My take on multi-tasking
These are words that I have come to know of and learn lately. Indeed quite late for people like me for these to come to use any more. And I must confess that had I been in such a position of business that necessitated doing multi-tasking, I would have hated it. I hated the word 'task' from my childhood. In those days, in our full-fledged Bangla medium schools, we never carried home 'home work'. Instead, we had 'home task' that made us almost delirious with sleepy eyes before we were allowed to hit the bed at night, every night except the weekends. So, I grew wary and then spiteful of the word 'task'. When combination of the words multi+tasking was put to use in our society, especially in the ambit of professional deeds, I was lucky enough to have younger colleagues, both at work and at play. They are, in an increasingly competitive situation, overwhelmed by the scope of multi-tasking. They work on the computers, note down things with a pen, talk over the phone and occasionally veer off to social networking, all at the same time. I was lucky enough to be able to elude it and leave it to them. You multitask. You work and play! Then play and work!! But all these, you do simultaneously. So play the game of multi tasking as you please! Give me a break. I decide to take to the temptation of the incitement the road provides me and take to it, even braving the scorching rays of the summer sun.
The village woman – the most effective multi-tasker. Photo: Zahedul I Khan
I take out my bicycle at the middle of the day in this stifling heat and hit the road. Suddenly I see that on both sides of the avenue there is a profusion of flowers like the flaming krishnachura, purple Jarul and bright yellow Shonalu -- a riot of colours all over. I don't remember having seen such plethora of colours ever on any street or road of Bangladesh in any other season. A stroll in the evening and you would be greeted by the fragrance of flowers - Gandharaj, Hasnahena, J(n)ui, Beli and a surfeit of such flowers as the summer's bounty presents us. You will be drunk by the unknown wild aroma of the unknown wild flowers that hang there in the stillness of night. As I paddle down the road I get to realise how benevolent is Mother Nature in compensating us for some of her conducts she is unable to alter. Just as well that I do not have to multi-task. Some of my friends point out that I too, multi-task, in a way. I act, I direct plays, I take pictures, I try to write and, of course, I work. They fail to realise that I indulge in the first four because I passionately love them. And in order to pursue those indulgences I have to (emphasis intended) work so that I can live off it while I pursue my love!
Last month I went to my village. On my way, to and fro, I noticed a fantastic harvest that our eastern part of the country had this year. The sight was simply delightful. The landscape on either side of the road winding through the villages seemed to have been permeated by a golden hue. Crops of paddy in profusion were spread all over, by the homesteads, on the meadows, by the rivulets and on the road itself. They spread them on the roads so that the wheels of the ongoing vehicles would crush them and they would have a little saving on account of crushing the paddy. All these were delightful sights. I realise again how very benevolent nature is. I also observed certain very significant things that I had overlooked before. I saw that, from crushing the paddy to husking, boiling and drying, in the whole process, how closely the women were involved. I realise that the statistic of our women being an integral part of our factors of production to the extent of 60 per cent is indeed an understatement. They seemed everywhere. There were one or two men thrown in, whiling their time away. One of my fellow travellers caught my attention by pointing at the other direction. And I saw host of young and middle aged men gathered in the tea shops relishing tea and raising storms in the tea cups. The local government elections were 'round the corner' in that area. Occasionally, the candidates would make their appearances there and add fuel to the fire of the voters' urge to tea and cigarettes. They were there doing almost nothing most of the day while women were in the place of work crushing, husking, boiling, drying the paddy at the same time attending to their children or doing their grocery from the road side bazaar, chewing paan in the breaks while talking to neighbours (their only entertainment), and going back to their chores. When darkness fell, they'd go back home, cook the food, feed the baby, take a dip in the nearby pond and wait for their husbands to return home. And after attending to worldly needs the men would go back to where they came from, the tea shops. Returning to the women I muse, were these women multi-tasking? If this is not multi-tasking what is? Well I don't care what the lexicon says; I call 'this' the most complete, important and effective multi-tasking I have seen in my life. Even here, I feel, I am useless and small, very small indeed.