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What a peaceful life!

Finding a balance was the key, and the days of the lockdown have been a time of reflection without tiring duties

Life, all of a sudden, took a positive spin in a brand new dimension because of the lockdown, at least for me. It used to be too tumultuous, with a formidable daily schedule, desperately stumbling each day upon a lot many activities, including three hours of travel to my college.

Finding a balance was the key. I now wake up only by 8 a.m., do yoga taking my own time, have a cup of tea made by my husband, water my little vegetable garden on the rooftop, and cook. Nowadays, it is great to watch my husband help in house work, especially in keeping everything immaculate at home to keep the contagion away.

What a peaceful life! No tiring journey, not even to go out for daily essentials. Even the hand sanitiser is take care of. The faculty members of the Chemistry Department where I teach have prepared it following the WHO’s prescribed formula not just to meet the internal requirements but also to be distributed to the needy.

No panic is seen in my grown-up children, though forced to spend their entire time with their parents. It’s my 14-year-old daughter who has been a revelation, a “jack of all trades”, who wishes to be a fashion designer, architect, musician, chef, artist, author, computer programmer, pilot and what not! How I yearned to become all these in my childhood, but somehow turned to be more “practical” later on. The decision was in resonance with the subliminal societal bias, only to focus upon one profession, putting to sleep all the rest of my cherished desires within me. I worried that there was something wrong with me and that I was self-sabotaging the freedom for my own success. I was disheartened all along, not living up to my potential. But of course, now I am delighted at least during this lockdown period, as I strive to be a multipotentialite.

Without doubt, it is the version that enables me to drink my life to the lees these days. The ideal of the Renaissance person originated in Italy, based on the belief that a man’s capacity of personal development is without limits. Knowledge should be everyone’s goal and each should have competence in a broad range of abilities. One should not agree on a single identity. Like Leonardo da Vinci, who was not only an outstanding painter but also a sculptor, engineer, inventor, philosopher, cartographer, paleontologist, astronomer and a lot more!

The notion of the narrowly focused life is highly romanticised in our culture. This is the time when specialisation has been touted as the ultimate key. Specialists, referred to as “divers”, are considered more important than generalists. They thrive in their fields, knowing everything about something. Even in the field of education and training, you are likely to funnel into channels of increasing specialisation. My daughter is asked to choose her options in school to limit her boundaries of learning. Children are told that they should be an expert in one thing and should narrow down the focus of their interest.

Of course, we need specialists, but generalists are equally important. Leaders tend to be generalists, who can switch course in multiple areas and thus be more flexible.

Though “jack of all trades and master of none” has a negative connotation within our culture, adopting such an attitude helped me and my teenage daughter to overcome the dullness during the lockdown. What moved the needle for me towards my writing pursuit was the accidental meeting of a renowned writer friend of mine, to whom I owe a lot in my life, without which my greatest passion must still have been in deep slumber within me.

Of course, any human being can be a polymath. To take a cue from Robert Heinlein’s novel Time Enough for Love, “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” Yes, let us leave it to the insects and celebrate life in its diversity, like the dazzling rainbow hidden in the white light!

Multipotentialites are blessed with some superpowers, adaptability being one among them. It is the ability to morph into whatever you need to be in a given situation. During the lockdown, I have an incredible experience like water that takes the shape of the containers into which it is poured but flows freely as ever.

meeravasundhati@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jun 7, 2020 12:11:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/what-a-peaceful-life/article31550472.ece

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