• Tuesday, May 24, 2022
  • Last Update : 04:24 pm

OP-ED: A routine much reviled

  • Published at 04:02 am June 22nd, 2021
clock alarm routine

A case against the constant pursuit of change and new experiences

The chiming of the doorbell announces the sister duo. Five minutes past ten, the mid-morning hour, and the wheels of the daily grind are gradually, reluctantly, creaking into motion. The more forward sibling greets me with a barely intelligible “Good morning.” 

Half embarrassed, I growl a muffled greeting in return and spin on my heel, retreating back into the depths of what occupied me before the disturbance. For the remaining hours that occupy them as they pad noiselessly about the house, the youngsters shall conduct conversation with only the mistress of the house.

“Bhaiyya” is immersed in a world dictated by his employment. Scanning the tasks of the day from his perch at the dining table, he and his laptop keep to their own. His presence is tolerated only because he permits himself to be uprooted by the sister tasked with mopping her way systematically through room after room, who polishes the floor around his aimless feet to perfection. 

The sound of sloshing water, the grunt of exertion as the floor is mopped to the texture of a mirror, even my reluctant perambulation for those two long minutes -- together they form a reassuring and constant sliver of the day.

Uttara Basu, dearly beloved, has assumed the regime of a Sergeant Major. Up before dawn, fortified by the morning brew, she falls to her tasks before the sun touches the sky. Eventually shaking off the last vestiges of sleep, a proud husband will find the love of his life a couple of hours later bunched over her square wooden work table, recent glasses precariously perched, navigating the intricacies of the latest canvas. 

Mixing different colours, chancing upon the correct shade, tracing, measuring, a splotch of guesswork, and spacing, the technique and talent need to combine just so to produce the pieces that she disposes of with regularity. Machine learning human style underpins endeavour as each completed work provokes a dozen possibilities of how the next work could unfold. Creation begets and engenders creativity, for that I can vouch.

The components of the day meld seamlessly as slices of the waking hours are dispensed with like clockwork. Lipika, Sister Number One at ground zero, mopping and soaking and squeezing and swishing makes her dogged way through the home, ending at the main entrance and with a goodbye to the mistress. She was merely in transit, and many homes await her ministrations before she leaves the compound. Brisk and business-like, she is obviously on a tight schedule.

Sister Number Two is, by the very nature of her profile, more integrated with the cadence and laughter of the household. For hers is the unenviable task of breaking our daughter’s daily hibernation and coaxing her to breakfast. 

Tiya Basu doesn’t appear to mind, which is a huge relief of sorts. Shantana has also meanwhile become aide to the executive chef. We no longer enjoy the luxury of the live-in maid, which means that the day is now regimented and Bhaiyya cannot yell for tea at any random time. 

Since Shanti Gupta is now back in deepest Uttar Pradesh, responsibilities earlier unseen now multiply and fall upon the residents, which hardly means that the additional chores are equitably distributed. And fully aware of the advantage enjoyed in the current imbalance, I tread with care while the wife crafts the porridge, boiled egg, and freshly peeled pomegranate for the morning repast and sets about the remaining tasks of the day with a parting glare. 

Tiptoe, I always say. It’s called survival.

The air vibrates with spontaneous bursts of humorous anger: “Again I have to make tea!”, “We just finished breakfast, and now again worry about lunch!”, “Dinner!? Tiya, it’s only seven o’clock!” “Arrey, I have to go and make food! You can watch whatever you want.” 

Very droll, wouldn’t you agree?

Preparing myself in the presence of divinity, I am provoked to spontaneous laughter. Sister Number Two has cleaned the fragrant ash of yesterday’s penance and arranged the deities with chessboard precision. The images of God stare defiantly, daring me to make my move on the playing board they unwittingly find themselves on. Still chuckling, I rearrange the pantheon into a more convivial semi-circle, beg hasty forgiveness, and murmur the incantations of the day.

Dear reader, some aspects of the sketch of the day should be recognizable. It is the recognition of routine, a sequence of actions regularly followed, something which is performed as part of a regular procedure. 

Today, we do not revel in routine but, instead, revile the life lived from sunup to sundown. It is, nevertheless, the comfort of the same, along with the occasional blip of pleasure and laughter, which propels us meaningfully through the waking day and sleeping night.

We are browbeaten to constantly pursue change, new experiences, challenges, transformation, the hunger to fail. A sign of the times, only that the adventure of the modern corporate lexicon can only be contemplated on the bedrock, the essence and precedent of routine.

For it is that essence which defines us.

Revel in it, dear reader.

Sumit Basu is a corporate lawyer based in India and is a freelance contributor.

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