Subho's Jejune Diet is one of the most avidly read blogs on Indiblogger. It's a must read for all of you looking for gyan on parenting, photography, investment, yoga... The man is a storehouse of knowledge! Once in a blue moon, he deigns to write a hard-hitting satire or a poignant story and leaves mere mortals like me whining for more. Presenting Subhorup's musings exclusively for A-Musing....
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There is something special about Sundays. Rather than being the proverbial day of rest for me, Sunday has been the day to get the more important things done. The quiet coolness of the morning is perfectly balanced by the bite of a hot cup of tea as I sit after watering my tiny balcony garden and review my week, refresh my task list, and rejoice in the mysticism of domesticity.
A good number of my friends have a very different kind of Sunday. They work incredible hours during the week. When I call them at what I consider start of business, they have already packed in some power yoga, a power walk, a power breakfast, and a couple of business meetings. This frenzy is repeated in the evening, and in the case of people working with partners across the globe, into the night. Come Friday, they let their hair down, and then some more the next evening. As a result, they need much of their Sunday to recover from all of this letting down of hair. The maid is asked to come late, and the day begins as close to lunch time as possible. Before one knows it, the weekend is over, and it is back to the grind. I know this because I have lived this life for a good number of years too.
A couple of years back, I suddenly realized that I had sacrificed all my waking hours at the altar of building corporate profit. I had not only lost control over what I could do with my life and my time during the week, but also lost out on the magic of Sundays. I made a decision, not an easy one, to reclaim my life and to live deliberately, doing what was important in my scheme of things. It has not been an easy journey, but one that has been immensely rewarding. One of the greatest rewards has been the re-discovery of Sundays. From an outsider’s perspective, this might seem strange, as I don’t do anything that is conventionally understood as work all week, so Sundays should theoretically be no different.
The nature of my relationship with Sundays has morphed with time and as I have grown (or degenerated, some will say) as a person. Except for the aforementioned period when my Sundays were like punctuation in a Joycean rant, they have, however, been singularly rewarding all through my time on this planet.
These days, in the place of shaking sleep out by badgering me, the missus rises and shines by herself on Sundays and gets to finishing with the chores so that she is free by the time the great Indian guilt trip starts. This is followed by ninety minutes of peace as the phone doesn’t ring, the doorbell stays quiet, and even Twitter and Facebook go into a lull. The social media freeze continues well into Monday morning, with a million keystrokes churning out cathartic posts reiterating what Aamir Khan chooses to enlighten the nation on.
Sundays have been this distinctive right from my childhood. In the missionary boarding school that I went to, this was the only day of the week when you could clap and sing about how we were all going to hell in the wonderful acoustics of the chapel. At home during the vacations, it was usually luchi and alur-dom for breakfast followed by my parents friends dropping in for tea and conversation that stretched into lunch, with more conversation while sitting at the table with unwashed hands, till mom reminded everyone that she was making tea.
All good Bengali boys and girls grow up learning to sing Rabindra sangeet, and I was no exception. Sunday morning meant I would tuck my subsidized Bongolipi notebook under my arm, mom making sure my hair was oiled and combed, and head off to Subidh kaka’s house.
Every third Bengali is either a Tagore or claims to have narrowly missed being one. Subidh kaka was a Tagore too, and had a deep and resonating voice over which he had superb control. But in addition to that, he had large round eyes that kept rolling back into the top of his head as he immersed himself in the nuances of the words and music of Rabindranath. It would be very funny, and Bubai and Laltu and I would struggle to stifle our giggles. When it came to our turn to sing, our mirth would translate to strange quivers and trills that the songwriter had never imagined, followed by a total breakdown and Subidh kaka would be very surprised. Halfway through every lesson he would deliver a stern warning that if we giggled and rolled this way, he would stop teaching us. And that would have us rolling and giggling all over again. He would roll his eyes back again in exasperation and seek solace in music.
