In praise of procrastination

If I were to summarise all the content of this essay, I would go to Sanskrit, and take inspiration from the famous “Karmanaye Vadhikaraste” verse of Sri Bhagvad Gita and then I would refer you all to following:

                                Karma-taalnaaye vadhikaraste, maa samay-seemaayasch kadachna;
                                maa samay-seemaay phla heturbhuh, maa te sangostv akarmani\

Emails upon emails keep piling on. From bill reminders to that of an old friend asking for an advice to that of alerts from my banks to those newsletters on latest in law, biotechnology and business to book recommendations from contacts on goodreads. I prefer them either deleted, replied or marked read, but thanks to the gene of procrastination in my genome that expresses certain undefined lazy proteins in my ‘phenome’ that I let the pile increase until it weighs heavy. Heavy on my conscience. Yes, conscience! How would you know? Have you procrastinated ever? If not, then try to practise this subtle art of laziness. It gives ample time at hand to do “nothing”, but cracks down heavily on conscience from time to time, just to let the artist move on to “newer” procrastinations. There is no fun in procrastinating matters you have procrastinated beyond a limit. Procrastination is, therefore, prolonged as habit by procrastination itself, through self-regulation mechanisms a la genetic regulations in a cell, usually by cracking whip on conscience. You need new procrastinations to keep this art alive throughout your life.

Why did I call this blatant act of defiance to the mighty Time as a subtle art?  I did so because in my endeavour to disregard timelines/deadlines, I have engaged in the defiance with characteristic creative skill of an artist. Why attend the tasks now when you can attend them later? I don’t procrastinate because I lack skills to attend to matters or complete the tasks. Au contraire, I procrastinate because I know, and know it very well that I can perfectly deliver in nick of time. Be it any task or work or mission. I do not understand why people complete tasks before time. There is no fun in doing so. It is so mundane. It is so routine. No experience gained, no sweat lost, and no heart trembling with excitement. Then, why do we work if we cannot maintain this equilibrium of loss and gain amidst trembling heart? At times, I have come to associate non-procrastination with mediocrity, especially when output is same as mine.

Procrastination doesn’t lie on fringes of modern work culture. People practise it all the time, from people in small start-up that procrastinate pitching to a VC in eternal hope to clinch one client before going to VC to people in a large multi-billion dollar multinational corporation that procrastinate till the date of product release. However, I must warn you. I must warn you that procrastination is not for faint-hearted, and it therefore, must be practised only by those who are genius, competent and know how to put things perfectly as required when the time is nigh. If you are none of these or are unable to click in the eleventh hour or you falter under an assumed [rather imagined] pressure of working in eleventh hour, procrastination is not for you. PLEASE, refrain from it. You bring bad name to us all ‘genius procrastinators’. I am being as serious as a snail here. It is because of mediocre people taking on the mantle of procrastination that managements and clients complain about it and seek “solutions”, and provide incentives to finish task on time. No incentive on earth will make me not procrastinate because I am not your regular procrastinator. To quote Yudhishthira from Mahabharata,” I procrastinate because I must”.

To the non-procrastinators, the less said the better. I would file my words particularly against those non-procrastinators who add nothing special or more than what we have to add, to a report or to a work or to a task assigned to them or a programme written by them – why do you exist? Why do you people work? Despite your undeterred fidelity towards Time, why are there more mistakes in your work than mine? Why?

Procrastination, in my view, is not pushing deadlines further. No. That would be professional harakiri and contrary to professionalism. Healthy and genius procrastination strives within deadlines and feeds on professionalism. You don’t push deadlines further, in any case, not more than day or two. You push the critical mass of your work/task towards the deadlines. In short, you sit pretty and do ‘nothing’ until the eleventh hour cometh. Now this “nothing” defines the quality of procrastinator and separates a regular from a genius. To sit idly is not the way of utilising your bliss period of procrastination. One must utilise it to enhance their learnings in the areas and subject matters that your profession has so brilliantly deprived you from indulging in. The non-procrastinators think that we, the procrastinators, ‘waste’ our time. No, Sir or Madam, we simply don’t ! To sit idly or sleep is a waste of time.  We, the intellectual procrastinators, have higher tastes and needs, and use this time to indulge with ourselves. To read books, newspapers, enjoying exotic sea food in a remote place, to watch that periodic drama, or to employ our labours in a football match nearby, or to watch a nice film or TV series is not waste of time, it is indulging in one own self, away from the mundanities of work and clients.

