For most people, it is the illness or the loss of a parent that would be one’s first encounter with death. Raghubir, or Raghu as his friends called him, was blessed, or cursed, with a vivid imagination and a propensity to talk to himself; ever since his father was diagnosed of a cancer which Raghu argues he did not deserve. Often, as a blackout would ensure no TV transmission, he would lie on the couch too aware of his breathing and the ticking of his clock – and the lack of harmony between the two – he would realize that there would come a moment when time would run out for all.
He was determined to be with his father as much as he possibly could, not because of a sense of duty but because he wanted to be near him, to enjoy the sound of his laughter, to reassure and to be reassured by his presence. However, creating time enough for that was Raghu’s greatest challenge. Being a successful ad designer he had immeasurable demands on his time; a pretty wife running a boutique and a four year old energetic rascal of a son squeezed the clock even further.
It was therefore a remarkable coincidence that Raghu was assigned a campaign for a clock maker, that obliquely wished to project itself as one that automatically improved Time Management & Time Poverty. It had been some time since Raghu’s mother had passed on; Raghu wryly wondered as to how come he, with so many labour saving devices and just one child, be not better off than his mother who had five kids and no washing machine?
Raghu quizzed his Guru. He was told that whereas most people had more time saving gizmos, they had become more finicky about cleanliness that their mothers and had willy nilly created more hurdles in their daily schedules inasmuch as putting themselves in a perpetual state of anxiety. Raghu was impressed by the analysis. Sure, Mom had been a stickler for cleanliness, but he was passionate about neatness and freshness; he had the money to buy fresh flowers, pretty pictures and more classy furniture. Raghu would admit that he was trying to create something perfect and was unhappy if there be clutter or dust. In moments of honesty, he would admit to being a show off to friends. Why, his wife would be the first one to joke that if he introduced an article into the house, he would first remove all traces of human life before someone could arrive.
The Guru’s thoughts on the impact of one’s working lives rang just as true. Work had become a new religion, a way to satisfy the hunger for meaning in life. Raghu was all to aware that he looked to work as a means to provide him with a sense of identity and a security for the future. And because he invested so much time in his working life, he liked to reward himself and his family with material things. Frequently, he would spend money before he earned it. And later, because of the niggling worry of debt, Raghu would remain chained to the treadmill even though in fleeting moments he would crave a respite.
Then one day the Guru took Raghu aside and suggested that he adopt the art of living in the moment as a possible antidote to the self-inflicted stress caused by Time Poverty. Stemming from a very Buddhist concept, it meant that one should enjoy each moment of activity for its own sake rather than trying to do lots of thing at once and constantly casting the mind forward to the chores ahead. Coincidentally, after that session, Raghu rushed back home after work to take his son to an exhibition.
Seeing the level of his fatigue, Poonam, his wife, offered to do the same, giving Raghu an hour of free time. Eyeing the clock, Raghu gratefully accepted the offer, and started to lay the table for an early dinner. After doing what was necessary, Raghu sat on the hallroom sofa and took a deep breath. It was a fine evening, not quite dark with a cool breeze billowing the light window curtains. It had been all of two years since Raghu had moved into the modern neighbourhood, but he had never stopped by for a moment to savour his home alone, for itself, and in conjunction with other homes. He did just that for the next twenty minutes, and by the time his family returned he was quite relaxed.
From that day on, Raghu made it a point to practise the art of living in the moment whenever he got the chance. He cleared his schedule of non-essential tasks, postponed house and garden plans and turned down some prestigious extra work. It was his father’s illness that became a once-in-a-lifetime-event and on which he concentrated. He recalled that at no time had he felt pressured or deprived himself of time in the past. In realizing that now it was his father who was truly being robbed of time, he cleared his mind of so much that he had falsely believed was important. Slowly but surely, Raghu felt a certain calmness as be recognized the return of a sense of humour that had eluded him in his penchant for more and more work. His days of happiness had arrived at last.
On night over dinner, Raghu and Poonam were discussing a party they had thrown a week earlier. “The Bhatias are such an interesting couple”, he said. “She has an MA from BHU, and he is a PhD from IIT”. At this juncture, Raghu’s son put down his spoon in disgust. “What’s wrong?” Poonam asked, to which the boy replied, “You’re always spelling, and I never get to know what you guys are talking about.” Raghu laughed like he hadn’t for years, thrilled with his new found mirth.
There would be days when Raghu would watch a movie with his son – really watching it, rather than sneakily trying to read a newspaper while going through the motions as he would normally have done. Often he would watch over him as he drifted into sleep, listening to the dispassionate ticking of the clock as unreclaimable moments passed into the night. Yes, Raghu’s tale teaches us that there are simple things one can do to enrich life. The greatest danger is in Man’s rush to jump over the hurdles he has set himself, he forgets that time is a limited resource to be used with wisdom, not robotically. What a supreme Pity it would be if one lives life by being too busy to notice what really matters. Today, quite often Raghu is known to quote Jim Carrey “ I challenge anybody in their darkest moment to write what they are grateful for, even stupid little things like green grass or a friendly conversation with somebody on the elevator. You start to realize how rich you are.”