Spit Take | Life & Style

An ode to inefficiency



This morning, as I went about my occasional task of cutting vegetables – in my own random, clumsy manner despite months of daily practice during the lockdowns – I thought of my friend the efficiency expert, hired by rich people to make them richer.

The gent who could do the Rubik’s Cube with one hand while doing Sudoku with the other as he mentally calculated how much I had lost in the stock market in the minute it took him to do all three tasks.

Had he seen my astoundingly imprudent ‘method’ of peeling the chow chow, dropping the knife several times as I did it, humming a TMS song repeatedly despite cold stares from my wife, I would have been soundly reprimanded. He would have told me how I could have done the whole thing in half the time, using half the amount of energy, creating half the waste. And have loads of time left over to do three more tasks. Like buying him a chilled beer. Giving him a shoulder massage. And his commission.

Making me look foolish. Which I do anyway.

I continued chopping the chow chow into asymmetric cubes. I could see Sundaram Mama through the window, doing his ritual thoppukaranam under his wife’s watchful gaze for allowing Sri Vegan their Lab to order biryani on Swiggy, and I thought of the things my friend the efficiency expert wouldn't have built into his scientific estimate of my inefficiency. And the formidable, non-bankable accrued benefits thereof, that day, and every day of my life: the benefit of staring at trees, observing the rhythm patterns of tail-thumping squirrels, winning imaginary arguments with real world leaders, pondering over whether performance poetry should be made a non-bailable offence, meditating on why character actors in old films always removed their spectacles before saying something profound, drawing pictures of my old maths teacher and various mathematical symbols in an array of neo-Kamasutran positions ... which had led me to think maybe it wasn’t so terrible (like I was) to be bad at maths.

Because maths tells you addition trumps subtraction. And multiplication is preferable to division. That ascending is order, and descending, disorder. That progression is progression only if it’s geometric. That more is greater than less. And that less could never be more. And that there is only one right answer. And that’s always a number.

Which made me consider that maybe it looked like I was bad with numbers because I was a tad better with letters. Letters that constantly joined up in my head to form words which arranged themselves into sentences that told me stories, which revealed that the right answer was rarely ever a number.

Which in turn led me to conclude that (had this hypothetical scenario taken place) I would have had to tell my friend that the only efficiency we need is in how quickly we can empathize. The only routes we need to declutter are the ones that take us to truth. And the only production we need to double is our compassion.

And all this would have taken time. And effort. And it would have been wasteful because he wouldn't have understood. And I may have been punched in the face. Yet again.

Which is why I sort of disconnected with him. Ages ago. Expending no energy, and with zero wastage. Leaving me with ample time to disconnect with more people and stare at thousands more squirrels thumping their tails and wonder why there wasn’t as yet a sequel to Veerasamy.

How's that for efficiency?

Krishna Shastri Devulapalli is a satirist. He has written four books and edited an anthology.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2022 4:41:56 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/an-ode-to-inefficiency/article65557171.ece