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Friday, June 14, 2024

In Praise of the Unplanned Life

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The point I am trying to make is, we spend so much time in planning things that we forget to enjoy the moment for what it is: a simple get-together where everyone is having a good time. 

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During my son’s wedding last month, there was so much to do that there came a time when I began to feel overwhelmed. There were lists to be made; of caterers and decorators, excel sheets to be prepared of guests arriving, hotels to be booked and so on. There was so much data on caterers, event managers, decorators, priests, musicians, hotels etc. so that, instead of finalizing things and getting on with it, I became mired in lists. Of course, every friend who had had a wedding had other suggestions including inane ones like – lose at least 10 kilos of your weight so you don’t look like the typical saas (how?); go to a good stylist for your wedding clothes ( but they cost money) get a hydro- glow facial, (but what if that makes my skin worse?) and don’t take any tension
during the wedding so that you look good in the photographs (yes, I want to relax right away, so I look dreamy in the photos).
With limited resources of manpower and time, there came a point when I decided that what mattered most was that the wedding proceed with understated elegance, rather than resemble the proverbial fat Telugu wedding. It even dawned on me that we were not conducting an awards night function, but only a son’s wedding with close people. That it was a time to celebrate,
and not stress over the décor or food. I realized that the friends and family who came, were not going to examine the flower decorations and lights, or comment on the food, but were there because they genuinely cared about our milestone moment.

The point I am trying to make is, we spend so much time in planning things that we forget to enjoy the moment for what it is: a simple get-together where everyone is having a good time. It’s the same thing with our holidays and careers, and outings to gyms and
dinners. Our whole life in fact, is planned month to month, day to day, even hour to hour. The minute a child is born is followed by furious and meticulous planning; from admissions to the right kindergarten so that he gets into a good school, then a good high school, then an ivy league college, and of course, then a great job with a big corporation. Everything is planned from the word go. In
all this, the child is not allowed to have a free hour that he can call his own. 
Everything in his life must serve some larger purpose of college and career: there’s no longer a play time, but the activity should take the child further in some cognitive ability or motor skill. Going to school is not enough, there must be extra classes where the child learns football or piano, swimming or all of it. Teaching a child to be kind and selfless is no longer about getting him to be a good human being. Rather, helping the poor and homeless has to be resumé- worthy! Do parents really need to plan the whole life of a child? On an everyday basis, a little boredom is not a bad thing. Lack of structured activities spurs a child’s imagination and he finds joy in picking up flowers and leaves or playing in the sand.
Even staying healthy is a matter of thought and planning which itself can make us unhealthy with the stress it can cause. We go to dieticians and nutritionists to tell us what to eat, as if none of us know eating mindfully and moderately, eating seasonal foods would keep our body and mind healthy. We also plan elaborate fasting rituals and gym routines when anyone with an ounce of
sense would know being physically active should keep us fit. With this much planning we are taking the fun out of eating and even exercising. Why must we plan to walk 10,000 steps because someone said that is the right amount of exercise you need daily? Surely we can decide on how many steps depending on our energies that morning?
In the world we live in, everything has to have a purpose and a plan, whether it is work or play. We must make the right friends, eat at the right places, and make the right marriage. No one makes a friend with someone simply because she has lived your dream life of backpacking through Spain, or has read all of Ruth Ozeki. These days, you make friends because someone is well connected
and will be useful to you in your life, now or later. What’s more, it’s not even called making friends anymore, rather it’s known as, ‘networking.’
We plan holidays, our friendships, and our future in such minute detail that we are heartbroken when plans fall flat as they are wont to. When you reflect, you realize the only real moment is the one we are in, and it is best to live in that moment. So, seize the moment to talk to a friend you’ve long wanted to get in touch with, or go on that cruise you always dreamed of.

We plan holidays, and our friendships, our future in such minute detail that we are heartbroken when plans fall flat as they are wont to 

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