Ji dhoondta hai phir wohi fursat ke raat din
Baithe rahe tasavur-e-jaanan kiye huwe

One can’t agree more with the great Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib. Who wouldn’t like to seek days of leisure sitting engulfed in thoughts of the beloved? But we seem to have bargained for more free time than we deserve. At least that’s what I feel. For the last two months, it is nothing but fursat hi fursat. We have certainly bitten off more than we can chew. A break from the routine is needed once in a while to relieve stress and boredom. But thanks to the prolonged lockdown, even the forced vacation is getting on the nerves.

To be frank, the first fortnight of the lockdown was a welcome relief. I had a whale of family time after a long time. Then the monotony set in – having nothing to do and all day to do it. As the Coronavirus kept its deadly march and newer and nastier details poured in by the hour, things got scary. How to stay become a full-time job.

Life for most retired persons is under lockdown anyway. But journalists rarely ever hang up their pens. I am one of those scribes who never want to call it quits. I like to write more for pleasure than pelf – although I need every bit of money that comes my way. For me going out has become difficult. Even though I have a press card which can take me places but age is certainly not on my side. Being on the wrong side of 60, I do not want to stick my neck out – not even for a scoop. And, therefore, for the last two months, I am holed up at home. The only luxury I have is visiting the neighborhood grocery store but even this is frowned upon by my wife and son.

Like other members of my tribe, I am working from home, and also for home. The leisure time has come handy for me to clear my cluttered desk and take a peek at books I have long loved to read but couldn’t. I recently finished `The Trustee from the Toolroom’, a gripping novel by Nevil Shute. With the advent of Ramzan, I engrossed myself in reading the Quran and also catching up on a few spiritual books like `The Last World’ and `Enjoy Your Life’ by Dr. Muhammed Al-Areefi.

If you think I have not used the leisure to learn a skill or two you are wrong. Though rather late in the day I have picked up a very useful skill which is the most simple and gratifying of the arts. Well, I do not claim to be a great chef, but I can manage to cook a decent meal all by myself. And I have stumbled upon the secret. All cooking is a matter of time. More the time, the better it is. This learning process has also opened my eyes to the amount of grind women go through day in and day out. Surely a man’s work is over by the set of the sun but a woman’s work is never done.

Time brings all things to pass. The lockdown will be history soon. The moot question is how we passed time – simply spent it or invested it.

J.S. Ifthekhar

J.S. Ifthekhar is a senior journalist with nearly four decades of experience. Ifthekhar cut his teeth in journalism at the Indian Express before he moved to The Hindu. He was also associated with the Siasat Daily, Telangana Today, Deccan Chronicle, Onlooker magazine, Newstrack, Detective Digest and a few news agencies. He has written on different subjects and aspects of Hyderabadi life. However, his passion remains literature in general and Urdu poetry in particular. He is equally concerned with culture, heritage, civic affairs and problems confronting the man in the street. As a journalist he has taken up cudgels on behalf of the underprivileged and many of his stories in The Hindu saw the government promptly taking corrective measures. Ifthekhar has authored two books - Hyderabad - The Nawabi City on The Move and Haj - The Spirit Behind it. He has also translated two books from Urdu to English. Currently he is working on his third book - Poets and Writers of Deccan.

Loves to write and writes to live. Can't imagine doing anything else.

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