The New Priority List

Over the last two to three years, our lives have been put in harsh perspective, and the things that never made it to the top 10 list of things to care about are things that have begun to bother us. I must agree that I have gone down some rabbit holes, some serious and some ridiculous, even by my standard. And I think collecting headphones is a hobby, so my tolerance for silliness is very high.

Wedding Parties: For the lot of us who are married, we have begun to notice the absence of wedding party invites. Wedding parties were places you got to go to snicker at the groom/bride-to-be. Wedding parties were where you would meet the fellow sufferer and reminisce about the better days. Wedding parties were where you would circulate the pointless gifts in your inventory in exchange for free food and alcohol. And now people are getting married with caps on gatherings resulting in missed fun. And, especially at my age, you don’t have many people you know who will get married and not be calling you “uncle” and asking for your sage advice. A few of the “what will you do when lockdown is over questions” have received the “go to a wedding party” response.

Continuing Education: This is a rabbit hole I went down. Let me be honest; I made it through high school, college, and my post-graduation with much difficulty. My brain is not wired for the study and write-exams framework. Most of the things I have learned in life are from Netflix, Prime, and fiction reading. But then there is a jargon for all things these days. And everyone learned about MOOC.

So when everyone I know started posting about their academic achievements filling the time freed up from driving, I should have looked the other way. But this was peer pressure like never before. Nine of ten people I knew were studying something. So I signed up for Coursera and started signing up for courses. Success made me bold and stupid after a couple of simple classes where I had to listen to a wise person and answer multiple-choice questions. And I tried more ambitious stuff. Oh, boy, was I in for a harsh realization of a lifetime! The sudden need to educate oneself never happened before with this much zeal. A lot of it was about posting something on LinkedIn than the actual value. And I soon realized that most of these were like the Driving License test I took in Texas, where they want everyone to own and drive a car. They ask you to parallel part a sedan in a space where you can park a mid-sized truck. SAP, Oracle, IBM, UIPath, etc., all want you certified to enhance their brand and generate revenue streams than actually creating experts. If any of these ever made you experts at what they do, that would be bad for business, wouldn’t it?

OTP / Video on Demand: Our TV icons were born from actual TV viewing growing up. And half the attraction was the week’s wait for the next episode. I remember I used to wait all week for this Johny Soko and his Giant Robot.

Johny Sokko

Once lockdown started, with it came the addition of binge-watching. I, and many people I know, signed up for all leading platforms (your usual suspects), fringe platforms (the likes of Lionsgate Play), and the ones that hardly anyone watches (like Mubi). And these became topics of discussion with people competing on completion targets like these were a syllabus one needed to cover. Suddenly, “watch parties” became a jargon/pop-culture thing. And, not surprisingly, a surfing exercise because there is only so much excellent content that can be consumed for hours on end; the rest are generally dull after the first season!

Johny Soko was already old and walking on a stick. The pandemic and lockdown killed him.

Startup Brainstorming: The last two years saw a lot of funding for new business models built on a population that got locked up in their rooms.

Who among us has not thought of starting a company, getting lots of funding, and being the next unicorn? No takers, that’s what I thought? This is true to the extent that not having a startup idea has become quite unfashionable in a group. Everyone, at a minimum, has two light bulbs, ranging from pet-spa ideas to the next eCommerce business model breakthrough. Just in case the one does not work out!

Start a book: The extra time we earned led many of us to rediscover reading. Combined with the explosion of self-help books, training, videos, workshops, and websites teaching us how to write, we (at least I have) have fancied being the next prominent author. I even published a poetry book. But I have started writing at least three other books of various genres. And everyone I know has at least started with a title; some have gone up to the first chapter before losing steam. I started a Science Fiction, a Management, and a Family drama. I soon realized that writing, beyond poetry, was not for me. And none of the “get good at writing” books and videos help if you don’t have the writing gene.

Many other fun ones have become things that we now do. Almost everyone I know has gotten inspired to take on the DIY project, buying expensive equipment and material, only to get decimated and put into the stick room. Some of my friends got inspired by Master Chef shows and started cooking. The problem is that they started with the hard stuff before being able to bake bread. People have lost money on Cryptocurrency because everyone thought they could become traders. And so on, and so forth.

It has been fun indulging and hearing other people.

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Sayantan Datta

Sayantan Datta

Sayantan, the author of these pages, was born in Kolkata. He is a management & business consultant by profession and a published poet.