The good procrastinator is able to wield his/her brush naturally and perfectly on the canvass of otherwise mundane job, at the eleventh hour, and fill it with colours of brilliance. The brilliance that has been honed by indulging in high culture and high learning. I also procrastinate cleaning my room. In that period, I indulge in sipping green tea and reading books. The clothes upon clothes and books upon books and bedsheets upon bedsheets keep piling on, until I am surrounded by a fort-like structure made up of these ensembles. Then I get up, before it gets ‘too dirty’ or when I have a gut feeling that if the room isn’t cleaned and the doomsday is just around, I might die in a badly kept room. In order to prevent myself from dying in unkempt surroundings, I get up and clean my room and flat.

Procrastination must not be loathed, however procrastination by a lesser human must be sabotaged and criticised at any cost. Those who are incapable or are unskilled must not expose themselves to perils of procrastination, since it will be too risky a proposition for them. If you are not of a calm and tranquil disposition,procrastination is not for you. I would once again request you to refrain from indulging in this pursuit, because it will get too hot for you to handle. Your constitution is not meant to push limits, the critical mass of work and deadlines. Procrastination is for absolute geniuses, who are composed in their own being and use the time, thus stolen from the routine of work and life, for intellectual or delightful pursuits. I attribute my knowledge on literature, poetry, essays, politics, philosophy, sports, law and humans to procrastination. If not for procrastination, I would make a boring cog in a giant wheel of mundanity.  Long live the procrastination!

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Week 10 – Of One year!

August 18, 2014 – August 24, 2014

The 21st day of August, which happened to fall in Week 10, marked one year of my living in this country. Living and working. Living, working and reading. Living, working, reading and walking. My enthusiasm hasn’t waned, and my spirits are higher than before, and I have learnt so much in last one year that I cannot recompensate it with all the learnings of all the previous years of existence.

The country has been kind to me. I have been trying to assimilate well in its culture by learning its language and acquiring taste for its delicacies, which represent curious marriage of Chinese, Indian and Malay culinary art. There have been various phases, through which I went, throughout the year. Some phases lasted for months, while some were so demanding that even though they lasted for a day, I still recall them. I recall that evening when I discovered a truth that forever set me apart from my one half. The evening is unforgettable and it would take more than a lifetime to extirpate it from landscape of my memories. The heart sank much lower than its normal that day and mind went into a frenzy. The perfect condition for building up of cyclone that later wreaked havoc within my body.

In the one year, I inculcated a curious habit or character in myself. The character that doesn’t know future or sees future at all, that is not interested in future at all.  The character that is concerned about NOW and HERE. It doesn’t want to know what lies beyond the horizon. Earlier, I was of a constitution which made me “decide” my next few years or at least a trajectory. However, a silent revolution happened within the mind and the soul, the futuristic constitution was replaced with a pragmatic, realistic and real-ambitious constitution that restricts my glance beyond the horizon, while making me enjoy, harness, utilise and cover the huge field lying before the horizon and that lies right in front of me. The new constitution serves the need of my current life and current circumstances. I am trying to make this field greener. This field is more fertile, certain and pregnant with opportunities. I have, in all probability, left the pursuit of what lies beyond my glance, for now I am running to make hay from every mile of the field that appears before me. The new constitution demands that I attach no fruits to my actions, however my actions are not all “intentionalist”. They lie somewhere determined by both intentions who originate them and the consequences, into which they may evolve in immediate future. The phrase “long-term planning”, in my dictionary, now refers to the planning of utilising what I have in hand to pursue what I have in heart. Earlier, it was about gaining something in future to evolve a greater future.

The one year opened me to new possibilities, to explore the untested, unexamined and the unconquered. It permanently ended a longing. It permanently ended a heart throbbing. It permanently ended a part of me before ensuing creation of a new more confident self of mine. It ended the part that felt. It ended the part that would form opinions, judgments and biases. It permanently ended the part that was wilfully ignorant. It ended the part that was racist, prejudiced and exclusivist. It ended the part that thought love and relationships as matters that keep us going. I realised that the man keeps going – no matter what – and those who stop, look back or try to gather attention of those who moved on – are fools. It made me objective, detached and much more open to challenges – of different opinions, different cultures, different tastes, different pursuits, and different meanings and interpretations. I, now, do not seek to coalesce with “like-minded individuals”.

