Rhyme and Rhythm

In academic year 2010-11, all the language teachers of Sri Bharathi Vidyalaya and I met every Monday after the class-hours to discuss languages. We compared and contrasted four languages taught in the school – Sanskrit, Hindi, Kannada and English. Meeting on Mondays was a rule and cancellation was an exception. Though I have not been regular in the meetings this academic year, the teachers continue the practice.

Majority of the students in the SSLC batch of 2010-11 scored distinction. Traditionally we consider Math and Science as scoring subjects. In Sri Bharathi Vidyalaya, highest average score in the SSLC exam for the batch of 2010-11 was in Kannada, followed by English. Math and science came later.

We had also started discussions with Math and Science teachers. The periodicity agreed was fortnightly. We met a few times and then the meetings stopped for no specific reason.

For about six months before the BBMP elections, Smart Vote volunteers met every Sunday morning in a park in Koramangala, Bangalore. It worked well. In a different case, Governing Council members of Adarsha Vidya Samsthe agreed on conference calls every fortnight. Amar, one of the members, cautioned that it had to be once a week to succeed. As other members did not want weekly calls, we accepted once a fortnight, but did not become a practice. People could not spare time once in 15 days. Setting aside some time would have been even more difficult if it was once a month. However, it would have worked if we were to agree to call once a week.

Whatever be the task, we gain by doing it with regular periodicity. It also is not a strain when we do that with a rhythm, with a flow. Those who wait for the beard to grow before they shave find it a nag when their spouse or mother or sister nags them to take up the razor. They scheme to delay by another day, every time, and argue for hours over a two-minute simple task. If we consider that we would do any “important but not urgent” task like exercise, studies, etc., when we find time, we are unlikely to find the time.

Why does it work when we set a daily or weekly routine and fails if we try a different periodicity? We have acquired the habit of doing many things with this rhythm as a part culture.

Habitable places of the earth have clear measure of a day, with the cycle of day-follows-night. Our sleeping and eating cycles are regulated by this, setting up a convenient biological clock. We do not need to consult our watches for our routine tasks. However, if you spend days in Antarctica, there would just be days without nights for six months and then nights without days for the next six months. It would be impossible to get the sense of passing days without the help of clock and calendar. Nature assists us to set our body clock.

Children go to school on week days and adults go to work. There are events and expectations to mark end of a week and beginning of a new week. We remember the day of the week more easily than the date of the month. That makes a week more rhythmic than a month. Families where no member has a reason to do something specific on specific days of the week lose this rhythm and need extra effort to remember certain tasks.

Living with days of the week is an acquired habit due to the routine set by our culture. Before I started schooling, my school was “Mahajana Sanskrit College,” which had classes from standard 1 till degree in Sanskrit.  The school followed a fortnightly-, not weekly-cycle. It closed for 3 days each around full-moon and new-moon. The rhythm then was fortnightly, students waiting for full-moon and new-moon, like they wait for weekends now.

Many devout Hindus fast on the 11th day (Ekadashi) of each lunar month. Some perform poojas on full-moon days every month. Some wait for the last or first day of the month if that is the salary day. If there is a clear activity or expectation marking a specific day, repeated regularly, we get a rhythm. We can leverage this and schedule other desirable activities on those days.

Many countries away from the equator follow Daylight Saving Time by setting the clock back by an hour in spring and advancing in winter. New England Journal of Medicine has reported that accidents increase by 17% on the Monday following the time change. A sudden change in the rhythm can be as disastrous.

We find rhythm in poetry and some good prose.

“I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Besides the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.”

Music and dance breathe rhythm. There is rhythm in breathing, heart-beat, walking and running – not only of human beings, but of other animals too. It is a joy to watch trees and plants swaying in a rhythm or observing a pendulum or running machineries.

Owner’s manual of our vehicle tells us how we should care for it by tending to it every day, and with a few other tasks with regular periodicity – planned preventive maintenance. Honouring these guidelines keeps the vehicle in good condition. We could create an owner’s manual for our mind and body too – prescribing how we can keep ourselves in good health by doing certain tasks with regular rhythm.

If there is a task including review of the tasks done, do it with regular periodicity. It becomes a habit and removes the strain and uncertainty. For most people, daily or weekly cycles would suit better. In many departments, especially government departments, periodic reports are mandated. If there is nothing to report, then the offices send a NIL report.

e.g., “Number of arrests made pursuant to a warrant issued by a judge – Nil Report for 2002.”

Setting a routine, a framework, and a structure is liberating. It simplifies our lives by reducing uncertainties. Pick your cycle, choose your rhythm.


About pgbhat

A retired Naval Officer and an educationist. Has experience with software industry. A guest faculty at different institutes and a corporate trainer with software development companies.
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One Response to Rhyme and Rhythm

  1. pgbhat says:

    From: P V Maiya [mailto:pvmaiya@gmail.com]

    Very thought provoking. Admittedly, the rigour of “western “ discipline where almost everything in life goes by appointments and schedules and the indulgent [or if you like indolent], Indian are contrasting. There is a lot of stress in the first one and the second is full of excuses for not doing. We need a mid way, tilted more to the first, for the country to progress. These are my prel. thoughts.


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