Thursday, May 18, 2017

The joy of work

Sanding of wooden boards, watching the wood scraps fly, breathing in the fresh smell of timber, running hands over the smoothed edges.

Writing a book. Putting together hundreds of sentences, filling up pages, throwing away used up refills and filing reams of paper filled with amazing blue-black words

Chopping vegetables, putting them into an experimental dish, watching it simmer. Watching the joy of the people relishing it.

Kneading the dough, proofing it, watch it rise and then bake it. Get the kids involved in baking and lie back contentedly that afternoon with the smell of the baking lingering all over the house.

Make a movie, write a script, spend endless hours in the sun and shade, edit it, put it all together and then watch your creation unfold on a large screen in front of your eyes.

Build a house, lay the bricks, paint them, work in the accessories, know where every little thing is, every nook, every cranny. Know the stories of that house from inside out - from the chipped bricks you used in a corner to the area where paint of another colour was patched up because it did not seem right. Smile to yourself when you're reminded of these stories, sitting alone sipping tea.

Create a software, code it all line by line. Spend endless hours in front of the computer till the keyboard breaks. Fail at it repeatedly, give it up too many times. And start it again in the middle of the night because it seems like you cracked the code and it doesn't let you sleep.

Create a garden. Dig the trenches, the flower beds, watch the flowers bloom, protect them, don't pluck them and watch them wither away on the plant itself, only to see them become their own nutrition. Watch the birds come and sample what you put together, take care of it continuously. Water it, pull the weeds, change the topsoil, spread the mulch. Get dirty.

Paint a picture. Set up an easel, draw the outlines, fill it with colour. Get your apron splashed with a multitude of colours. Go out and buy more tubes because you exhausted the ones you already have. And buy a few more sheets too. Spend hours on it and keep it covered till you complete it all and unwhip the covering with a flourish.

Man's nirvana is to work. The easiest way to find peace is in activity. A lot of activity. Mind numbing, body pounding activity. The joy of creating something is one of the worlds greatest experiences. Farmers, artisans, city builders, survivors. Cooks, coders, mechanics, craftsmen. The journey is greater than the destination. And the journey is never ending.

Creating a sand castle on the beach, knowing fully well that it'll get washed away when the tide comes in, gives the same high as building an apartment complex over a period of two years. It's the same thing. Scale does not matter. 

The biggest thing we have lost in the last hundred years is the ability to work with our hands and feet. A little DIY project where everything comes ready and cut still manages to fire us up and keep weekends busy in the garages.
A furniture manufacturer who requires users to assemble it himself becomes the worlds largest brand in its field and makes billions. A toy maker who sells blocks that interlink and allow users to create a bit of something has movies made with its figures. Though what we create is limited by design, it still is enough for us to plan our weekends around and we thump ourselves on our backs that we're teaching children the value of creativity :)

We love to create. And it is coming back. We spent too long behind desks, and the great outdoors are calling. People are growing their own food, old cars and bikes are being restored, vineyards are being expanded, beaches are getting cleaned.


We may not be able to get away and establish a city like One hundred years of solitude. But we can do our own bit of creation in whatever field appeals to us. Afterall, that sand castle is the same as a big building. Both will get washed away in time. One sooner and one later. And we won't be around forever anyway. The time we are here, we create something not to leave behind but in the full knowledge that it will become one with the earth again in time. And that is the greatest joy. Of doing it in spite of that knowledge. 


Our ancestors knew that magic. From the Rig Veda period, when varnasrama of that period was put into place, everyone was assigned ample work to do. In fact, rather than the birth of the person, back then, their ability to work put them into the different varnas. We spoilt it by understanding it wrong, but that is for another blog post sometime later. They knew that when people have their hands full of work, when they have fulfilling work waiting for them when they wake up, the world would be a peaceful place, where everyone's energy would be satiated and they would go home and sleep in peace. 


The urge to perform physical work is so strong that people left their established civilisations with machetes in their hands and went into jungles in continents across oceans, and then set about creating their own homeland. From scratch. When it was already there in their hometowns!

What we have done to our society is to shun that physical work. Instead, we filled our days with planning, redoing those plans, and having meetings about those plans. And all that pent up energy had to come out in some way! So our minds went into a tizzy, thinking of weird ways in which that could be expended. Not all of them good. And along the way, we somehow developed a warped sense of hierarchy in which we convinced ourselves that working from a chair with a computer and a phone was superior to working with hands and feet. In fancy presentations we use Krishna's quotes from The Bhagavad Gita to fit our slides, but forget that most of the Gita only talks to us about working. Just work, without bothering about the result of that work. No higher work and lower work. All work is the same. We use fancy phrases like dignity of labour today, while in reality we had all of that and more thousands of years ago. We just lost it along the way.

For that to successfully happen, we need to uncouple our profession from work. Work is for the body and mind. Not all work has to give us rewards. Work is its own reward. There is no question of 'What do I get from this work'. 

And now I really need to go smell some baking. Yeah, I'll probably burn the cookie, and if so, it'll all just be thrown away. But the joy of the work will remain. Nothing can take that away.

2 comments:

Chandra said...


This is sheer brilliance!
A perfect 10 for you, Aditya. Got to Share this on my facebook page and thanks in advance.

ganesh satyakiran said...

Hi Annaya,

As always u surprise me with the content u create and I cherish the kind of mood you generate I pray that more people start reading your blogs and fall in love with reading. praying god to bless you with more thoughts and to enlighten more minds.