Cheers to many more such years!

The week went by in such thoughts. Reflecting and thinking, thinking and reflecting, of course, in nice company of some inventions, some books and some beer!

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Week 9 – In High Culture

August 11, 2014 – August 17, 2014

On 15th of August, India observed and celebrated its 68th Independence Day. Among many subjects in my life about whose certainty I am never confirmed and never want to be confirmed is also the subject of whether I being a patriotic gentleman or an ungrateful Indian. I have always maintained a very fine distinction in my life – of segregating my loyalty to the Mother India and to the Indian Government. I am not patriotic in modern sense of the word i.e. I will not always support unjust motives [which I also do not know what they may be -and therefore depends on time and events] of my country’s government, however I have an unflinching loyalty towards the land of India- the land where dharma was propounded. As such, this loyalty extends beyond the current political borders of Mother India. This loyalty extends to whole of Indian subcontinent – from Pakistan in West to Burma in the East, and from Afghanistan in North to Sri Lanka in the South. India, whose official name in Sanskrit is Bharata or Bharatavarsha, has always been referred to the Indian subcontinent, by Persians or by Greeks or by the Turko-Mongol invaders or by the British. The ancient Sanskrit epics, literature, stories, myths, and legends have names of the cities, of the kingdoms, of the Kings and of all other characters et al from all over the subcontinent. However, I am not blind to modern political reality too. The current Republic of India encompasses most of the ancient Indian heritage and to that ancient heritage I feel deeply associated with.

The new Indian Prime Minister gave a rousing conversational speech to 1.30 billion Indians from ramparts of Red Fort. He chided, he requested, he begged, he scolded, he inspired, he asked, and he forced us all to act, to recall our ancient heritage, to act accordingly, to shun violence, to act justly, to respect women, to ensure their emancipation, to maintain cleanliness and to achieve a common goal of prosperity of humanity. Republic of India is a 67 year old institution whereas the spirit and soul of India is timeless, in same sense as the Krishna’s message in Mahabharata of the immortality of the soul and mortality of the body.

I read brilliant literature this week in forms of critical essays (classical and modern), plays, epics and books. One essay that I read was In praise of idleness by Bertrand Russell. At first sight, I found the title funny and totally opposite to my another parallel reading these days – of Gita. Gita lays stress on Karma- Action – whereas Russell’s essay extolls virtue of idleness, but only as opposed to the work done for economic well-being. Therefore, I argued that idleness may be a form of Karma too. Karma in Gita is not just any work, it also refers to the duties and responsibilities.  Also, Russell makes a very weirdly convincing case for idleness, and why work – the work for economic well-being – must not be overdone. If anything, read the essay for old world charm in prose of Russell.

Another brilliant essay that I read was In praise of Folly. I particularly admired the use of hypotaxis – making irony, wit and satire- more scathing and subtle at same time. The paragraph especially urging the readers to recourse to Folly, in case they want to have children was so laden with satire and wit that I couldn’t help reading it again and again, so as to learn the art of writing satire from it.

For sake of reading and for sake of Charles Dickens, I read A Christmas Carol. Again. I wish I had that same power as Dickens of building powerful imagery of a city landscape or time of a day through convincing words. I went back to A Christmas Carol to learn how Dickens synthesised his prose. The e-book also accompanied the original manuscript of Dickens and it showed that Dickens wasn’t prone to too many deletions or editings, and was accomplished in his craft.

If you wish to understand nonsense of the world through lense of Absurdism, do read Waiting for Godot, a play on nothing by Samuel Beckett. This play is essentially a play that conveys nothing. Then, during the weekend, I bought Gurcharan Das’ Difficulty of being Good-The Subtle Art of Dharma. I did wonder on the title. I was perplexed whether Dharma is an art or an action or an artful action. Gurcharan Das’ scholarly book explaining Dharma through analysis of epic of Mahabharata is worth accolades. The author has so lucidly woven the Western philosophy with the ideas explained, enacted or described in Mahabharata that I did sit down to reflect on why I should do good. I am neither a moralist nor am I a moral supremacist. I am also not amoral. I also do not approve of moral objectivism. I do have inclination on moral nihilism. Dharma is exactly that philosophy. It encompasses the “just” action or “righteous” actions subject to times and life of an individual.

