A list of things always necessary but never urgent
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Do you make to-do lists? I make lists when I am nervous. When I was a technophobic cameraperson entrusted with filming shots that would be broadcast on the prime-time news bulletin every evening, I always had a technical checklist in my pocket to refer to in case of emergency. That folded chit of paper was my back-up, in the event that my brain froze on location. Once in a while, when I came in close proximity to a major criminal or a celebrity, I couldn’t always trust myself to not be distracted.
Now I am a freelance professional, and as my descriptor helpfully reminds me, also the mother of three. Things get entangled with each other. For example, I am typing this column while at the clinic of our family physician, a wise Tibetan doctor. I have changed the channel on the TV in the waiting room from Zee News to Animal Planet. People around me are already feeling a bit better than before. I can put a tick mark in front of the item—“contribute to world peace today”.
Juggling chores like this doesn’t always keep all the balls in the air, so writing things down becomes a practical necessity. Sometimes I make a list for the whole week’s deliverables and then keep it carefully in my bag, not daring to refer to it again for days.
Surreptitiously, I make another list. A simple one. A secret one. A list of things that make me human. Or, more accurately, a list of simple things that I have been forgetting to do. This bouquet of fantasies makes the necessary tasks tolerable. As the work deadline approaches, my plans for the perfect afterlife get more immediate and desperate. It usually starts like this:
1) I shall sleep day and night, day and night. I shall sleep sprawled in my own bed.
2) Watch films by myself when the children are away. Watch films that the children recommend when they are with me. Sleep while watching their films.
3) Coffee and gooey chocolate (this is usually a sign to eat something immediately).
4) Never collaborate on a film or writing project with anyone again. Never do anything that makes me vulnerable again.
5) Buy plants from the nursery and collaborate with them. Keep them alive with love and kisses.
6) Wear saris for the next 15 years. Live the slow life.
7) Open the exotic face-pack sachet that I look at adoringly every day and become beautiful for the rest of my life.
8) Read business newspapers all week—not just their fancy weekend supplements—and surprise everyone with how smart I have become.
9) Read all the open tabs on my browsers.
10) Close all the tabs on my browsers. Never read anything on a screen again.
11) Read books till I am woken up by a book falling out of my hands and landing on my face. Read lightweight books.
12) Start yoga. And running. Reclaim erect posture for the rest of my life.
13) Spend disproportionate amount of time doing Shavasana.
14) Sort out all the clothes, books, toys and stationery in the house and submit more than half the household to Goonj.
15) Feel like an angel.
16) Never shop again. Close all the online shopping tabs. Confiscate my credit and debit cards.
17) Write fiction.
18) No, wait. Finish writing all the profiles of fabulous people I have been fantasizing about.
19) I thought you were never going to write again. Foolish person.
20) Become a humour writer. If it is not comedy, don’t write it.
21) Read all the books my friends and enemies send me on how to be a proper writer.
22) Travel without a laptop.
23) Might as well do Vipassana.
24) Sleep through Vipassana.
25) Visit my aunts around the city. The ones I had been wise enough not to invite to my wedding.
26) Return calls and emails of all the people who want to collaborate on book and film projects.
27) Scratch point 26. Get a real job—the kind where one has to wear proper clothes and get a proper salary. Rich and rich. Wow, why didn’t I think of this model before?
28) Plan my parents’ 75th birthdays. Then plan their 50th anniversary.
29) Reply to all readers’ emails. Apologize gracefully.
30) Arrange all my photographs thematically and tag them. Digitize all physical photo prints.
31) Let the rats eat all the photos.
32) Spend all my time staring at my children.
33) Go on a date with my husband. Buy him clothes, even if he gets crabby and insists on the wrong sizes. Eat cone ice cream with him. Listen to him tell a rambling story. Watch a video from his WhatsApp collection without telling him my opinion of people who forward such videos.
34) Save point 33 for when we are 70 years old.
35) Eat momos at Dolma House in Delhi’s Majnu ka Tila. Do not shop for shiny Chinese bags and shoes in the Tibetan market and then try to pretend that I have made a quick trip to a retail warehouse in suburban America.
But why not? I cannot promise what I may do after I have had momos and chowmein and become inspired. Is there a German word for that stage of life when just making a list of goals makes one happy enough, and one never has to actually do them? What about a Japanese word for things that are always necessary but not ever urgent? No, don’t give me an English word, I know enough English already.
Natasha Badhwar is a film-maker, media trainer and mother of three. She tweets at @natashabadhwar