In his book on Hollywood,
Bring on the Empty Horses
, David Niven writes of a guy called Don The Beachcomber, who ran an exotic watering hole. This joint was hugely popular. When he had made enough money, he would put a sign outside the door saying, “Gone to the islands,” and go off to Hawaii to laze on the beach. When his money ran out, he would return, take down the sign and carry on business as usual.
This is the kind of life most rat-racers would like to lead, but then contentment is a very underrated virtue these days.
Slice of paradise
The guy who lived the good life, according to me, ran a tiny library in a small by-lane in the suburbs. He had a good selection of books, the kind he liked reading himself, the electric kettle bubbled all day, and there was tea and cookies going for all visitors.
They could also surf the net if they liked, for a small fee. In a few weeks, the place became a hang-out for serious book lovers as well as teenagers, who sometimes brought over their books to study in more conducive surroundings than their homes, sprawled over the sofa, or spilled over to the steps outside.
The young man who ran this small slice of paradise, sat there in a corner, read, wrote and chatted. When his landlord asked him to leave, he moved into his library. But that was too good to last.
In just a few months, he landed a well-paid job, shut down the place and became just another cog in the city’s wheel. But at least he resisted for a few months.
Of course, it’s next to impossible to live a halfway decent life in Mumbai without adequate funds. But even those who have enough, rarely break free to live out their dream lives — which are not confined to executive chairs in stuffy offices.
They are afraid of contentment, because the world says it means stagnation and death by boredom. But how much happier the world would be, if at least some people grow lazy and did not get into crowded trains to reach mind-numbing workplaces.
Never mind work, nowadays, even holidays have to go by a timetable, to squeeze as much ‘fun’ out of limited time and resources. They say, ‘Just chill’ very often but don’t know what it means to chill.
There was an old folk tale, about a man who was envious of his neighbour’s happy existence. One day he left a purse with Rs 99 outside his door. And that was the end of the happy neighbour’s contentment. He just had to turn that Rs 99 into Rs 100.. and then he wanted more.
My favourite tale is the one about the American lecturing the Indian lazing under the tree, to get up and make something of his life — make a lot of money and then spend your free time relaxing. The Indian looks up and says, “But that’s what I’m doing right now."