“Where’s the WiFi?” Why City Folks Suck at the Art of Doing Nothing


“Where’s the WiFi?” Why City Folks Suck at the Art of Doing Nothing

Illustration: Siddhakanksha Mishra

There’s a scene in the silent movie Pushpaka Vimana. A penniless Kamal Haasan kidnaps a drunk millionaire, keeps him tied up, and lands up in his plush suite to get a taste of luxury.  Haasan tries to get some sleep; he can’t. The next day, he returns to his dilapidated barsati to record the noise of screeching trains and shouting neighbours. Armed with that cacophony, he returns to the suite. As it plays in the background, he finally gets his eight hours of “quiet sleep”.

I am stretched out on a lounger, staring at the ancient Aravallis clinging to its last remnants, in a resort somewhere in the wilderness, missing the chaos of my diurnal routine, and thinking of that scene. 

I am told humans spending too much time on their smart devices – ordering in yet another plate of samosa chaat while arguing about the Ayodhya verdict – crave stillness and silence that will cleanse themselves of all the toxicity they create. They need to vegetate to be rejuvenated. They pay to just disconnect. But disconnect and do what? 

It has been six hours and 11 minutes since my husband and I have checked in. We have already taken four rounds of the resort and its surrounds, exploring its nooks and corners, looking for hidden adventures and lizards, admiring foliage. We have stood at the edge of the property, gazing wistfully at the vast expanse of the almost-green valley and even managed to smile at each other. We’ve had a conversation, without our heads dug inside our phone screens. It has been a long time since we have done that. We are elated for exactly five minutes. We then have tea on charpoys, served from brightly painted aluminium kettles and make small talk with other guests – gather valuable information about their last meal, how nice the resort is, and smile graciously. We’ve smiled twice in a span of two hours. That’s record-breaking. This had gotten us so excited and we wolf down copious quantities of aloo bonda, mathri, and khari biscuit. 

Now what?

The drive to the resort was serene and beautiful. My husband and I didn’t argue. Not even over the music. The resort had lived up to the pictures on their website. I have an Instagram bank ready that will last me a month. We are not even mildly disappointed, so there is nothing to complain about. I spend 30 minutes looking at a boy play table tennis. And when he is done he looks at his watch and exclaims, “It’s not even 6 pm yet?”

Now what?

We city-bred folks look forward to a break where you can get away from it all. And when we do, we complain about the poor network. I was desperate to get-away so that I could finally get to count the dandruff flakes in my hair, inspect my toenails carefully, run my fingers over my newly acquired laugh lines and crow’s-feet. A day when I can wake up late, loll on the bed, stare at the ceiling, count my blessings. Instead, I google for things to do nearby and the page buffers for three whole minutes before it directs me to Gurgaon, our home, from where we had conspired to escape. I abandon my effort.

We city-bred folks look forward to a break where you can get away from it all. And when we do, we complain about the poor network.

I’ve already read the articles bookmarked over the month and debated with myself on “whether India should be prepared for a slowdown.” I pose like an Instagram model and perch my right leg on the backrest while trying to look annoyed and sexy at the same time. A lot like Vogue’s cover models. 

Now what? 

I have been told that you get close to finding your inner-self when you are alone with your thoughts. What if I don’t want to find my inner-self? What if it’s a clingy, whiny bore, far from the image I love to project at gatherings – a woman with imaginary balls of steel and some optimism, someone who hopes somebody will laugh at her jokes. I realise that Niksen, the Dutch “art of doing nothing, and without the object of being productive” is far from calming. Yet I try, I’m desperate to enjoy the calm and tranquility.

I try a trick.I decide to stay still; it doesn’t help. No state of Zen descends on my consciousness. Instead, I feel like limp lettuce. I call the hotel lobby and ask for the WiFi password, so I can binge-watch another Netflix series. If nothing, I’ll watch a rerun of F.R.I.E.N.D.S for the 555th time. Yes, I already tried mobilising my creativity on that blank notepad. It needs effort and I realise I just can’t get to it without the treadmill of pre-planned activities to keep my nervous energy alive. Starting my day at 6 am, enslaved to predictability, feeling tired to the bone, and crashing by 10 pm. Meeting the same familiar faces, indulging in the same arguments with the sabzi wallah, and ending up doing the same things in my attempt to do something toofani. I need a routine.

The busyness keeps away the question, “Now what”?

Chaos works like Isabgol for my thoughts, as I tap on the keyboard in rhythm with the constant thak-thak of carpenters working downstairs, screaming “madam jee chai, madam jee paani” – like I’m their personal butler. The more I get stark raving mad at the woman who skipped the ATM line, the more productive I become.

I have gotten so used to stress, I’m secretly in love with it. The adrenaline rush of knowing I have 50 unfinished tasks is unmatched.

Can I confess, I love being wired to work, chasing deadlines, chasing people, and turning into a human version of a reminder app. I nurture my addiction to social-media platforms like babies because it opens my world to the limitless and sometimes unfathomable. I get my highs from scrolling up and down my favourite food app, online store; my brows knit with the stress of choosing the next perfect meal, ensemble that I will soon share on Facebook.

I refuse to be shamed by some new-age guru or a poet from the 19th century poet for being an adrenaline junkie. Sorry William Henry Davies, I do not want time to stand and stare. I don’t want to stand beneath the boughs ( too many mosquitos there.) I’d rather stare at my phone screen than at sheep and cows.

Too bad I get to discover this truth at a wellness resort far from the madding crowd.