Hazra’s collection of 12 essays about unrelated things urges the reader to look around, look back, and maybe write an ode or two for all things dismissed as insignificant over a period of time

As I read through the essays of Indrajit Hazra, I couldn’t help but recall Moira Rose, a character from Netflix’s Schitt’s Creek, played by Catherine O Hara. The character is known for remaining flat through the six seasons as she bemuses people with her erudite lexicon. The purpose? To entertain with her hyperbolic eclectic eccentricities. In Praise of Laziness and Other Essays (Simon and Schuster India) by Indrajit Hazra seems like a dose of Moira Rose with Bengali origin and sensibilities.

At the outset, the collection of 12 different essays that include a short speculative fiction and a couple of grandmothers’ recipes declares that it has been compiled to tell unrelated things to entertain the reader. These meditations of a journalist, beginning from his childhood and navigating his adult life, allow the reader to have a glimpse into his mindscape that connects stories, visuals, adaptations, and audience responses drawing a wholesome analysis of a text such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.

‘A Good Mourning’

Hazra records the change in people’s social circle, perhaps universally as Zuckerbhai’s Facebook took over the world in ‘A Man Of The Great Indoors’ and collapsed all social relationships into one category of friends. It is an essay filled with quips about today’s hypernationalism that fails to have an impact as it becomes difficult to grasp the connections between his ruminations on Anderson’s theory of nation as an imagined community and Dunbar’s number on the neural capacity of people to form social relationships.

These quips are better actualised in his essay ‘Everybody Loves A Good Mourning’ wherein he methodically diagnoses the state of collective mourning in the country upon a celebrity’s death. This spectacle bears evidence to the fact that despite the times, people have the capacity to practise empathy. Amidst his banter, an essay that stands out with utmost sobriety is ‘Becoming Adult’ in which he goes back in time to recount the death of his friend, briefly touching upon the subject of undiagnosed and untreated mental health condition. His intimidating lexicon softens.

However, his assumption that his friend, Rana, would be called ‘special’ today in the same way as ‘special’ was used some 45 years ago is debatable. Despite this, Hazra poignantly takes the reader into the world of his grief wherein children do not get to grow older, they do not become adults. To add to this, he imagines the futures of Twain’s Huck Finn and Sukumar Ray’s Dashu who are eternally stuck in their boyhood, adding interesting insights for the reader to ponder.

Newness in His Approach, a Temptation

For the most part, the essays in this collection are Hazra’s cerebration read as a defense of his choices and thoughts with an air of pretentiousness. The most interesting, entertaining and engaging essay is the titular one wherein he calls on Kumbhakarna for The Ramayana along with Kundera to describe how laziness has always been seen as a vice. He argues that “like sleep and death, laziness is an anti-social activity that should be valued for being against deterministic schemes and for rescuing the individual from the herd.” He further ruminates on the nuances of procrastination, boredom and claiming one’s body in the act of being lazy.

In a world where everyone is in a race to remain relevant, In Praise of Laziness is a brave attempt to break away for the sake of ‘playsure.’ The reader also becomes an accomplice as she turns the pages, drowning in giggles at the wordplay, puns, and many menons, be it pheno or Felu. Away from the trending topics and the world where everything is content now, it provides a welcoming retreat as we navigate through Hazra’s idle banter about laziness, dry day, electric blanket, love for football and the French language, hatred of the kitchen and interrogation of some classic characters. His reference to various songs, movies, players, and drinks act like a comforting electric blanket, a rare luxury that the author allows himself, in this world of unnerving lexicon. With each turn of the page, the prose becomes more indulging as it balances humour and philosophy.

The collection amuses, entertains, annoys, irritates, confuses and relaxes. It takes seriously all that’s dismissed lightly. It is a call, if at all, for the reader to look around, look back, and maybe write an ode or two for all things she has dismissed over a period of time as insignificant. It is an invitation to break the bars of rigidity and allow oneself the delight of either doing absolutely nothing or doing something without wanting to achieve anything. There’s newness in this approach, a temptation.

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