I finally saw Dear Zindagi and, for me, the defining moment came when SRK advises Alia Bhatt’s character, wondering whether she should take on a career-changing assignment that would mean working alongside her ex, to simply cop out. He put it better, by telling us about a certain Pyarelal-ji, who merrily went to Mount Everest unprepared and was gobbled up by a snow leopard. So, when you’re unprepared, why not just stay put and rest, recharge, recuperate?
A revolutionary idea for our times, defined by the fear of missing out or #FOMO. And it’s not just about keeping up with friends on Facebook and their holiday updates, but the constant challenge to achieve the next big thing. In the film, it’s left to Alia’s brother to tell the parents that his sister is not unemployed and she’s simply taking a break, out of choice. No, she’s not going on a road trip, she’s not taking up a hobby…she’s simply trying to clear the mess in her head.
I’m not recommending the movie (and, dear trolls, I have not been paid by the filmmakers!), but it’s a reminder to laugh a little, live a little. Sometimes, just doing nothing takes you to places inside of you, which would be out of reach otherwise. We don’t think twice before sending kids off to camp during summer holidays, stacking up courses to make our resumes look good, putting weekends to “good use” with a checklist of things to do. Too busy to slow down. When someone calls and asks what you’re up to, the answer is rarely, if ever, “Nothing”.
The problem is real. We need to get those voices in our head, that constantly remind us of what needs to be done, to stop! In short, we need to practice doing nothing. In an interview, Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh was quoted praising the merits of aimlessness. He said, “…the point of aimlessness is to stop running and find happiness in the here and the now.” There are also great benefits to doing nothing. Manfred Kets de Vries, professor at INSEAD, in his paper Doing Nothing and Nothing To Do: The Hidden Value of Empty Time and Boredom, writes that slacking off may be the best thing we could do for our mental health. “Seemingly inactive states of mind can be an incubation period for future bursts of creativity.”
There are websites that offer help. One challenges you to do nothing for two minutes while you listen to the sound of waves. Another that calls itself the International Institute of Not Doing Much offers tips—put your feet up and stare idly out of the window, yawn often, spend more time in bed.
The next appointment you need to keep, perhaps, is with yourself, to do nothing. Keep calm and don’t carry on…just be!