Dolce Far Niente – Langkawi, Malaysia, January 2011

The Beauty of doing Nothing. They say successful people have two qualities: first, to achieve all that they desire, and the second, to actually enjoy it. Needless to say, very few achieve the second.

Rebal Island, Langkawi

Rebak Island, Langkawi

Similarly difficult is the art of doing nothing. When at work, I often find myself wriggling in my chair, mentally pleading for the time to do nothing. But when I do get that time, after say the first 30 minutes or so, I find myself wriggling again…except this time with restlessness, wondering what to do with myself.

But I think Langkawi has cured me of this schizophrenic behavior – from the minute I landed at the airport, the Langkawi-special –nothingness pheromones engulfed me, drawing out an instant beatific silly smile from me. Suddenly, I wasn’t even worried (and I had been worrying about this the entire flight) that I had arrived at a beach destination with no swimwear.  Who cares, I thought.

The Jetty – Personal Yachts are plenty here

And three days hence, that thought has suddenly become applicable to everything – I don’t really care that the humidity is making my hair levitate and is likely to confuse bees any minute. I’m tanned as hell – and that often does not mean good things for the darker Asian skin, but who cares!

Not caring started at the airport with the delightfully non-existent security checks. So refreshing in this day and age.  All of us would just revel in the joy of getting out of an aircraft and breezily walking into the terminal (if you can call it that) no buses, or ground staff to direct you (bother you). People started taking pictures right there, practically on the runway!

Nothingness runs in the geography of Langkawi – an archipelago of 99 islands, and when I think island I think of peace floating around, isolated from the world’s madness.  I am on Rebak Island at a beautiful resort at the foot of a tropical rainforest (details and trip advisory later).

The turquoise sea and the most vibrant green field and rain forest hills I’ve ever seen surround this island. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not like there isn’t much to do here, because there is plenty.  Island hopping, water sports, duty-free shopping, etc., etc. But that’s not what’s got me wired up to write. I’m excited because this place has actually managed to make me sit still in leisure. My itinerary:

  • AM: Breakfast – gotta stack up for the hectic day ahead!
  • Noon: Time for Vitamin D
    • Beach Chair, Sunscreen, Book, Ipod.
    • Sunscreen, Swimming Pool, Pina Colada
    • Pina Colada, Sunscreen, Beach, Mimosa
  • Afternoon: Lunch. Around 3-4 pm, you’ve run out of reinforcements to sustain that hell of a day. One needs energy to spend all that time lounging around with thoughts. Thinking (or in my case, lying still with one thought – is the beach better or the pool?) needs a healthy mind and healthy mind needs some gastronomical delights. And turns out, Langkawi is perfect for that. My tummy has a separate smile running parallel to my face, what with all the delightful curry treats, and seafood. Ofcourse, this is followed by a nap in the sun.
  • PM: This is “recreation time”. I alternate between cycling, fish feeding
    Cycling Me

    Cycling Me

    and long walks. There is also the option of feeding Monitor Lizards, but I think that messes with my comfortably ensconced thoughts of how beautiful the world is (for me lizards lie outside the bounds of nature, that’s just the way it is). This is one of my favorite times of the day. In normal life, evenings are usually when I begin to get restless. I need to be busily engaged with some hobby, or friends or work. But here, I’m relishing the joy of feeding fishes and watching them fight over the limited breadcrumbs (of course, I overfeed them), or how joyous biking is especially amidst a rainforest on one side and blue beach water on the other. And I can walk endlessly here. The resort keeps offering its electric buggies for transportation, but I don’t want them (except when I’m down over 4 glass of wine and I have the opportunity of sitting on the reverse backseat with outstretched legs, going wheeeeee)

  • Night Time: Light dinner. At this point, my tummy has been rendered exhausted with the initial excitement and wants something light for the night. Soupy noodles preceded with a bottle of wine are perfect. Then I retire to my room, with a book and am asleep before I get past the first ten lines.

Please note: No TV, no Telephone, no Internet (except to upload this post), no schedule. But such utter pointless fun!

This is Dolce Far Niente – The beauty of doing nothing or pleasant idleness.

For a person like me, who always wants to do, do, do, this idleness has been a mini personal adventure. I’ve seldom, even on holidays, stopped to just be and derive small joys from not doing much at all.  Pure leisure is something we have perhaps been trained to “deserve” rather than just enjoy. In fact, humans will seldom be able to enjoy leisure for long if we haven’t in some form truly deserved it.

I don’t know whether I’ve deserved it or not, but so far this personal experiment has been successful and has deserved me some more leisure time. I’ve previously discussed the sacred space that Joseph Campbell feels we all must indulge in (Travel-ism or Tourism?). He says something creative happens when you sit still. So I’m waiting. But the wide halo of ease upon myself is probably a start. It’s nothing short of a miracle that my camera has gone dead in the middle of my vacation and I am not panicking.

So till something does happen, I’m indulging my sacred space. For the next couple of days, some more niente for me.

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