Slow down, you move too fast
The older I get, the more I struggle to understand why Bombay makes us run when we should try and walk instead
Why take the slow train when there's a fast? That question, above all, loomed large over the heads of my young classmates and myself when we were in college, back when teenagers could still enter a local train without the risk of being trampled to death.
We would stand at Marine Lines, calculating the amount of time we could save by rushing to the third platform instead of waiting for three minutes more at the first platform. The time we saved was negligible, of course, and didn't really matter because none of us were in charge of running the country. And yet, we did it every single day, running for the fast instead of enjoying the slow ride.
It wasn't just us. Millions of Bombayites take that lesson to heart at an early age. Millions who pour in every year from cities outside are compelled to play along. You can never stop and smell the flowers, because few flowers exist, and because stopping will prompt those behind you to slow down and abuse you. It's why we rush through breakfasts, rush to bus stops, urge rickshaw drivers to drive faster or jump traffic lights if there is no cop on the horizon, sneak through queues for tickets, and reach for overhead luggage bins before all airplanes cruise to a stop.
As a professional, I have been asked to slow down more times than I care to remember, always when I am working in a city outside, by people who can't seem to fathom where my need for speed comes from. It's why holidays are wasted on me, as the first couple of days go by with me impatiently waiting for my heart rate to slow down. I suspect it happens to most of us, the inability to switch off when we step outside the city and are suddenly confronted with people who don't rush through life the way we are trained to do.
I can sense this urgency even as I write this, the stumbling through sentences as I try and identify an ideal way of closing my argument. It boggles the mind, really, the lack of a coherent reason for why we rush through everything. It's not as if we live in a city geared towards getting us anywhere on time anyway.
Try driving through south Bombay any time this week for proof, as a thousand projects under construction stretch 10-minute trips to 55-minute crawls.
There are all kinds of downsides to our constant need to be fast and furious. There's the domino effect, for one, which compels everyone around us to start functioning at the pace we set, because we, in turn, have been asked to by our bosses or partners or colleagues.
There is the obvious impact on our mental and physical health, as our bodies are pushed to a breaking point and our minds are denied requisite amounts of peace and quiet.
There is another impact that is rarely acknowledged, which is on our ability to appreciate or process art. We don't mention art anymore because we have no longer allowed ourselves the luxury of engaging with it.
When was the last time you walked into an art gallery, for instance, or had a conversation with someone making something with her or his hands for the sole purpose of bringing a piece of something into being? When did the idea of engaging with it turn into a reason for scorn, or dismissal as a pastime for the rich?
We don't notice now that every painting, piece of music or film we consume is often less for our personal gratification and more for our fear of missing out. It's why we binge watch the same shows on Netflix for conversations about them at the office the next day, eat at restaurants more for bragging rights on Facebook than the food itself, reduce masterpieces of world art to items ticked off bucket lists, and beautiful places and events to Instagram moments.
There is a disservice being done here, not just to us and those around us. We consciously deny ourselves the knowledge, aesthetic pleasure and spiritual fulfilment that comes with genuinely engaging with a piece of art, because we usually have somewhere else to be. Our lives are poorer for it, but we're too busy planning our next day to know or care.
The older I get, the more I feel the need to stop and look around. What I have found has been magical.
You should try it too, sometime.
When he isn't ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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