I have been deeply distressed at the developments of the last few days. Many aspects of the situation have caused me anguish. We are all aware that procrastination is pervasive. It operates at every level. The patient person may carry its greatest burden, but it is an affliction that every Indian is desperate to be rid of. Fighting procrastination is as integral to eliminating dishonesty as saying ‘ma kasam’ is after making every promise. Yet it is equally imperative to the growth and development of our nation. We cannot wish away filibustering [OED: prolonged speaking or other action which obstructs progress in a legislative assembly while not technically contravening the required procedures] by the mere desire to see it removed from our lives.
This requires a comprehensive framework of action supported by all levels of the State from the lazy to the most cunning. Most importantly, it requires a firm understanding of time.
In the past few years I have paced up and down the length and breadth of my room. I have watched and read scores of TV news channels and newspapers, pro-government and anti-government, high TRPs/circulation and low TRPs/circulation, English and Hindi, which have shared their disillusionment with me. In the last few months, my punctilious neighbour Mr Patranobis has helped me to articulate this same sentiment. I thank him.
I believe that the real question before us as the people of India today is whether we are prepared to take the battle against procrastination head on. It is not a matter of how the present impasse will resolve; it is a much greater battle. There are no simple solutions. To eradicate sloth demands a far deeper engagement and sustained commitment from each one of us, the comatose included.
Witnessing the events of the last few days it would appear that the enactment of a single action on time will usher a procrastination-free society. I have serious doubts about this belief. Lifting a finger is only one element in the legal framework to combat endemic delays. Acting on a thought alone can’t be a substitute for a comprehensive anti-delaying code. A set of effective regulation of activities is required.
Rules that address the following critical issues are necessary to stand alongside the quick action of lifting a finger: 1) daily morning yoga, 2) proper cleansing of the bowels, 3) healthy intake of nutrients, 4) avoidance of stimulants such as alcohol, tobacco and psychotropic substances; and 5) having a good supply of post-its so that chores are remembered and completed in an effective and time-bound manner.
We speak of an action taken report but our discussions cease at the point of checking about the quality of the action taken. Why not elevate the debate and fortify every action that needs to be taken by making them accountable to a trained snail for whom rush jobs will be anathema? I feel the time has come for us to seriously consider this idea. Rules and regimes are not enough. A nice and accessible wall clock is central to fighting procrastination.
Individuals have brought our country great gains. They have galvanised people in the cause of freedom and development. However, individual dictates, no matter how well intentioned, must not weaken the process of quality control. This process is often tiring to the bones, ligaments and the brain. But this is so that any timely action does not falter in quality.
Today the proposed rule is against procrastination. Tomorrow the target may be something less universally heralded. It may attack the time and care required to produce great art, make scientific breakthroughs, culture cheese and mature wines, and develop long-term relationships.
India’s biggest achievement is our sense of time. It is the life force of our nation. I believe we need a longer time period for our politics. I believe in more time to be given to political parties to act on the promises they make. I believe in our youth slowing things down a bit; in opening the doors to let some breeze in, instead of using them only to walk in and out. I believe in the feeling of grooviness moving deeper and deeper into our villages and our cities.
The pursuit of letting things take their own sweet time is the greatest of our ideals. It won us our freedom. It gave us our democracy. Let us commit ourselves to avoiding the mad rush to do everything that is important. We owe it to the people of India.