The Privilege of Boredom

Image- Pulkit Singh

The price that we are paying for instant gratification is the constant nagging of our kids.

While growing up, vacations were something that we looked forward to but they came with a caveat. Mother would give us a list of things we could do the entire holidays. The frequency, the manner and the intensity with which we pursued these activities was left up to us. Because we grew up in smaller towns of my country, the bane of vacations like the summer camps and the holiday crash courses were largely absent from our lives. Yes, we know how lucky we were.

There was only one rule that we had to follow from our side of the bargain. It was that we would never whine about ‘being bored’. That is what that list was supposed to be about- the omnipresent answer to the dreaded question ‘What can we do, we are bored?’.

Now on the other side of the fence, we realize that the question is scary. We are running out of things to provide, ideas to keep the minds of our kids engaged. Somewhere there has been a constant hammering of pleasure points in the young brains and when they are faced with a stretch of time that cannot be filled with any purpose, they don’t know how to handle it. I realized it when my daughter, bored out of her wits for five minutes, began ‘The Whine’ during her Christmas holidays.

Passing afternoons on a hammock, staring at the foliage above or just sitting in the garden and plucking out the grass without any purpose was a luxury, I realize. Now, when I barely have time to get a meal in me, in one go, just to have munched on the countless sandwiches that mother provided to us in our makeshift boats, homes or tents, made out of garden chairs and covered with bedsheets was a luxury I realise. To have sipped the lemonade or the milk shake, to have swirled the drink around our mouths till its cold was shooed away by the warmth of our tongues, to have just sat on the garden steps watching the dusk chase the day away, exhausted from the adventures of tree climbing, butterfly-chasing or spinning fantastic, unbelievably impossible stories was a luxury. Many of us fell in love with reading, sketching, staring-in-space, music and making things because we had the opportunity to get bored.

There is a privilege in boredom. Not just that in it there is proof of having time at hand but more. Boredom shifts the focus of a person to look inwards- to draw from the self the rigors of entertainment. Boredom expands our imagination like nothing else, it fills our being with purpose and then to arrive at an activity, no matter how subliminal rewards us with satisfaction comparable only to that from the first day of the vacations- utterly wasted and therefore most precious.

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