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It is just our style, man!

2021-07-11, 3:05pm Literature

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Sudhirendar Sharma

Sudhirendar Sharma

Susegad manifests itself as a way of life, of being at peace with whatever life has to offer.

Pandemic may have propped scientists to invent ‘anthropause’ as a new catch phrase to describe forced reduction in human activities but the traditions of taking a step back, slowing down and living in the present have been a preferred choice for many societies. Like Ikigai to Japanese and Hugge to the Danes, Susegad for the Goans manifests itself as a way of life, of being at peace with whatever life has to offer. It may resonate a bit differently in the pandemic era though, as survivors may have little option but to embrace such traditions to brave isolation and to address anxieties. By bringing susegad under focus, Clyde D’Souza suggests conscious replacement of mindless consumption with mindful living to strike harmony with self. 

Susegad is an intimate exploration into what Goa should actually be sought for, beyond its tag of a popular tourist destination. Despite the humbug of modernity hitting the island county like a nasty wave, there is a consciously consistent effort by the natives to stand tall against such onslaught. The humid sluggishness triggered by climate has found comfort in the culture that has in turn led the human biological clock to be automated in favor of happiness and satisfaction. The silent ticking of the clock is so deeply integrated into the Goan habits and rituals that they hardly ever notice it. Even a casual Goan response ‘It’s just our style, man’ has so much unsaid in it.     

Pursuing a hybrid style of writing, D’Souza digs out for susegad in all elements of daily existence with a short story and an interview with a native celebrity to pep up the narrative. From tangy curries to reflective proverbs, and from afternoon siesta to distilling feni, each activity and practice is so paced that the person executing it is in control of life. No wonder, most Goans yearn for susegad, meaning quietness, which the pandemic has otherwise thrust upon all others too. Does that not call upon the others to condition themselves to the new normal? Written as much for the curious as for the discerning, the book offers insights on author’s lived experience on a partially understood and inadequately appreciated subject that has something for everyone struggling to make a sense of living amidst pandemic induced fears and anxieties. 

As an accomplished writer, D’Souza has championed to showcase the intrinsic value of susegad rather convincingly and eloquently. He avoids being meditative but remains somewhat prescriptive in conveying how to stay relaxed and contended without doing anything dramatic. Pandemic may have made the case for practicing minimalism more urgent and compelling, but sadness and unhappiness have prevailed far too long to deserve serious attention. Inspiration for building a case for susegad is pitched on repulsive realities of our times which invariably come packaged with material comforts and physical conveniences. The case is rested!

Susegad is undoubtedly a timely book that lends handy tips on making life more relaxed with an increasing feeling of happiness. It is an easy-to-read book that can be placed in the category of a cultural biography. It indeed is, as it accords a special place to the time-tested cultural practices of the people of Goa. The Goans have long practiced what most of us have been forced to adapt during the pandemic. Far from outsourcing the boring chores, the Goans follow the ritual of in-sourcing. Most of the household activities are done without any outside help, to enforce dignity of labor while building a relationship with the immediate environment and perhaps, adding an element of susegad in one’s life. The lessons are far too many to ignore.     

Susegad is a timely call for course correction to address the underlying fissures and frailties in our societies. With global pandemic having ripped the world apart, nothing could be more compelling than addressing the micro stressors to tide over the macro challenges.

Susegad 

by Clyde D’Souza

Penguin/Ebury, New Delhi 

Extent: 228, Price: Rs. 399.

(Dr. Sudhirendar Sharma is a writer specialising in development issues and is based in New Delhi, India.)