K S S Pillai
A friend asked me the other day, “Why do couples in the West go for a divorce on the flimsiest of grounds while we are stuck with the same life partner till death?” He had just read a joke where a man thought the woman he saw at a function was familiar but could not place her. She was one of his past wives, but he could not remember her as he had married and divorced many times.
The Indian culture considers marriage to be a holy alliance. It becomes dull after the novelty wears off a few years later, but even to think of permanent separation is a sin. The couple goes on tolerating each other, accepting the partner’s good and bad qualities as fate. They produce children, try to live up to the image of a normal couple, and die.
The main reason for boredom is said to be the individual’s refusal to be ‘in a constant flux’. He follows the same routine, refusing to adopt anything new. He has the same interests, the same friends, and the same outlook throughout his life. He would not think of changing the curtains or getting his milk from a different source.
He goes to bed at a fixed time every night and wakes up at the same time every day. If employed, he goes on doing the same work for many years. Those who take interest in politics refuse to change their loyalty and vote for the same political party that was patronized by their fathers and grandfathers.
Experts advise us to make life less dull by taking a few simple steps. Take a different route to the market, or purchase your vegetables from a new vendor, they suggest. We can change the seating arrangement at the dining table frequently to make dining a less boring experience.
Food can be served on different types of plates. Breakfast can be made more interesting by not sticking to the same dish throughout the week. Those with the reading habit can make it a different experience by changing the newspaper or magazines after every few months.
It is said that boredom, the result of laziness, is the emotional or physical state one experience due to a lack of mental stimulation, activities, or interest in one’s surroundings. We can overcome it with positive productivity, like cleaning our living space, reading a book, spending time with a friend or family member, memorizing some stanzas of the Scripture, or praying. Or we can explore ways to serve others within our capacity. The example of ants, always busy collecting grains or storing them, is often quoted to prove the point.
I have a neighbour who was interesting in the beginning. I used to look forward to his visits. The whole family would enjoy the stories he narrated in his unique style. For a change, I would visit his place often and have coffee prepared in the traditional way, using the same quantity of sugar and milk and served in the same old cup. Over the years, he has become a bore. He repeats the stories he has already told many times.
Sometimes, I fill in the blanks when he forgets the names of some of the characters, to his amazement. An added source of annoyance is that he is hard of hearing, and though he has bought a hearing aid, he rarely uses it. I am sure he and the members of his family think of me on the same lines, particularly with my idiosyncrasies.
There is another friend whose visits I dread. He visits me once in a while intending to spend a minimum of two hours with me. His principal interest in life is money. If I divert the conversation to another area, he will return to the monetary aspect with lightning speed. He remembers the exact figures of his medical bills or the arrears he received from his office months ago.
The funny part is I become restless if these friends skip their visits.
(The author is a retired professor of English. A regular contributor to ‘The Kashmir Vision,’ his articles and short stories have appeared in various national and international publications)