“Speed is the form of ecstasy the technical revolution has bestowed on man,” says Milan Kundera in the opening pages of Slowness. “You want a slow life? Then, return to Chennai, Bro,” you may retort, reading these words. “Else, stay at home.”
Everything is fast, everywhere, always. From the moment you wake up to the alarm, there is a rush. Try walking slowly at a railway station and you will end up flowing with the crowd. So, like it or not, make it fast. For, the only thing that slows down in the city is the traffic – not even love; if you meet a girl today and can’t ask her out within a week or two, it’s headed nowhere.
In this scramble, we seem to have forgotten the beauty of slowness.
In the city that is out to make a fast buck, I can talk about weekdays: take the fast local, a taxi to avoid a 10-minute walk, eat a burger or some fast food to save time, and so on. But what about weekends?
“What deadline do you have to meet today?” I wondered looking at the rush when I stepped out of Kitab Khana on Saturday evening after sitting there for almost an hour, reading Slowness, with a cup of coffee in hand – oblivious to the mad rush outside.
Later, I saw the same scene replayed at the Gateway of India. It was as if many visitors had missed their morning walk and were making up for that.
I am not asking you to sit idle doing nothing, but why can’t people experience every moment of being there, instead of chasing the coming moment?
If there is a couple, one of them is on phone, or both are busy taking photos, or have stopped by a vendor. Aren’t they there to enjoy each other’s company ? Even children’s hands are held tight lest they run here and there. When was the last time you sat with someone for an hour, without speaking a word, just cherishing the time spent together.
“The degree of speed is directly proportional to the intensity of forgetting,” Kundera says near the end of the novel. So, I guess all we strive for now is virtual memory of our present saved digitally for posterity, instead of a real experience. The irony is people are ready to form a queue at fast food joints on weekends, instead of sitting in a restaurant, waiting for the food to arrive.
Later, as I was sitting at a restaurant near Churchgate station, there was loud honking outside. As it continued, I was the only one showing irritation and looking outside every minute, while others did not bat an eyelid – such noise seems to have become a part of their leisure.
‘Dude, what’s the hurry?’ Certainly, the car driver didn’t have an urgent meeting at that hour! But then, when was the last time you drove slowly, deliberately, just for the joy of it, instead of zooming for fun?
The only place where time seems to have come to a standstill may be Bandra Bandstand. Even there, it only appears so.