Once I had reached an age where I could hold my breath and refuse to go for these classes, it was time for the evergreen Bengali obsession, adda. As the epics unfolded on Doordarshan, our rootless khadi and denim glad band would gather at the local tea shop, and talk about everything under the sun. From Sarte to Jatin Chakraborty, nothing was deemed insignificant. And there was really no purpose greater than honing our logos-pathos-ethos abilities to these hysterical discussions. There were no set rules as to who would play gatekeeper and who would introduce a counterpoint just for the heck of it. The sessions ended with no conclusion, yet everyone went home to their Sunday lunch with a sense of having achieved something mysteriously significant.
As I left college behind and set out to support myself and create trouble on a larger scale, the concept of the day of rest emerged. Living in Bangalore bang on Brigade Road meant that Sunday mornings were the only time you could hear the birds call and the palm leaves rustle. Yes, there used to be birds calling and palm leaves rustling on Brigade Road in those days. All four of us who shared the apartment were fond of nature. We would wake up early on Sundays, make our way up to the sloping terrace, and enjoy nature.
Mrs. Kamath, our crazy and lovable old Mangalorean landlady, would smell nature wafting through the air and come out in the yard waving her walking stick and threaten to throw us out or report us to the police. At the high points of her tirade, she would lapse into Tulu some of which sounded like Bengali curse words to me. It was as much a routine for her as it was for us, since it would invariably be followed up almost immediately with a large platter of hot and delicate neer dosas that she would send up for us.
This culinary end to our morning nature study would be followed by classic rock and beer on the steps of Pecos and then a Malabari lunch at our favorite budget eatery, Kohinoor. At the start of the month, when all our wallets were loaded, Sunday mornings would find us at Koshy’s gorging on appams and mutton stew, a delicacy that was served only on Sunday mornings on first come first served basis. However, one had to wait till 11 to be able to order beer to wash it down with.
After settling down in Hyderabad, Sundays meant going book hunting in the used book market at Abids. Though you will find more of poorly printed pirated bestsellers here, one can still find classics and rare books if one invests the time and the effort of hunting through the piles of books that the seller stacks up at the corner of the stall rather than display them alongside chart-toppers. Another favorite Sunday activity of mine in Hyderabad is to walk through the flea market in the sidewalks leading up to Charminar. You can find everything from broken gramophones to second hand spectacles in these shops. A similar flea market springs up on Sundays at Erragadda. I have found some amazing music CDs and audio cassettes at these two places, but you will be well advised to carry a walkman and/or a discman to make sure that the disc or the tape plays satisfactorily.
I have never quite been able to convince my family and friends of the wisdom of getting out and doing things on a Sunday morning. At best, they tag along like fundamentalists at an all faith meeting. The streets are deserted, parking is in plenty, and public transport is comfortable. The stores are quiet, the billing queues non-existent, and the displays picture perfect. You can invariably walk up to the box office and be sure to get tickets for a Sunday morning show. Like the screening of counter culture classic in Metro cinema in Kolkata of my youth, a good part of serious Indian cinema finds a place in Sunday morning shows. In recent times, I have seen Leaving Home, perhaps the only documentary on an Indian fusion band and one that compares with the best in the genre globally, and Stanley ka Dabba, a brilliant piece of storytelling, on Sunday mornings.
The point of this extended discourse on my Sundays is simple. In the mad rush to have more and do more, we often fail to attend to our real purpose, to be all that we were meant to be. Our greed, our willful ignorance and our insecurities keep us from listening to our hearts and choosing the path that will bring the greatest good to the greatest number. There is no best time to see if you can listen to that calling but I have found that Sunday mornings tend to have that stillness that lets you hear it a little more clearly. God rested after six days of creation. In spite of all the evils that man perpetrates in his creation, I do not think he regrets what he has done, but he did give it a rest. I rest my case. May your Sundays be as meaningful as mine.