K was a slow walker. Like, really slow. He was an intern at the last place I worked, and I remember getting frustrated because he would slow me down whenever we headed out for lunch. I’d be turning my head and yelling at him, lovingly of course, to pick up the pace or we’d be late. But he’d just try his hardest and still be stuck in sloth mode behind me.
He would add a good ten minutes to my walk to the bus stop and back, so sometimes I just gave up and told him we’d eat nearby, though I really didn’t like many of the stalls near the office.
I guess one of the reasons why he was so slow was the fact that he was pretty short, mere stumps where most twenty-year-old men had long, strapping legs. It must have been quite a sight to see the both of us together, given the difference in our heights.
Truthfully he didn’t really look twenty at all. He had a a very boyish face, almost as if he was just discovering puberty. He had a perpetual mischievous grin, though we all knew he wasn’t malicious by any means. The boy had a good soul.
I remember talking to him a lot about life: the world, Singapore, women, work. Football. K was a massive football fan. He betted heavily too, despite all my warnings that nobody ever got rich through gambling. I wonder if he still gambles. I’ve not spoken to him in months. Not that we aren’t on talking terms or anything. I’m not a very sociable person, and neither is K.
I was thinking about him yesterday, when I walked home from the mall. I had a pretty bad bike accident recently, so I’m not exactly my former sprightly self. As I made my way home, taking every step like the unemployed, in-need-of-rest half-cripple that I am, I was reminded of K’s slow steps.
Walking slow is actually pretty therapeutic. I know it sounds bloody obvious, but you begin to realise things that you would have perhaps missed if you had walked fast. You know, the colours of flowers and all that other beautiful stuff the Singapore government seems intent on destroying to boost our GDP or house another million immigrants (have you seen the number of housing projects these days?).
I’m not suggesting that we walk slowly in every situation, though it surely helps to take life down a few notches. But it’s difficult. We live in a society that worships efficiency. We have to psyche ourselves up to work at superhuman speeds, we worry that our bosses will label us lazy if we don’t meet deadlines. We don’t switch off when we get home, and it can affect our family ties.
Everywhere we turn is another app or gadget to improve productivity, to help us fit more into the 24 hours we have in a single day. We are made to feel lousy if we don’t seem to be achieving or earning much compared to our peers. We need to fill up our days doing stuff, so the notion that we should be pursuing stillness and serenity instead must be seen as absurd.
Again, I’m not saying people should be lying in their beds all day, in awe of the colours of their ceilings. But wanting to blitzkrieg through life to a heart attack or hypertension seems insane to me.
I think that’s what I learnt from K. He was hardly bothered that he didn’t seem to know about the war going on in the Middle East, or the latest high-ranking civil servant to have been hauled to court on corruption charges. He looked every bit the happy sloth he was, the archetypal yogi. He didn’t seem to let the Singapore system get to him.
He took things slow.