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Beauty in simplicity

Swatee Jog, Nov 10 2017, 22:49 IST
Woman with outstretched arms standing by fence

Woman with outstretched arms standing by fence

It's always fun when friends come over, more so when you rarely get to meet your college friends. So when it is the holiday season and you all get together, plans invariably begin days in advance. It was no different this year. My harried friends were discussing plans for their week-long stay in the city. Places to visit, friends to meet, things to do and much more. The internet worked overtime to give us options for day-long picnics. After a while, it got so tiresome that our WhatsApp group just went silent. It was not because we ran out of ideas, it was a clear case of planning fatigue. Finally, we settled for a small fort nearby and had a blast travelling the half-hour distance. We spent more time enjoying the journey.

In a bid to get everything done on a grand scale, somewhere down the line, we lose the charm of simple living. Whether it is shopping, parties, vacations, picnics, weddings or parenting, we want everything to be larger than life, different from what others have done, memorable for everyone involved, and just so special. My fondest memories of family time are not about exotic vacations, but of earnestly listening to my father talk about his business experiences over dinner. What he shared not only enlightened my mother about her husband's business and its state-of-affairs, it also educated us about worldly matters. Not a rupee spent, but plenty earned.

Stop looking at others

Instead of just doing what we like and want, we are frantically wondering what our friends and acquaintances are doing, in a bid to plan something bigger and better.

The same attitude is reflected in our children when they insist on visiting the same place their friends had been to for holidays or demand an expensive birthday party or gift.

Same is the case with weddings. Big fat Indian weddings are the norm, while simple family affairs are passé. Ask any newly engaged couple about their pre-wedding preparations, and more often than not, you'll get to hear about their pre-wedding photo shoot. So much fuss over how the look and feel should be, costumes, photographer and props that some of us would any day have spent that time just looking into the beloved's eyes and loved him more. I have even met someone who already has elaborate plans for the pre-wedding shoot, exotic wedding locale and even the honeymoon destination, while she is still waiting for the right man to come along!

This worrying trend certainly raises some pertinent, thought-provoking questions:

Why has 'simple' lost its charm suddenly?

Does it have anything to do with our lives being played out for the social media?

Does every moment have to be 'picture-perfect' or selfie-worthy?

Should we not enjoy our special moments just by themselves rather than try and frame each one and hang them or rather 'post' them on the walls for the world to see?

Why should the world know what we ate, how much it cost, what we are wearing, where we bought our outfits from and which occasion we wore it for?

All this creates unwanted pressure on our minds, as we all want to be under a self-created spotlight at all times. Instead of just living in the moment and cherishing it, it becomes more like a chore of "see, I did this" and then further "did you see what I did?"

Don't complicate matters

The tendency to dramatise and publicise everything percolates to our personal lives. We start exaggerating life's trivial problems. Things like the behaviour of our family members, which is easily acceptable, starts troubling us. Expectations from family and friends billow up. Our relationships with parents and spouse become so complicated that every word, every action is seen through a microscope. We look for hidden agendas, search for excuses, find faults, and in general make situations worse than they actually are. Instead of complicating matters by adding colours to them, we can easily shrug them off.

Recently, I heard a colleague note that we have lost the charm of serendipity by using too much technology, maps on phones have made "losing your way" redundant. Which makes one think that in fact, the simplest joys of life are so easy to find. Just think about it:

Life is not as complicated as we make it out to be. The drama is out there in the nature, in the world. In the bigger scheme of things, what really matters is to play our role in life to the best of our abilities and bow out.

All our frowning, fretting, scheming will only create ill will around us. Is it worth it? Trying to change people and circumstances never actually works. What works best is to smile and work towards a peaceful co-existence.

Simplify matters. Let go. Accept things as they are. We must realise that when a situation is not complex, why give it undue importance and aggravate it? Solve the problem if you can, and if you can't, you won't be able to do much any way.

The secret to a happy and healthy life is simplicity. I have always been a fan of the very Indian adage "we are like that only". It's a simple way to accept all our idiosyncrasies and shrug them all off in a few words. Enjoy them, even.

Indians are known to extol the virtues of being simple in thoughts and deeds. Being lavish and ostentatious is not something that comes naturally to us. Putting other people's needs before us is the first virtue we all learnt. Instead of living for others, when did we start living for others to see?

Years ago, after facing some problems at work, I approached my boss and fumed about why life was so complicated? His simple retort was, "How is it complicated? You are making it seem complicated." What I was doing actually was linking too many things to unrelated issues and creating a woollen ball of a problem out of it. I had grown fond of creating many such balls at once and playing with them. The moment I started seeing them as separate issues, they all fell off like loose strands of hay. We love to portray our lives as really complex.

We fear that if we lead a simple life, we may not appear as appealing and dramatic as others who have complex lives. The gloss that the media portrays is always over-the-top, for they have to appeal to all the senses of viewers who consume the content.

Can you imagine watching a soap like Buniyaad, which was about Everyman, in today's day and age? However, life is not a TV soap or a movie. A dinner plate must be simple but nutritious; it cannot be full of exotic dishes every day. A vacation must be meaningful and a time well spent.

A wedding is for the couple to unite and their families to come together, not for the whole world to have a free-for-all gala time. Birthdays are occasions to celebrate amidst warmth, not a race of one-upmanship.

Plan simple, be simple, live simple. It will not only ease our lives, it will also avoid unwanted conflict and stress on our heart and the planet.

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