Life-life balance


In that one day, the season changed.  The cold, crisp, stillness of the early morning winter air gave way to a gentle breeze that now and then wafted through the window, caressing the new warmth. Days turned dry. It was Holi. Leaves sprouted on expectant branches and the koyal made her loud comeback. She sang and so did the maynas. They sat not only on tree branches but also on the tv cables that hung high between buildings.  Birdsong filled all times of day.

The whole world seemed to be ‘tweeting’ when a banker friend from Mumbai WhatsApp-ed.  A busy executive, mother and homemaker.  Did I know good Hindustani classical music teachers in our area, she asked. She wanted to ‘implement’ some work-life balance.  I see that, I get that.  I replied telling her of a music school close by.  But our experience of reality is subjective, so are our responses.

One evening, months later, I WhatsApp-ed her back.

“Hey did you call the music school? What happened?” I asked 

“Not yet, but targeting Quarter 2”, she replied.  

EOD.  I primed the partially baked jowar bhakri with a thin layer of basil tomato puree, and topped it with a mix of Kodai smoked colby and mozzarella cheese.  I wasn’t sure how this dinner experiment would turn out.  There wasn’t any prescribed recipe.  I carefully arranged a few sun-dried tomatoes on top of my ‘swadeshi’ pizza.  I was loving the tryout.

‘Targeting quarter 2’ triggered the musing…successful, urbane life-calendars fixed by a financial year.  Then halved, further quartered and finally carefully sliced into days.  The crisp to-do lists.  Small goals that must lead up to the big ones.  Exhortations to have a ‘big dream’, a big goal. Measurable, quantifiable, picturesque and ‘share’-able.

Then, the work-life balance goals.  Like work and life are two separate things.  After the to-do lists, the bucket lists.  Stuff we must want to very badly do before we kick the bucket, before we are dead and gone.  Then, prioritise the bucket list, of course.  Figure out the number 1 thing .  Implement it. The stress builds.

There is some disharmony about the way this is approached, I thought, as I carefully laid the pizza on the grill, balancing so that no ingredient would fall off.   Work-life balance or achievement pressure in disguise?!  Then, I set the oven alarm.

And, oh yes – time.  To make up for the lousy time, the idea of ‘quality time’.  Quality time with the parents, the kids, the spouse, the lover.  The quality ‘me’ time.  The stress builds.

Where’s the music? That too, must be addressed through targets. The stress builds.

The alarm rang.  The pizza was ready.  Work-life balance doesn’t cut it for me.  Quality time is a short-lived idea.  As for bucket lists, they don’t wash well.

How about going with our inner flow? A flow whose timing, strength and direction one may not immediately understand or predict.  An aspiration to actualise the self, not an ambition to always perform to goals.  Presence not goals.  Discovering, not achieving. There may be a difference between ‘being’ and ‘becoming’. Is that worth knowing?  Life is one ‘whole’ thing.  It works well that way.

“Nobody really knows what they want to be”, Siddhartha Mukherjee was saying at the Express Adda in Delhi  “we retrofit it to what we become”.   His words sang to me.

I rushed to pull the jowar pizza out.  Tried to slice it, but couldn’t.  Jowar bhakris don’t slice well.  This one may need to be picked up whole and bitten into.  Hmm. Not bad.

Actually, it’s delicious.

 

 

4 comments

  1. Yes, the narrative does follow out of our need for a sense of continuity. But isn’t “inner flow” also a narrative as much as “work-life balance” is? Don’t both come about only on reflection and as a way to make sense of ourselves and our world? And can we really, as if in some “objective truth for all” way decide which makes more sense or do we see it as within the context of where any life with its experiences and learnings and understanding is at any point in time based?

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  2. Hmmmm …thought provoking . Men….men, how do they look at this issue , I pondered . For most like me I should think our educational degree is our capital. We deploy it somewhere hoping that it will grow . It does but at its own pace . This is where men make the big mistake ! They do not have any idea how much they would be needing when they are 60 or 70. So work work and work with very little balance in life . No sports. No hobbies . No family time .
    At the end ,nearing 60 or 70 they are completely lost. They have money more than they would ever need at that phase of life . They do not know what to do with it.

    They are lost for ever

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