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Time and tide wait for this bunch

Procrastinating woman sitting in the office with her legs up on an alarm watch. Procrastination and laziness concept. Vector illustration.  

This world of ours is full of “anti-crastinators”, those goading us with their incessant “do it now” and cracking the whip on us peaceful procrastinators. They have the top jobs such as managing directors and for good measure, have grabbed positions of power in the domestic circuit — in-laws, uncles, aunts and spouses. This means the world runs pretty much on the unrealistic, unnecessary deadlines they set.

To clarify, unlike shirkers, we don’t avoid work; we only wait for the right moment to do it. Unfortunately, those who swear by deadlines swear at those who don’t.

It strikes me as strange that a world which lays so much importance on getting the right hour and precise minute for weddings and other ceremonies, doesn’t seem to care about any muhurat when it comes to work. But we procrastinators do care. So when you see us lolling in the sofa instead of completing that project report, it’s because the muhurat hasn’t yet struck us.

We Indians have been viewing time as a relative concept long before Einstein, and the joke about IST being Indian Stretchable Time is something we all grew up with. But it’s not Indians alone — procrastinators can form an elite international group. Bill Clinton was described by his Vice-President as “punctuality challenged”. Leonardo da Vinci waited for 16 years before he felt he got the smile on the lady right. I bet if today’s time management experts had been snapping at his heels, Mona Lisa would have ended up bang on schedule but indistinguishable from a film poster. Mozart was one of us too, and his views on the subject of postponing his creations should be music to our ears.

It was English poet and philosopher Edward Young who was the outlier. He stigmatised our noble vocation with “Procrastination is the thief of time”. So let me give you Young’s back story. He would manage to get handsome patronage from wealthy noblemen but none of it lasted. Soon after the agreements were done, his patrons’ fortunes inevitably took a downturn. If only Young had put off signing the deal and waited to see how his potential patrons fared, he would have ended up a richer man.

Lofty ideals

Well, whatever ordinary people say, you will find the force is with you. Let’s say, your wife has asked you to clear the loft. But for one reason or the other, you put off the task, overlooking her reminders. The reasons are sound — your back has been hurting, you need a longer broom, and you have not yet found a place to store those old issues of Readers’ Digest. After a month or so, you will find that the loft has been cleared. No point in enquiring about details. Obviously, there is some cosmic force at work.

If you still can’t make up your mind about all this, turn to that unfailing fount of wisdom — vintage Bollywood. A timeless Raj Kapoor classic has this gem: Jo aaj karna hai, woh kal; jo kal karna hai woh parson; aisi kya jaldi hai jab jeena hai barson? It’s time we changed the world’s image about ourselves with a Procrastinators’ Manifesto. I promise I will get down to writing it this afternoon. Or perhaps tomorrow…

jairam.menon@gmail.com

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Printable version | May 13, 2021 5:12:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/time-and-tide-wait-for-this-bunch/article34343143.ece

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