In several places in Mahabharata, both seemingly moral and amoral characters give perfect explanations for their actions and align it to the mystical Dharma. Mahabharata, at several places, considers no action as intrinsically amoral or immoral (moral nihilism). Then, it goes a step further, and tries to align the morality of an action with the larger good (utilitarianism) subjecting them to surroundings, life and times of an individual (covering aspects of moral subjectivism, moral realism and moral relativism). Mahabharata is also an Absurdist story. It is very common to find in Mahabharata the characters such as Yudhishthira who, after a bloodied war that killed more than 2.5 million people within 18 days to win back their “rightful” throne, feels the war was futile and that it was fought for nothing, and plans to renounce the world.

Well, the week was well spent in high culture and solitude. Whether solitude leads to the high culture or the high culture leads to solitude, who can tell?

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The Depression

So, we have lost a person, who stimulated people across countries, religions, races and languages to laugh and enjoy this mostly meaningless, nearly catastrophic and almost chaotic world. The person goes by the name of Robin Williams. The agent of laughter was lost to depression, which manifested itself in form of suicide, which came through asphyxiation, which he achieved by hanging himself. I empathise with his depression, and somehow, I can relate to his “brave act” of committing suicide. 

I have fought my own demons over last more than 2 years. I am still fighting them. I fight them every day. I will perhaps fight them until I die, or perhaps I will start ignoring them, which doesn’t come easy. While we continue to guard ourselves against external aggression from other humans, we, somehow, neglect the fact that our own life is greatest threat to our own life. Our past is the only barrier to our glorious but uncertain future, it is the only hindrance and it is the only weapon that can slay us despite all the guards that we may employ. 

For the people in depression, being awake is painful. To remain awake is a challenge, and to get a sound sleep is a contest, between two unknown and unfathomable realms of darkness. To drag oneself through mundanities and meaninglessness of world around is just not worth the pain of being awake. To sleep is the cure of depression, well that’s what medical fraternity believes in, and that’s what mostly relaxes a depressed person. In November of 2012, I had consulted a psychiatrist-doctor, in hope of seeking cure of my depression. The doctor prescribed me sedatives. and nothing else, just to induce sleep and to relax the trenches in my excitement level, which had gone much below the normal. Even though, I have largely recovered from the depression, though only 2-3 months ago, I now find this world and its people nothing more than figment of my imagination. Not that I suffer from any neurotic disorder, but I now have general disdain for world, and nothing else. My depression has manifested itself mostly in seeking solitude, reading books, working diligently, and writing blogs. 

Robin Williams fought his demons for far too long. He was an exceptional human being with a gift to make people laugh, and therefore, his demons must also have been exceptional, that they couldn’t be cured by sleeping under effect of soporific drugs. He finally found his cure – to sleep forever. To judge him as a coward, would be a great disservice and disregard to this exceptional human being, who made us laugh despite all the depression in his personal space. To judge him as a coward, would also lead to underestimating the power of depression and to the depths it can plunge an otherwise normal human being. 

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Week 8 – Lost

August 4, 2014 – August 10, 2014

How does an aloof and solitude-loving person like me react to a sudden and radical change in surroundings, which start brimming with people? I found myself lost. Totally. Completely. I was annihilated by company of strangers, whom I met out of my own accord. The weekdays were better, worked greatly but the weekend not so. Now that I sit down and think about the events of the weekend, I am not mighty impressed by myself. The weekend was entirely lost on trivia. Though, it is good to be lost in trivia once in a while, but this state of trance must not stretch for more than a few hours of a day. By the time, Sunday night arrived, I felt guilty of having done nothing substantial or worthy during the weekend. It was lost in a silly pub crawl [which I enjoyed when I was crawling] and subsequent non-hangover; however later that evening, I felt bad about the whole business. The weekend gave the impression of having lost the whole week. This was a week I would like to forget. Though, the irony of writing about this is not lost on me.

The week arrived with a bad news that Hamas has violated ceasefire or declared to violate ceasefire, moments after Israel withdrew their troops from Gaza. A terrorist organisation can never be a people’s representative and it is about time that the people of world realise this and help establish a civilised, modern and secular democracy in Palestine, devoid of hatred for Jews.

Well, India lost yet another test match against England. England have been playing very impressively ever since their earlier loss to India. Indian batsmen, as it always happens, are all out of form-simultaneously and suddenly. Next week, or rather this week, I pledge to finish this book I took up around two weeks ago and I would also try to review a book. Of course, my first attempt at book review won’t be exceptional, but I will try to do the best I can.

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