I am a compulsive list-maker. From things-to-do-at-office, to things-to-buy-before-a-family vacation, books-to-read, movies-to-watch. Even things to do on a weekend: balance my cheque books, get a hair cut, write a letter, list of calls to make etc.
The “list-of-lists” is endless.
Sample this: List of Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five” books not read when I was a kid. This graduated into list of James Hadley Chase books I read. And then into list of Harold Robbins novels I had read.
Maybe if I had kept a record of my lists through the years it would make a great input for my future biographers!
I was a book maniac but a bigger a movie maniac. My movie lists went thus: List of Amitabh and Rekha movies not seen (very few), list of MKD’s movie (MKD= Manmohan Desai of Amar Akbar Anthony fame), list of Filmfare awards won by Laxmikant Pyarelal. Etc. etc.
Lists have their uses. An obvious ones is the famous “dhobi list”; 3 shirts, 4 trousers, 2 kurtas etc. How else will you trace the errors of omission by your iron-wallah? Or the list of items you may give to your maid servant/ driver/friendly-neighborhood guy in case you yourself are not in a position to visit a store.
And the famous new year’s resolutions list. Famously made by most of us at the end of the year, and promptly forgotten in the second week of the new year. I have placed quitting smoking as a top priority in each of my New Year lists. And I failed. And failed in some others as well. So much so that I have stopped making these new year lists now.
So by now you can see there are two kinds of lists. One type which pulls information pieces together, all scattered strands of information coalesce together to form a whole unit by itself. And the other type is the to-do or the action list.
Lists have this way of delivering life to you in small packages, small digestible morsels. “Here is a list, these are the things you ought to be doing. These are important.” And your life for the moment/day/week is done.
Lists by definition have a sense of exactitude about them. THESE are the things a need to do in THAT finite time. No less, and more importantly no more. The precise compass to navigate the day-to-day uncertainties of life. A list says, “Look here old chap, if you do all these contained within me, you job is done”. But the flip side is, the list might even bite back at you; “Look here silly old chap, you goofed up!! You have not done things which you were supposed to”!
Lists do place their demands on you but those who negotiate their way through feel right on top of the world!
Long time ago, when I was a bachelor staying at Bangalore, I would go to a small restaurant (eminently recommended Queens on Church Street) for my dinners. Being sick of making decisions about what to order each evening, I once made a list of the dishes I would have for each day of the week and handed it over to the steward. He was a bit taken aback initially. But he soon realized that this arrangement worked perfectly fine.
When my kids were growing up, they would come up with a barrage of demands.
“I want this game CD.”
“I need a new pair of sneakers.”
“I want to watch this movie.”
“I want to go out for pizzas.”
“What about panipuris?”
Etc., etc., etc.
I did not want to get into instant gratification mode and buy all what the kids wanted immediately. And it felt cruel to keep on saying no to them whenever they would come up with their demands.
So one weekend I sat them down and began asking them what all they want. They started instantly. “book”, “new pencil”, “Pokemon cards”, “New Beyblade”. And a lot many more. I kept encouraging them to add more to the list which I was neatly writing down on a sheet of paper. Once in a while I would include some of my own agenda. “Clean-up your desks”, “clip your finger nails”, “polish your shoes”. They were only too happy to have these as well on the agenda. I called this activity “brain-storming” exercise and the kids were absolutely fascinated.
The list was affixed to the fridge door with a magnet.
The week passed and some of the stuff in the list was done, some were not. Whenever something was done, the kids would strike it off themselves.
Come the next weekend, I sat with the kids again and we reviewed the list together. The done things were rechecked and new agenda points were added. The kids were satisfied that there was progression. And over the next few weeks much progress happened while many “demands” appeared silly to them, so these were dropped out of the list with consensus.
What this achieved for me as a parent was avoiding pressure from the kids for instant gratification. The kids on the other hand saw that their wants were met, though over a period of time. And they were pretty OK with that.
This process of “brain storming” continued for a few years and it slowly died a natural death. We still joke about the “brain storming” days within our family even after so many years!
PS: Taking a cue from the “Queens” experience, I once tried to be helpful to my wife who one weekend morning complained about the humdrum nature of her work and that she had to figure out each day what to cook for the family. Helpful guy that I am, I promptly offered to make her a list of dishes to prepare for a fortnight. It was not surprising when she ticked me off and asked me to mind my own business! I do not remember whether I got my meals that weekend or not!