Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Trip to WhatIf Land ???

Please don't ask me how, why and when because these are the questions even I am trying to find the answers to. It felt like a magic, it felt like a mystery that all of a sudden I found myself transported to a totally alien land - a place I had never seen before. The people there were not close to what many people believe E.T.s would look like, nor were they giants or dwarfs as Gulliver found on some of his travels. The people here were almost like us, okay not exactly like us as clones but they were humans like you and me. Since I was standing at what looked like a market square, almost clueless about where I was and what I was supposed to do, I took this opportunity to stroll a little on the same street. At that instant I decided to christen this new world as 'WhatIf' land, before I ask people belonging to this place what is it actually called. Actually I could have asked somebody straightaway but I wanted to experience this WhatIf land on my own first without divulging my identity or asking for guidance or help.

It felt like morning time to me. No, not that I knew what was the time exactly, but I just inferred from what I saw - a few children in their school uniform heading towards what seemed like a school building and some people in business suits walking towards huge office buildings. My curiosity was rising when I confronted this decision point, should I follow the students and check which kind of schools do these people have, go behind the people who appeared like office goers or just continue walking on the same street sampling some more of this new place. I chose the last option and continued on my quest to discover this new land on my own. I saw some more school children merrily talking and walking along the opposite side of the street but surprisingly they were walking away from the school that I had seen earlier or were they heading towards some other school building? Perhaps. I noticed some shopkeepers lifting their shop shutters up to open them, which was nothing surprising but what caught my attention was that some people were closing the shutters of their shops and they were apparently looking pretty tired and jaded as if they had worked for long hours and now were winding things up for a good night's rest but it was bright sunny day, the night was definitely a long time away. While I was wondering about this strange thing, I happened to notice one more thing, no-one (without any exception) was in any kind of hurry. Every person was very calmly taking care of his/her business - the school students, the office-goers or the shopkeepers whether the ones opening the shop or the ones who were closing theirs. As I walked a little further, I watched this same thing on many places - some beginning to display their merchandise while some winding them up. Not just this, I saw some people coming out of the offices too looking quite fatigued and saying goodbyes to the ones who were entering the premises.

I was getting intrigued more and more by the strangeness of this world and then I wanted to satisfy my desire to know what was the secret behind this behaviour. I must find some reliable person who could help me solve this mystery, but who ? I was seriously contemplating about my next step when I crossed one bakery shop on the street while walking, my instinct told me that I would be able to find just the right person here. So I entered the bakery shop, the whole place was filled with the aroma of freshly baked breads, cookies, cakes, donuts, muffins, cupcakes and a wide array of assorted pastries. Perhaps the fragrance just stirred some senses inside me and I realized how hungry I was at that time. I was not even sure how long it had been since I last ate anything and then seeing so many goodies in front of my eyes, it was too much to resist. I took a mental note, I would not leave this place without eating anything today. But first things first, I must find answers to my queries starting from the very first one - where am I and what is the name of this place and would move on to my other observations. With great difficulty I tore my eyes away from the displayed eatables on the counter and scanned the dining area where there were almost 8-10 round tables laid out beautifully, but not all occupied. On one of these tables I saw an old fellow almost like my grandpa, sipping his coffee silently and looking outside through the glass pane. He had a newspaper sprawled in front of him but at that time, something outside was holding his attention more than the newspaper and he was completely engrossed in watching that. He appeared to be the perfect choice, for many reasons - firstly, he was sitting alone, secondly, he was an elderly person so I assumed that he must not be hard pressed on time and would have sufficient time to talk to me, thirdly, oh, let's just keep it at that and carry on with my next move. My decision was made.

On reaching the table where grandpa was sitting, I actually had to him two three times to draw his attention towards me. But what a huge relief! he understood my language, that means language wise also these people were similar to us. My major worry was over because I was wondering what if the people of WhatIf land have their own language totally different from the one we speak and understand? It was indeed a great respite.

