Sunday, March 6, 2011

Divans of Foam, or: The Unemployed Youth's Guide to Blissful Irresponsibility

1) Plan your unemployment. The "telling the management off and walking out the door with dignity and reserve" thing works only in the movies. Here in the real world, there are such things as notice periods. Nothing stops you from clumping out the meeting room with shoulders back and uppity demeanor, of course, but you're likely to get only so far as your desk. So, for instance, if the World Cup starts on February 18th, schedule your dust-up for January 18th, or some such.

2) The other thing to consider is the weather. When summer's at its worst or winter's at its most freezing, you may as well spend most of it in office. If you're going to be miserable anyway, get paid for it - and save on air conditioning, to boot. There are no limits, literally none, to what I can achieve in the springtime, said Uncle Fred. Why not direct all that industry inward, rather than waste it on some soulless corporation?

3) On the subject of industry, don't ever fall into the "discovering yourself" trap. If you do, at least be smart enough to see the "climbing Mt Everest / helping the poor / becoming a doctor" commercialisation by Hollywood for what it is. Movies are often nothing more than product placements for the powerful sports equipment / strength-of-the-human-spirit / medical school lobbies. You can discover as much about yourself by sitting on the same spot for two months straight, and not moving a muscle (save the ones required for working the remote), as by running from Kanyakumari to Khardung La. How did Buddha achieve nirvana, again?

4) Not to put too fine a point on the last paragraph, but society, for some reason, encourages productivity over sloth. The word sloth has an unpleasant ring to it, even, no? And so, you may justify - to your family and friends - your decision to quit your job with all sorts of excuses that sound distinctly unslothy. Which is all right, so long as you don't overdo it and deceive yourself. Do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Meet no people. Read no books. Watch no movies. Take no walks. Eat no vegetables. Hah! Caught you there! Of course you should watch movies. What's life without films?

4.5) Watch "Dazed and Confused."  Over and over again. It's the perfect film for slackers everywhere - a funny, wise and literate celebration of inertia. The anti-"Chariots of Fire." The film is a riposte (no, not exactly a riposte, but more of a languorous, "I hear you, dude, but you gotta, you know, consider this, too, man") to all out there who goad us constantly to seek ways to improve, to those that exhort us to plan and to achieve. Relax, it says. Grab a beer. Slow down that pace, and drive leisurely down the highway to nowhere. You'll run out of gas one day, and it'll make no difference whether you travelled 20 miles or 2000.

5) Mix and match the films. Let's say you've been rationing, for the past few months, a collection of Jarmusch films, a few Melvilles, and also the complete Berlin Alexanderplatz set. And then spare time falls into your lap like deep-fried manna from the heavens, with a side order of tandoori chicken. The temptation, then, normally, is to work your way through the Jarmusch first, then the Melville, and finally the Fassbinder. The problem is, you do NOT want to watch all of Berlin Alexanderplatz in one go.

While undoubtedly a jewel, it's also unrelentingly dark and despairing. What with all the seemingly endless focus on guilt and punishment and loneliness, and chapter titles like "A hammer blow to the head can injure the soul," and "The outside and the inside and the secret of fear of the secret," your comfortable vegetating would turn into a horror of wide eyes, chin cupped in hands, cheeks scratched in agony, and tear-stained shirt. Watch the Germans brood and shriek, by all means, but punctuate it liberally with the quirkiness and cool surrealism of American independent cinema, add a smattering of stylish French nihilism, and coat it all with a touch of insouciant, misanthropic British humour - and that's as irresistible a cocktail as any for an aspiring vegetable.

6) Try and shower at least once in 9 days. Also, hitch your jaw up, if you notice a lot of drool around the chin area. Speaking of hitching, if you dread visiting your hometown because of relatives and neighbours inquiring about your matrimonial plans, and making unsolicited criticisms of your not having any, now is the time to go home. Not only do you get someone else to put you up for free, no one's going to want their daughter - or their friend's daughter - to get hooked up with an unemployed vagabond.

6.5) Spread the joy. Message your friends about the cool, the breeze, the sounds of the world bustling about outside. Tell them that Mondays are not so bad after all - especially if you wake up just before noon.  They may be outwardly caustic in their replies, their terse replies a little at odds with your sunny outlook. No matter. Deep inside, they'd be grateful to you for reaffirming their faith in the general goodness of this world. Beneath the surface apoplexy (usually most evident when you thoughtfully point out their reddish eyes, and the darkish circles around the same, and enquire solicitously whether sleep deprivation's the cause) would be genuine gratitude.

7) Eat breakfast. It improves your energy levels and your general outlook drastically. This is not so important when you're running the rat race, but you should take your vegetating seriously. And eat well. Not "eat healthy," mind you. Drums of heaven, biryanis, masala dosas, momos, pastries, etc, etc, etc. The one difficulty I faced with breakfast is that Delhi is a little cold in the mornings in February and March. The thing to do, then, is to go to bed dressed. That way, you don't have to take off your nightclothes in the early-morning chill. You just jump straight out of bed and into the nearest restaurant.

8) Drink lots of water.

8.5) Refuse to enter into any discussions titled Your Plans For The Future, or General Faults I Perceive In Your Approach To Life.

9) Number the Slackandments, for easy reference. Keep them to a round figure like ten, if possible, when you become a subject-matter expert and decide to share your wisdom with the rest of God's creatures. If it's good enough for Jehovah...

10) When the money runs out, find a job.


Neha said...

hahahahah! loved it. i've been slightly jobless too, like a peek into your own world, last two days, home bound, blame the cold and fever. amazing writing.

missjane said...

I must say, I am impressed at your foresight in working around the World Cup. Impressed, and jealous.

A question: if you're getting up at noon (not a commandment, but I suspect that's because it's blindingly obvious) is it still breakfast? Have you actually managed to get up while it's still be a little chill outside?

I have a public holiday today and you'll be pleased to know I am using it to fill some serious gaps in my filmography: The Big Lebowski and Being John Malkovich.

Rohan said...

That one's seasonal. Between mid-November to February, there's no time that you can wake up and not feel cold when you throw off the blankets.

Excellent choice of films! I would've mentioned The Dude in the post, but since I don't know what taking the Lord's name in vain means exactly, I didn't want to risk His ire, and ending up in premature employment or something...

missjane said...

In case you were in any doubt as to where PGW stands on the Strength-Of-The-Human-Spirit lobby, I discovered a quote yesterday in 'The Aunt and the Sluggard.' To give you some background, Rocky (the Sluggard) makes a meagre living writing inspirational poetry about being all you can be. (There's actually quite a good little parody of one of them in the story, if you haven't read it.)

He tells Bertie "that when he did come into the money he meant to do no work at all, except perhaps an occasional poem recommending the young man with life opening before him, with all its splendid possibilities, to light a pipe and shove his feet upon the mantelpiece."

Rohan said...

Ah, Wodehouse... Lovely quote, Jane. Nearly brought a tear to my eye. It filled my soul with a yearning that I have no words for (perhaps "like a man gazing at the ocean for the first time," if pushed).

Ritesh Jhawar said...

Excellent writing George! Love your temperament!