can.
That was the sucker punch. That landed on the right spot (yes, you guessed it- a little above the chest) and put OS firmly in the Interpol’s HR spotlight. Appointed with Immediate Defect. To them a new HeRo was born! That will play the perfect Villain.