After greeting him respectfully and asking his permission if I could sit at the same table and if he would spare some time to satisfy my queries, I began to tell him minute to minute details of that day. Also how this WhatIf place looked similar to the place where I came from yet it was quite dissimilar in many ways. After patiently hearing all that, grandpa just asked me to ask the things that I had in my mind. I started with my first question - "What is the name of this place?" and he very casually replied - this is called the 'WhatIf heaven'. I just could not believe my ears - did he just say - WhatIf? WhatIf as the name that I had given to this place ? It was too much to believe. I guess a mixture of shock, surprise and disbelief were writ large on my face at that time and he would have easily read that strange expressions so he just repeated that this place is named 'WhatIf Heaven'. I was still recovering from this shocker but did not want to disclose this disturbance which was creating havoc inside me, so to just divert my mind and his attention, I asked him if he could tell me what time was it? He asked me to repeat my question. I assumed, in my confusion I might not have spoken it loud enough so I repeated - what time was it? He told me, he did not understand what I want to know. I pointed towards my wrist and not just that, I think I must have spent the next one hour or so explaining what I was referring to and while doing that we inadvertently involved more people in the conversation. Perhaps my animated gestures in the whole excitement of making him understand what time was and what a watch was, were enough for the people around us to join us. And surprisingly none of them had heard about time, watch, clock or anything even remotely concerned to the concept of time.

After a while when it finally sunk in that perhaps this was the major difference between this and my world - the concept of time, I started asking them about how they lead their lives without having any notion of time component. Initially it was getting really difficult to even understand what they were saying, mainly because it was hard for me to comprehend any life or event possible without time being there but I tried to keep my mental block aside and hold their hands in understanding their world.

For them, the life was 'Event-Driven'. But what exactly did they mean by event-driven. They all tried adding their bit in order to make me understand what it was like living without any time, any time-tables, any schedule and such. They started giving me practical examples - when they wake up, that is when the day starts for each one of them, it does not matter whether it is actually the time when sun rises or sets or is at its peak. Each one follows his/her own routine. When they get ready, they head to their places of work or to the school whatever the case may be. When they are hungry, they eat the meals, there is no concept of having a certain time for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It carries on incessantly, so some people work, eat or go to school even when it is pitch dark, but there are always many people doing different things at every moment.

This was turning out to be an amazing experience to even listen to a totally different concept to base the lives on. They sleep when they feel tired, they wake up when their bodies are fully relaxed, they eat when they feel hungry, they do not do things just because it is the time to do that particular thing.

This same concept applies to bigger things too, for instance when a person finishes an assignment, that is the moment he/she submits it for approval or correction. When a student understands and passes the examinations of a certain class, that is the time that particular student moves on to the next level. No one gets late or is early. They have their own routines and moves to the next task only if the previous one is done perfectly.

There is no fear or pressure of getting late, nobody compromises on the quality to meet the deadlines, no time based competition, every one has an internal check and sort of an inner clock, which is in fact much more effective than perhaps the one we have. And yes, this meant they do not even have the age or years of life. They live life with the events. Their different stages are named differently. The students belong to a different category. When they finish basic level of studying, they move on to the next level or they can select to remain a student for long. It was actually a self-driven land, hence the calmness in the action of each and every person and I must say it was indeed very impressive.

Oh how I wish I were in this WhatIf heaven and precisely at that moment, I heard someone calling my name and I just realized, I had not gone anywhere, nor was I dreaming at night, it was one of my day-dreams where I often drift into while doing some uninteresting job and before wandering away to the WhatIf heaven, I was precisely doing one of such activities - I was copying 15 pages from a book as a punishment for not writing neatly in my classwork notebook and not keeping the notebook tidy. And my teacher was asking if I was done with the task given to me because the period is going to get over soon. I again wished to be transported to WhatIf Heaven for just a little while so that there is no concept of time getting over and where the period will get over only when I finish my 15 pages. Sigh!!


  1. Wonderful imagination ! Even today morning I was remarking to Sathish that we are always in a rush, because we want to cram in too many activities in the 24 hours...that gives us a "misplaced" sense of achievement. We need to definitely slow down and savour every little thing in our life.

  2. Very true Ranjani. Things like - savoring the moment, relaxing, enjoying the present - have gone out of our lives. We are rushing for something always.

  3. You had me hooked by your second paragraph. An excellently narrated story. I HAD to find out what it was all about.

    A is now getting the concept of time a bit. Earlier if I would hurry her up over anything saying that we are in a hurry, she would tell me, "Aai, you are in a hurry. I am not!"

  4. Thanks Sandhya for such a lovely comment.

    A is so true and must say that she is very mature to have understood the difference. Many times we just pass on our rush into their lives too.


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