Recently, I had an occasion to comment on a blog on the subject of boredom and I mentioned that the word itself did not exist in any Indian language and that the concept is alien and one that has been imported along with western life styles and values. This was a passing remark but subsequently, I did some research and also got my sister Padmini to, so that my observation could either be validated or negated. She is the more capable of the two to undertake such research and I am not surprised with her findings. I reproduce her mail to me as a guest post.
“I am bored!” is a statement that is the nightmare of any mom with kids running around at home, especially during holidays. Why kids? The word boredom is trotted out with regularity by everybody with time on their hands or heads.
Strangely enough the word bore/boring has found its way into Indian languages. When I searched for equivalent words in Tamil and Hindi I got only words close to it, not an exact translation as it were. The word has been Indianised and is used in the languages as ‘bore’.
Why is this word not available in Indian languages? As an aside we do not have a word for ‘widower’ as well. More about this in another blog! The concept of boredom is itself an anachronism. Boredom arises from loneliness. India has a population of 1.1 billion. It is an open society, where people interact freely with family, neighbours and even strangers whom they meet casually in a public place. In this milieu, if you are lonely and getting bored, that is a matter of concern.
From a woman’s point of view in India a woman never had time—I am talking about the middle and working class women. After a day’s activity at home they would meet in the temple and apart from sending applications to the Almighty to send solutions for their problems they would exchange news, views and gossip, why even eligible alliances for prospective marriages! It was a strong support system and is still valid in neighbourhood temples in cities, towns and villages even today.
The men too had a busy schedule and interacting with neighbours and the village people was an on going project all the time. The men would meet in the evening under a tree in the village centre, where a platform was built and accommodated the elders. The daily news was read out and discussed, village problems were thrashed out and solutions found. Religious discourses, music and dance, dramas and the telling of the old stories was entertainment. Everybody went home early to bed and early to rise as there was only light from tapers and oil lamps. The day was busy with farming, religious rituals, commerce and earning a living.
With the advent of electricity the radio brought in the outside world. Movies mostly ‘Touring Talkies’ that brought films to tents in larger villages and towns was a big attraction. The TV has brought multiple families with myriad problems to watch and experience like mirrors in soaps in all languages that keeps people glued at prime time. The survival of the fittest keeps every kid glued to their books and projects and chasing grades.
The only term that came into being was ‘Time Pass’ and there were many activities for this. Is boredom then an alien modern concept that has now been patched onto the Indian psyche? Maybe as teenage angst, a view of a woman’s daily life as drudgery, a time to sit and reflect and be comfortable with yourself and your thoughts has been superimposed with the notion that all this causes boredom.
Frankly I have never felt bored—even when I had to sit in the car waiting for somebody, I would find the world outside through glass windows interesting and amusing as well. However this is an Indian pastime as cars are parked on roads full of people, trade and activity. Maybe I would be bored if I was sitting in a humongous car park looking at other models of automobiles. But even then there you have music to keep you company! In my visits abroad too I have found life fascinating in the trains, in the shops, streets and museums.
Boredom is for those who invite it to the exclusion of all other alternatives. What is your take?