Opinion Columnists 24 Apr 2022 Ranjona Banerji | Wh ...
The writer is a senior journalist who writes on media affairs, politics and social trends.

Ranjona Banerji | What do you do, and other hairy questions

Published Apr 24, 2022, 1:02 am IST
Updated Apr 24, 2022, 1:19 pm IST
I have no husband and I have no children and this apparently automatically means that I have a lot of time to spare
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What do you all day, I get asked by well-wishers every now and again. I’ll be honest. Right now, I’m playing spider solitaire. After a good number of years, I might add virtuously, when I was quite addicted to it. I do not play that word game. I may be one of the few people in the word, sorry world, who doesn’t wait until midnight for the new puzzle. I did almost play once by which I mean that I sat next to a woman on a plane the other day who kept writing “falce” and then was quite sad when it got rejected. I don’t know the protocol so I didn’t suggest another spelling.

I know, I haven’t answered the question.

Part of the reason for asking me this is that I’m a curiosity. I have no husband and I have no children. This apparently automatically means that I have a lot of time to spare because they are the main causes of time-filling. I had until recently parents, to whose care I was bound or was it the other way around? I also have no 9 to 5 job.

I am not an obvious “society” type of person. I have no diamonds, no vast collection of chiffons and pearls and party invitations.

I am not an obvious stay-at-home female watching soaps and immersing myself in the lives of other people.

Or that’s what they think anyway. I could spend all day popping peeled grapes into my mouth, for all they might assume.

I almost never ask people what they do all day. Largely because I do not care. I am not necessarily uncaring but I find details very tedious. It’s bad enough deciding what I or anyone else around me wants for lunch tomorrow without having to be burdened with someone else’s tinda (praecitrullusfistulosis, according to that know-everything crowd-sourced don’t depend on it website) or bhindi (slime-oozing green thing) dilemmas. I can reveal that I almost never chose to eat either.

I also have a terrible FORPTM issue. Like why tinda has a fistulosis issue although I have, I think, eaten it once and I do see the connection. But then the beautiful Indian Laburnum is called a “cassia fistula” which basically means that the main taxonomy experts have a serious issue with piles.

I am not discussing piles at all, by the way. Not now, not later so I hope you are not terribly disappointed. TAC or there are creams. Eventually old people will capture urban slang and distort it to hell. DITH.

I do have Fear Of Rubbish People Tell Me, because I just know you’re dying to know what this absurd acronym I made up stands for.(Are they still called acronyms or does that date me as a person who has heard of crossword puzzles?) If old people pretending to be trendy young people can make up things like “vibe out and listen to music” to sell some a music app to some dope who doesn’t know how to use a CD, I don’t see why I can’t provide entertainment for some young person who might want to laugh in embarrassed horror: you know what my great aunt did? She tried to make up internet slang and failed miserably. OMG. DAE?

Yes, I am qualified in the great-aunt aspect although I do not babysit all day. Or at all if it comes to that.

I still haven’t answered the question.

I do not spend all day trying to undermine young people.

But, have you heard their music?

Well, ’nuff said and enough of random capital letters which mean nothing to some and everything to others.

I lost the game of spider solitaire, by the way, and now my win-loss record is 1 zillion to 0. Obviously not 1 zillion I must explain because I do find that I spend of the day explaining that I’m being sarcastic to people. Well-wishers are kind if a bit over-curious. The well-meaning who want to explain everything you say to you in case you misunderstood yourself? Unconscionable. I suppose one should laugh at them. That must be a stage in the 7 levels to dealing with idiots: Explosion, Rage, Anger, Annoyance, Simmer, Sigh, Laugh?

The adjunct to the “what do you do all day” question is the “what do you do” question. I watched someone who does a good many things all day struggle to answer recently. I suppose on the scale, “what do you do” is less judgmental than “do you do anything”!

In the inimitable words of Bertrand Russell: “Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so.”

I might honestly say that I do both in the course of a day.

A lot depends on my state of mind. Sometimes it is convenient to substitute activity for action. Sometimes, winning at spider spider solitaire is a goal. It relieves a multi-millionaire sportsperson from having to consistently perform to the highest level so that I can have something to do to answer someone else’s question: I watch x or y.

How easily us humans forget though. Two years ago at this time, we were locked into a most bizarre battle with a virus which ended civilisation as we thought we had moulded it. We were locked into our homes. We were out on the streets trying to get home. We shunned each other out of fear. Our facilities were stretched to their limits and a few of us had to work at least three times as much as the rest of us to keep us alive.

What did we do in those lockdowns and over the last two years? Some of us but not all could “work from home”. Those who could not went through hell. And even when we worked, there were hours to be filled because of enforced confinement.

And yet, how quickly we forget and ask: what do you do all day.

I think I shall indeed re-read Bertrand Russell’s In Praise of Idleness. Its rich thought will give me much more than a few pat answers. Maybe even solve the world’s problems?

Yes, that’s what I’ll do all day for now.

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