I can never get used to the concept of wasted time. I know the common way of thinking that one has a sort of fixed lifetime, and if a period, however brief, was spent not pursuing something meaningful, it is a waste. However, if one looks beyond the obvious, there are couple of questions to ask: How do you know how much time you have to live? And, how do you know you have not pursued a meaningful goal unless you tried?
If these questions sounded silly, let me try harder. I spent a few minutes this afternoon sitting in Tavistock Square. I did nothing: It was a beautiful afternoon, warm and sunny, the very best British summer could be. Olympics have scared away the tourists, in fact pretty much everyone, from London, so it was quieter and emptier than usual. I did not read, or think of anything. There was the statue of Gandhi, sitting as if in meditation, to look at, but I did not particularly notice him today. I was waiting, indeed, for a phone call, which was to tell me what to do next. But I could have done something meaningful. For example, I could have walked up to the University College, where my next appointment was, thereby saving time. Or, I could have got another drink at Jacques, the wine bar next to the square, and spent a few more minutes talking to my current guide to the world of private education, Professor C, possibly picking up some useful information. This was time wasted, in any way one thinks, a few minutes subtracted from my life.
However, I somehow felt those five minutes were added, not subtracted, to my lifetime. For the pause, I may actually live a few minutes longer - what a refreshing thought? My appointment at UCL got rescheduled eventually, so if I tried to walk up to that direction, it would have been meaningless. The visit to Jacques would have given me more caffeine, and may be my life would have been slightly shorter by that. I know all of this is after the fact rationalisation - I did not think of any of these while I was sitting there - and to management gurus and life coaches, it may as well seem like time wasted. However, I disagree.
This is the way I feel: Time isn't a commodity given to me, which I can save or waste. It is rather like air, something I live inside, something I can enjoy or ignore, but can't put in a bottle of some kind. If there is any way of managing time, it is only by gifting myself some time, as sometimes one would walk out of windowless office buildings in search of fresh air (the real fresh air, not the kind smokers among us keep going for every half hour). This is exactly why I can do things which are pleasurable, like writing this blog, but do not have any meaning, at least to those who seem to define all meaning in our societies. I acknowledge that this may actually be the biggest problem many people had with me.
Well, no, it is not that I don't keep time and show up in meeting late and without apologies. Rather, I am quite conscious of time keeping, because I know my turning up late in meetings will not be taken just as evidence for my own sloppiness, but as the apparently irremovable Indianness in me. But it is about those two questions about time - how much time do we have and how one knows what's meaningful without trying - that puts me at odds with conventional wisdom. I may end up looking like a lazy dreamer talking endlessly about tomorrow, as if I have all the time in the world, and rather unconcerned about what I have in the bank and how to 'maximize' my earnings. Funnily, from my side of the fence, those who really live a tightly focused life, well mostly, they look like incredibly short-sighted people with blindfolded imagination, tightly tied to the mule-jenny of possessions and desires, which are neither real or permanent, but all-pervasive and all-consuming, a dungeon with floral wallpapers.
To bigger things, longer commitments than the five minutes at Tavistock Square, which I spent time doing and may have reached a destination other than the one originally planned, the same principles perhaps apply. Having spent last two years doing something, for example, I am today ready to go and do something else: This is possibly what was in my mind, deep down, in those five quiet minutes - did I waste time doing all that I did - an ironic thought for those five idyllic minutes! But, then, in the end, the realisation flashes: How arrogant is even to wish that somehow we can erase the time away, mould everything to an after-the-fact construction of what's meaningful (or not). Life happened to me, in a way, and I was an interested and engaged observer and participant, and this, rather than being the engineer, perhaps, was more enjoyable. I have come to this point again when I take a turn, do something new: But that's not discounting the past, but the simple dialectic of living, with what we do and what happens to us in constant conversation, negotiation and assimilation. In that realm, there is no time to waste - only time to make.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
A week into lockdown and things are beginning to change. Mornings are late, afternoons are lazier and evenings never end; meditations are filling out the time for Yoga routines and Netflix profiles are strewn with half-finished movies. This state-mandated, state-funded period of idleness is being likened to being called up to serve, but is nothing like that: Such a comparison is really an affront to the idea of service. Instead, this is just one long streak of panic; of the centre not holding and life not going on as usual. With the usual patterns and rules in suspended animation and business talk - and business - being rendered meaningless, space is opening up for unusual questions: Is Capitalism about to end? Is this the death of globalisation? Does it get uglier from here? My grandfather's generation would have scoffed at us. They saw through wars and pandemics. But, in fairness, we haven't had a life-ending crisis of our own. Notwithstanding the experiences of th
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.