For a little bit of Nirvana

“Who wants to go out of town?” I ask ten people, and at least twelve hands go up. The two extra hands for the people who would do a ‘Beam me up Scotty’ if it wasn’t part of a fictional space odyssey, and if you reassuringly lied to them that someone would take care of their work.

And then I think I would like to getaway myself. Shut my eyes and pretend I am in the Greek Isles floating on aqua blue water, but honestly people it isn’t the same thing. When I take that deep breath, it still is a large percent of carbon monoxide from the honking vehicles outside my window.

So to me, a weekend away is, Away. AWOL. O..U..T. FAR. FAR AWAY.

And it should be like that. Welsh Poet, W. H. Davies got it right when he penned the poem Leisure. (And to think that was in the 1940’s. )

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows…..

He ends with “A poor life this if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.

True, we live in hard times in the chaos of the city. One, no boughs. Two, cows, and at the wrong places – the intersections. Still, the 40s man had it better. Space, fresh air and no road-raged felon spitting fire ‘Arrey dihkhta nahin hai kya?”

No drone of a hundred voices, a humming TV, neighbor’s TV, a pile of papers pointing an accusing finger at him and the pressure of putting dinner on his table, or rather, a Merc in his garage.

The common Indian city-bred man is under more pressure than President Bush can even imagine.

The Great Escape.

So when I hear ‘getaway’ I see prison break. Thousands of suits racing out of their cubicles, where they were tethered sheep-like to mundane weekday to-do lists … thousands …. running, racing to the horizon. What a happy thought.

Methinks the origin of the word could’ve come from ‘To make a getaway’. Also meaning ‘To escape’. The thesaurus gives me sanctuary, refuge, haven, hidey hole. However, I’ll take Adrenaline Rush and Freedom. Remember ‘doing the bunk’ at school? Remember the rebellious thrill of it. There, you have it.

Dr Nirmala Rao, of Aavishkar Psychiatric Clinic and Aavishkar Centre for Self-Enrichment says our biggest enemy is Stress. Bu then there’s a horde of other little demons that we need to marathon away from.

Some of us from the grit, the grime, the pollution, the claustrophobia. Others from the hypnotizing effect of Routine before it sends them into a mental and emotional deep-freeze.

Of course, the Tiara types take off to rehydrate, to flush out the martinis. Because there are only so many parties you can attend and so many cocktails you can sip and so many hangovers you can have, and so many faces you can see again and again before you honestly believe you are the only company you want. (Probably followed the advice of Henry David Thoreau who said “I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” )

But like the doctor said, the species that need to take the first plane out are the Stressed: “If you keep me on hold for one more second I will pull out my gun and kill you.” ( and that, talking to a machine). Or those, who, at the brush of your elbow in the pub will ask you to come on outside for a duel, never mind if he’s already grappling with the floor.

Funnily, it’s not just the 9-9’ers, the work junkies, the corporate cowboys jet-setting who need to getaway. “With a regimen made up of junk food and TV, city kids gets hyper. They have so much destructive energy. They have to let it out,” says Prahlad Kakkar.

But psychologists tend to believe, one of the biggest reasons we need to go away is Space. Which is why getting away is a phenomenon peculiar to city-dwellers. Have you ever heard of Laloo saying ‘C’mon Rabri I’ve had it till here, let’s go to Bodh Gaya for the weekend?”

And in the beginning there was Space.

Then of course the developers took over. Aah, the irony in the word.

We’ve been bunched together in concrete blocks. Most times we’ve chosen it. And yet, human nature demands that we go back and bond with nature. To spread our arms and breathe deep. Of course, you can’t try that in the city without knocking out two or more good citizens in the process.

Sir Terence Conran, celebrated British designer was right. ‘Space is the greatest luxury of the twentieth century.’ In The Essential House Book, he says ‘With most of us crowded into towns and cities, battling through traffic jams or jostling for elbow room in packed commuter trains, there is an acute need for our personal surroundings to allow us room to relax in comfort and relative privacy.’

Maybe that’s why people spend so much time in the loo.

With just about two and a half feet (and a few teetering inches) of space to the individual, it is one of the most important things in city man’s life. And a mighty blessing in a ‘metropolis’ (snicker) where holding hands in the street is punishable by a hooting hawaldar. Which is why you find them all, the Rich, the Poor, the Gorgeous and the Toothless heading for beachfronts and parks like herds of newborn seals.

But then, this is our reality. And though E
instein said “It’s merely an illusion”, even illusions can get tedious. And we need to step sideways from them. To a different illusion, or a different reality, you choose. To the whispering quiet of the sea or the cool naked bosom of the hills. To peel the sooty dead layers of our existence and come back washed, sweet-smelling, new born.

There’s no substitute for Love and Oxygen.

“There is no substitute for hard work.” True. however, it’s important not to forget the corollary “There is no substitute for a weekend away.” either.

But I have met a mass of dissenters , who’d rather hide their heads in cocktails whose names they don’t remember the next dawn. People who believe that video games and a movie would do the trick. Workaholics who pooh-pooh it as a waste if time.

To this, Dr Rao, says, “
During the week, our bodies are constantly charged – even when we are ‘playing’. With the pressure of Time constantly looking over our shoulders, the stress hormone cortisone is constantly being released into the system. So we tend to live in a state called the ‘alarm phase.’

Going away does magical things to your body, mind and soul. It’s why the docs recommend a change of scene. (And no, not from one party to the next.)

Getting away: A great alternative to getting a face lift.

She goes on to say that, while in the city our defense mechanisms are always in place making us tense almost all the time, when we go away, the masks come off. We experience positive vibes and feel safe.

Our heartbeat slows down, blood circulation increases, and muscles relax. As the whole body relaxes we breathe deeper, and serotonin is released into the body. We experience an immense feeling of calm. Clearer emotions arise because of lucid thought.

Since the air we breathe is pure, our systems are cleaned and serviced and our bodies

But it also is a tonic for the intellect she says. “Slipping into nature makes our senses sharper – the city numbs this sensitivity. And since our perception increases, our thoughts are clearer and spontaneous.

Not bound by thought or time, the mind is free to think creatively, to shift from one concept to another, to see the big picture.

We shed our inhibitions, and share of our selves, relating better to the other. It’s easier to make friends and create support systems because you relate at a higher plane.”

“In order to change the world, you have to get your head together first.” Jimi Hendrix said. So its time to listen up. Politicians, and all ye confused, and rats in the race.

So with good reason more companies are holding training workshops outside the city. More travel companies are organizing weekend getaways and more people building farm houses in places that were “daahling, too back of beyond”, till a celebrity attached his name and stock to it.

So even if it’s a little thatched hut or a tree house on a piece of land far away, go. For a dip into nature’s Barrel of Rejuvenation. (As opposed to dropping in at the pub next door.)

You’ll strut back into office like you own the company, which you probably do, – just didn’t look it earlier. You’ll come back relaxed, like after a deep-deep sleep, all stretchy and jelly-like. Inspired and ready to take on the world… or the guy who just double-parked next to your car.

A wise line from a Nike campaign . “If you don’t go you’ll never know.” Make what you want of it. Have a good weekend.

Published in Society Interiors (weekend homes annual issue)


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