If you’ve been reading my blogs, you may have noticed that I draw inspiration from pretty much anything and anyone around me (Uncovered manholes, people going for a jog on balance wheels, public dustbins with openings on each end, the laughable…err…. laudable traffic police, people that press the elevator button multiple times, and even those that start talking loudly into their mobile phone as they begin to lose network). The habit of observation has added several dimensions of perspective to my armory and certainly allows me to comprehend situations and people better.
I have always been a keen observer of events around me from a very young age. However, was I really observing or merely seeing things? We see things but do we really pay attention? There have been times when I realize that I had passed by something or someone (like a unique building, an interesting billboard, Spiderman swinging over the street, and even Winnie the Pooh distributing candy) while walking or driving but don’t seem to recollect any of it. I have vague images in my mind but I cannot connect them with a time or place. I have been guilty of removing my phone from my pocket to check the time, scrolled through social media and sports scores, and put the phone back in my pocket only to realize I still don’t know the time (I did this again this morning. Some people never learn). I have spent minutes, if not hours looking for my spectacles and not seen it even while looking at them for the umpteenth time. I have failed to see the pain and hunger in the eyes of a homeless child, only because she was smiling and dancing while begging (Isn’t that what a 5-year old would do despite her situation?). There have been times during my ‘take life with a pinch of salt and sense of humor’ lifestyle (which I truly stand by), where I have failed to recognize the seeping frustrations within me on personal and professional fronts (While it is critical to address them, you can only do so if you know they exist).
I guess, I started out on this observation spree as a young boy purely to find some form of entertainment around me as I tagged along with my parents on random shopping extravaganzas around the city I grew up in, at school, at the playground, or on the few trips we made to visit relatives and friends. While there was entertainment galore on offer (and a few laughs too), I started to think and began analyzing what I was seeing only as I grew older. In fact, I realize that when I really started to care about the world around me, I had subconsciously learned to observe happenings around me. Conscious sight finally started transcending into conscious observation and recognition.
Today, I pay keen attention to my surroundings. I secretly diagnose people while waiting for my turn at an OPD clinic. I try and understand the situation of a frustrated regular second class train commuter. I try and connect a completely unrelated billboard advertisement to the marketing of my business. I even spend time thinking about how soon it will be before the ‘snail’s pace’ Mumbai traffic comes to a complete standstill and we never reach our destinations.
For me, observing also extends to interaction with our surroundings and the people in it: Taxi drivers, people waiting in a ticket queue, the pizza delivery guy, our hairdresser, a stranger at the gym, colleagues at work, family members, the guy with his head sticking out of a manhole, and even ourselves. Observation, recognition, and interaction with our environment are what helps us develop into more wholesome beings, and make meaningful contributions.
According to me, we don’t just observe through our eyes, but also do so through our minds and hearts (And some arrogant people do so through their backsides). Observation helps increase our focus, reasoning, and even memory. Our social personality is given a boost. We tend to see the world from different perspectives. We grow richer in wisdom, our minds become more flexible, and we start seeing the world for what it is rather than basing our judgment on preconceived notions and biases. This allows us to help ourselves and others around us. This provides us with a platform to live a more enriching life that absorbs the positivity from our environment and then gives it back in return.
Keeping our eyes open at all times is important (Especially if we don’t want to end up in our closet, as we wake up groggy in the middle of the night, looking for the bathroom). I look out of the car window all the time, even if I pass by the same streets and localities daily (the fact that I have motion sickness keeps me highly motivated from not looking into my phone). I know you are dying to read that forward on WhatsApp or check your feed on Facebook and Instagram. But spare a moment and look up for a change. Life is passing you by, as are opportunities to seize moments that life shares with you. So are you going to open your senses to life around you? Or will you only open something when your phone dings next?