When I was small, I used to wistfully look at the hobby selection of my friends. Some were good at stamp collection and had friends in distant corners of the world exchanging philately. During our childhood days, we used to have a candy called Fruitex that had stamps just under the wrapper. People would spend days, months and years collecting stamps from Magyar Posta, USSR and countries whose names we couldn’t pronounce.
Then there were others who liked gardening, photography, travel, poetry, writing, singing. One was into collecting coins too. I too wanted to have a hobby. Poetry and writing suited me most and I liked them. However, the one hobby that I really liked to spend much of my time on was Procrastination. “Don’t put off until tomorrow that which you can do today”, the scriptures taught me that. But, the thought of procrastinating things was far too attractive a temptation not to be tried out. In any case I argued that I could do all those things better tomorrow what I could do today.
The thought of lazily spending the day without much care about doing anything was my vision of an idyllic world. The man who invented the wheel was my ideal; life could go on and on, round and round, without too much of effort. One number that had attraction for me was Beatles’ Let It Be. Another favourite ditty of mine was:
And Noah, he often said to his wife,
Whenever he sat down to dine,
“I don’t care where the water goes,
If it doesn’t get into the wine”.
First of all the ring of the word itself held fascination for me: a Pro word like Progress, Promotion, and Prophylactic unlike those stupid, senseless Anti words such as Antipathy, Anticipation and Antibiotics. Secondly, the last part of the word is spelt as ‘n-a-t-i-o-n’ and I felt that I was doing my duty to the country by being an avid follower of ‘Procrastination’. In this I had healthy competition from our judges and lawyers, politicians and babus; for years, these worthies have been serving the nation by procrastinating everything. Our countrymen too, used to such inherent delays, have angrily questioned, for example, as to what was the flaming hurry in recently hanging a terrorist after merely twenty-two years of trial?
But then, a hobby is different from a vocation or way of life with some of our authorities. RK Laxman’s cartoons about such procrastination brought us untold mirth. In one of these, a politician visits his village constituency after several years of promising them water and electricity. The poor villagers were so excited that in another decade or so someone or the other from the government would look at the promise and see feasibility.
The government of India (irrespective of political parties) turned out to be my biggest competitor in procrastination. As the Republic was constituted on 26 January 1950, it declared India to be a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic, assuring its citizens of justice, equality, and liberty, and endeavours to promote fraternity among them. The words “socialist” and “secular” were added to the definition in 1976 by the 42nd constitutional amendment (mini constitution). Where are we 65 years later? Are we making any serious attempts to provide justice, equality, liberty, socialism and secularism? Are we promoting any fraternity among people? Quite the opposite. But, the future is bright and in another hundred years or so our politicians would have actually delivered. Until then, they would keep arguing about what constitutes poverty.
My next competitors were the judges and lawyers and all those connected with providing justice to our countrymen. I had such a lot of competition from them that I knew that however hard I tred I could never emerge as the champion of procrastination in comparison to them. I used to think that the primary aim of our judicial system was to provide livelihood to lawyers and judges and other court officials. Now I know that it is the only reason. Procrastination is a way of life with them. Most of what they do in terms of providing justice is to give you another date of hearing. There are cases in our courts that were started in the times of present litigants parents and grandparents. Imagine if a perpetrator of terror in India’s leading city was convicted after 22 years, how much longer land and other civil dispute cases would take? Thanks to procrastination by the Indian courts, most Indians now believe in divine justice.
All those involved with the implementation of something called OROP (One Rank One Pension) for the Indian Armed Forces – the same Armed Forces that, in 1971, took only 12 days to sort out the problem of East Pakistan – deserve a Lifetime Achievement Award for their excellence in this hobby of procrastination. I could never match their skills.
Our bureaucrats or babus art in procrastination put me in total awe of them. They weild power through this art. The more they procrastinate the richer they become because people are ready to pay underhand for anything that would make our bureaucratic process – reputed to rank amongst the slowest in the world – faster. Aporopriately, this money is called speed-money. Lets say, you want to start a small factory manufacturing pipes for irrigation. Excellent idea. But, you want to start it during your lifetime itself! Problem. In order to obtain all the clearances, if you are so idealistic as to cringe from paying speed-money your factory would be a pipe-dream.
Our engineers and contractors involved in providing public infrastructure such as roads translate their hobby of procrastination into making more and more money. Projects that were to originally cost A-crores, due to their inimitable skills at procrastination eventually cost A x 10 and in some cases A x 20.
Something called Investigation or Inquiry in India still ranks amongst the highest form of procrastination; order one and you as a neta or babu is free from the burdens of responsibility or accountability for decades.
With this kind of stiff competition, I finally realised that I cannot get anywhere in my hobby. There are Masters of Procrastination who have been doing it for generations without much competition.
I took to writing and poetry and music. Next, I am thinking of stamp-collection!
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