The business of busyness
Are you busy? – is how we message one another these days.
How do you keep busy? – I am repeatedly asked.
It is best to stay busy – I am cautioned.
You must get busy – I am advised.
Got it! Henceforth, I shall proclaim three states of being: busy, very busy, and really busy, otherwise the purpose of my existence will be at stake (even acquiring the status of “happily married” will not be enough to save me).
The consummate procrastinator that I am, the mere thought of the frenzied activities of busy makes me shudder and recoil, but ki korbo? When in Rome, when in Dhaka…
As I consider my options for work, on my reluctant journey towards the ideal state of ‘oshombhobh besto’, I suddenly realise that busy is not necessarily work. Phew! Of course, gainful employment or voluntary charitable activities or academic pursuits or serious hobbies take up time and energy, but I do have the options to be busy in other ways, that is to be self-important and unavailable, without necessarily being productive, cultured or edified.
How? Well firstly, I can just use the word ‘busy’ repeatedly and continuously in all my conversations with sighs and raised eyebrows. If I deliver long monologues about how busy I keep, without allowing for any interruptions, to each and every person that I meet, in a few days or weeks I will have established that I am indeed ‘besto’. There is the slight chance that I might be labelled a dead bore, but that is even better, because I will have staved off any potential questions about what it is that keeps me so preoccupied.
If I feel uneasy and anxious about whether I have convinced all and sundry about my busyness, I can always add a preamble to the monologues, that is, add details about the events that led me to becoming baesto. Preambles are exceedingly tedious I know, but they are often necessary evils and very useful ones too, because by the time the preamble is over, the persons listening to me will not wish to proceed with the conversation, will certify me busy, and possibly never, ever again ask me what I do.
As busy as I am, I cannot be tired. Nah ah. Not allowed. I must be head-to-toe fit-faat as they say, donning a beautiful ensemble, perfectly coiffured and well-heeled, because the opportunity cost of having a lot of ‘work’ is having a lot of time to indulge in beauty and fashion and consumerism. How fortuitous is that? Ooh! To just accumulate tonnes of ‘stuff’ and engage in needless treatments and therapies.
I can use busy to score too. I do not have to respond to calls and messages, and I can always be late to invitations or gatherings or not show up at all. ‘Ekdom time nai’ is such a broad excuse, and it can double as a ‘khocha’ as well, to make those less declared busy feel inadequate about themselves.
After all, maintaining relationships is so archaic, while being lonely and disconnected is far more progressive. And I can spend the hours that I am meant to be otherwise engaged, intensely analysing every photograph or post on social media of the very people I am too busy to meet up with or not able to know. Win-win.
What else can I say about busy? Hmmmm...it seems like a lot of hard work (pun intended). I will have to repress my cravings for company, my innate inclination towards socialising, and my natural affection towards those I care about and want to spend time with.
And, since it is a boundary, a barrier, and an elitist status, (and not the norm that it is in societies where the majority of people are in employment and have little or no support systems), where I will gradually be severing my emotional connections and attachments, what will be the consequences of busy, I wonder.
Chintamoni grew up in Dhaka, where she will always belong, but never quite fit in. She is an enthusiastic traveller, a compulsive procrastinator, and a contumelious raconteur.