Don't hurry, be happy
A surly bus driver on a Newlands coach taught me a life lesson today. I placed my card on the reader and waited expectantly for the ticket, which did not appear. So I had another swipe at it - still no ticket. "You have to wait for me to press a button before you do that," the driver reprimanded in sheer exasperation. I looked sheepish and meekly waited until he had done so and the elusive ticket finally emerged.
The truth dawned on me as I looked back and realised that I've been a pathological hurrier all my life. My near and dear ones will vouch for this. I was in a hurry to get into the world, so I was born a whole month early. I started school early and skipped kindergarten because I could spell "balloon" at the admission test - considered no mean feat for some reason back in the day. I hurried on weekdays and I hurried on weekends. "Sleeping in" did not figure in my phrase book. Back in India, I would hurry when I had to to catch the chartered bus to work and would hurry when there was no bus to catch. Meals for me meant wolfing down everything on my plate in precisely two minutes, putting the largest wolf to shame. No long, luxurious baths for me - a shower was a strictly functional five minute affair - which my mother would call "Kaak Snaan" or crow's bath in Bengali. My dear departed father said I must always be punctual like a "Sahib" or Englishman and taking that for gospel truth I would most often be the first in to school, college and work, when no one else was there except the cleaners. I would be embarrassingly early to parties and social events too - often arriving at wedding receptions before the bride and the groom. Everyone but me followed IST or Indian Stretchable Time - it frustrated me to no end.
I hurried through school and university, gave up my academic and creative pursuits and hurried to get a job. I would be in a hurry to ask questions and in an even greater hurry to answer them. Recently, my music teacher called me "Miss Eager Pants," as I started to sing before he played the notes. What's worse, I made everyone else hurry too. "Why can't you be like the lilies of the field who toil not, neither do they spin?" my sister who is my alter ego and a chronic procrastinator would quip. Life for me was always like waiting for the next bus and never looking at the road on the way. So I obviously missed all the signposts.
"This strange disease of modern life, with its sick hurry, its divided aims," said Matthew Arnold. Why are we in a perpetual hurry? What are we in pursuit of? We spend the first half of our lives rushing around earning money and the next half rushing to doctors to spend all of it. We furnish our homes with every comfort and spend the greater part of our days outside them. We dream of exotic holidays and rarely end up going on them. Letters - those wonderful expressions of love, longing and affection - have given way to the terse email and the even terser text message. People propose and break-up over text messages I'm told. Parents toil to bestow goodies on their children but there's no time for bedtime stories. Bookstores are being laid to rest as instant information on Google takes over. The fountain pen has been relegated to the status of an antique. And of course music which lasts for more than three minutes is an instant turn off, as are five day test matches. Elaborate family meals prepared and served with oodles of love and affection have given way to "heat and eat" fare generally devoured while watching some mindless entertainment on TV. The other day, while singing at a rest home, I couldn't help but observe the son and grandson of a resident hurrying in to the visiting area, making a perfunctory greeting to their elderly relative and hurrying out again. I could almost picture this old man, now in the soporific twilight of his life, rushing around madly in his youth providing for his son.
The earth doesn't hurry as it makes its daily sojourn round the sun, neither does the moon. The river meanders along to meet the sea at its own pace, the tides come and go in their own rhythm. Rome was not built in a day, Plato wasn't in a hurry when he engaged in his Dialogues, and some of the best ideas have been created over endless cups of lazy coffee. "What is this life if full of care. We have no time to stand and stare," said the good poet Davies. You were right sis, life isn't instant coffee. I read all the signposts now - they say "Slow Down".
I'm in a hurry to get things done
Oh I rush and rush until life's no fun
All I've really gotta do is live and die
But I'm in a hurry and don't know why....
~Roger Murrah and Randy VanWarmer
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