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Monday, October 24, 2016

Spring-cleaning, zen, distraction, dissolution

Spring cleaning can be cathartic. My mother and I agree that it can be done anytime, even in autumn, and done like a zen practice. While something useful is achieved – cleaning all the useless trash and dirt that keeps accumulating in any house over a period of time – it helps you to unclutter your mind and de-stress. My mother, even at her age, is wonderfully active in both body and mind: she is still teaching math and physics, and though she doesn’t have to, she keeps pottering about the house, sprucing things up all the time. She says it keeps her fit, and looking at clumsy lumps of lard half her age, I cannot but agree. And since I love things spick and span myself, having her around has proved to be a great blessing. For three years I had to do it all by myself, except when my daughter came over now and then, and I couldn’t cope as well as I would have liked to.

Mother and I also agree more and more that the very big trouble with people these days – at least all those who do not have to scrounge for a bare living – is that they have no inner life of their own, nothing to occupy themselves with without the help of other people and all kinds of gadgets and spectacles. That is precisely why they are chatting on the net all the time, or doing the same in the real world in their little gossip groups, and frantically running around from party to shopping mall to party, or staying glued to the television, and looking out for sensations (in response to which ‘need’ the mass media have turned more and more to mere thrill-mongering). And unless there’s something wrong with my eyes, there is no generation gap here: the same is true for a lot of people whether they are teenagers, or middle-aged housewives, or retired and old. Most people in this country do not read anything worthwhile these days (irony, in an age when ‘education’ is regarded as an essential more than ever before in history!); most do not have any hobbies worth the name – blessed are those who do, whether they are singing or painting or gardening or exercising or writing software for fun – and most would either go blank or be horrified if it is suggested that they should cultivate things of the spirit (I do not necessarily mean religious practice: doing math or reading history for the love of it rather than because it helps to get a job or just because everybody else is doing it is spiritual work). So it’s always buy and eat and dress up and chatter and post selfies on Facebook in order to count ‘likes’ thereafter. Or, even worse, ‘follow’ others who do exactly the same. How pathetic can people get?

Add to that the fact that most people, again regardless of age, are living in a perpetually distracted mode. The results would be horrifying, if people had not lost the capacity to take note. Pupils cannot remember lessons they were taught a few weeks ago. Bank clerks make wrong entries right and left. Patients of surgery cough up bits of cotton wool afterwards because the surgeon or nurse was not looking. Drivers run down pedestrians and other drivers day in and day out because they were talking on the phone, or listening to music, or had fallen asleep at the wheel. Parents leave babies behind at airports. Underwear is advertised with the slogan ‘It’s the next best thing to naked’. Journos go gaga over ‘surgical strikes’ as if such things have not happened a hundred times before, or about ‘startups’ as if a few hundred little drops in the ocean are going to make the ocean swell. And all this you can gather by just scanning the newspaper headlines over a week. The world has gone mad. My God, what progress! We have at last been able to shed drawbacks like sobriety and reason and foresight and common sense forever. I keep saying more and more frequently that I am never going to see a doctor who graduated after 1990 – I’d much rather trust my little box of homeopathic pills in my old age – and maybe someday I’ll decide to hoard all my wealth in the form of gold biscuits buried in some garden whose location only I will know. It will be safer than in the hands of thirty-something AMC executives I keep hearing about, those who spew management jargon and cannot spell or remember the date…

Which brings me to observe that the way ‘Indian English’ is evolving and spreading, no native Englishman is going to recognize it as his own language in fifty years’ time. No Indian is ever worried, he is only ‘tensed’ (not even ‘tense’, mind you); they never move house, they ‘shift’, they all live in ‘colonies’, there are some of us who call their spouses ‘siblings’, no one has heard words like ‘wonder’ and ‘conscience’, they are always angry on you and have very less money, everybody finds everything awesome and exciting and great and amazing; children growing up in rustic families and fed on American movies have learnt to address people vastly superior in every way with ‘Hey’, utterly oblivious of how simian that makes them sound. Once more, my God, what progress.  

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