Every man ought to excel in something. That was a lesson that was dinned into my head since childhood. Now, rack my brains as I would and put my entire lot of talents under the microscope (actually, I needed the microscope to locate them in the first place), I could not really find one single thing that could prove to be my area of excellence. How then was I to answer that eternal question, “Why was I born?”
Mothers are a boon to mankind. There I was, happily lolling in bed at 11 AM on a Sunday - teeth unbrushed, bowels fully loaded, eyes bleary and postponing the evil hour when I would have to get up to do all sorts of things. My mother walks in, shakes her head in exasperation and says, “God! You would win the first prize for laziness in any competition!”
I had found my area of excellence!
Can you believe that I read Bertrand Russell merely because he had written an essay “In praise of Idleness”? That essay did not have quite the sort of ideas that I was looking for but I got captivated by his turn of phrase on occasion. For example he, apparently, asked nuns about why they preferred bathing in bathrobes when there was no-one to see them there to which they piously replied, “Ah! You forget the Almighty God!” Russell says, “They obviously think of God as an Omnipotent Peeping Tom who can see through walls but is foiled by bathrobes”. Nifty, isn’t it? Though what sort of person would go to a nunnery on purpose to have a detailed discussion about the nuns’ bathing habits beats me! (Not germane to the topic under discussion? I know – just thought I would mention it!)
The problem with trying to excel in anything is that people just will not let you do so. You cannot even depend on your own family to support you in your aspirations. Try achieving the pinnacle of laziness by turning in a blank answer sheet for a test and your father takes the belt to you. (Ah!
Where were you when I needed you the most?) Why will parents always want their
children to succeed in achieving their (the parents’) dreams and not allow the
child to pursue its own dreams?
Now you may say that if I had truly wanted to excel, I should have done so despite all obstacles. But then it was not your backside that was getting tanned, was it? Actually there is a grain of truth in what you say – there were people around me who did keep up the standard despite similar encounters with leathern articles. It is just that I found it more strenuous to duck the belt a zillion times every day than to write a few tests once a month!
Growing into adulthood I thought that I would now be able to exercise my talents without restraint. Not really! I mean when even your body does not support you what can you do? When the belly clamors for three meals a day (if that is all you can manage) and the restaurants insist unreasonably on getting paid if they fed me, I had to join a job. Employers also had this quaint notion that giving me a job meant that I was also expected to work at it. As though the grace of my presence had not sufficiently justified my salary! Ah! No-one understands me!
I had never actually given up on my quest till the day I heard this story about one of my distant uncles. (Ah! Before Oprah asks, let me clarify that we Indians keep track of third and fourth cousins of our parents and grandparents – at least up to my generation!) Apparently, if a mosquito sat on his arm and started operations he would call out for his son to come and squash it! Now that is dedication to the ideal of laziness when even your reflexive reactions are under the iron control of your dedication to idling. What chance do I have of overtaking a Karma Yogi (or should it be Nishkarma yogi) like this.
I must start on a quest to find another area to excel in – though my dedication to my earlier quest has rendered me sufficiently lazy to be unable to put much effort into this new quest.