Parag Tembulkar
Guest Article

The dying art of the pause

The mind has its own way of doing some good stuff when you close it and let it be in a state of La Pausa... from the desk of Parag Tembulkar.

This is not pandemic literature.

To be perfectly honest with you, I wanted to write about this — the importance and neglect of 'the pause' in a creative person’s life — a couple of years ago. But as usual, I managed to procrastinate it like crazy.

So, this isn’t about the Big Pause we’re living in these days. This isn’t unsolicited advice about the cool stuff you can do while you’re doing nothing, but should do to stay ahead of the curve. This isn’t about the spiritual meaning, the environmental significance of the Supreme Mother trying to tell us something.

This, the dying pause thingy, is something I’ve been mulling over, lazily and long enough. I’ve often wondered about its importance, the need for it every now and then, and its gradual disappearance from our everyday slam bam lives.

Why is 'the pause' so misunderstood, misdirected, misinterpreted and occasionally frowned upon in our hyper-reactive, show-how-damn-hard-I’m-working, deadline-threatened lives? Doesn’t great work happen when you hold back just that little bit, for a little bit? Isn’t it true that when you’re doing nothing, you’re doing something? Are we, creative people of the new age, missing a trick? And shouldn’t the elders in our creative industries encourage that deceptively lazy pause?

The great Xavi Hernandez was the master of La Pausa, as he’d pause the game, fractionally, that was travelling a million miles an hour. Xavi’s La Pausa meant holding the sizzling football just that tiniest bit longer while the chasing pack kept pummeling past and passing lanes opened; just enough to slide the ball to La Pulga, who’d hammer the final nail.

Sanjay Manjrekar would wait until the ball floated almost into the confident keeper’s gloves before he caressed it with the most late of touches and buttered its way towards the boundary. Zero to four in a split second.

The great Ustaads called it 'thehraav'. That dimmest, slightest of pause before letting go a note so delicate and sweet you’d mistakenly think it’s music rather than what it was — an angel’s sigh. The politely late note of the santoor, the release of a sitar string on the tantalising edge of a dying nanosecond, the slowing down of the tabla tempo into soundless obscurity only to rise like a choreographed tsunami.

Ustad Bismillah’s mischievous lips would curl back just that slight bit, pause for the faintest of moments, to deceive the listening ears into believing that a note fell through when it actually lifted the ones that followed. And Miles Davis’ 'Kind of Blue'. Sigh! Might as well name it 'Kind of Pause'.

'Thehraav, that tease of divinity; delightfully splitting time, space and kaleidoscoping souls.

Muhammad Ali would throw a sucker punch just after he’d sell the impression to his opponent that he’s kinda done with the fight and can’t really be bothered. Pause. Take a breather. Shrug. Deceive. Then, bam; thank you for the title, sucker.

Neil French taught a generation of creatives to pause, hold back and pluck out unnecessary elements we put into an ad; so the ad doesn’t look like an ad, but a piece of clever literature (I daresay) that was an ad in disguise.

Bourdainism would ridicule anyone who would eat a steak straight off the cast iron. Wait. Let it rest on the carving board for five-ish minutes. It’s still cooking. Go grab a beer till then, young man.

Rafi Sahab pausefully stretched those romantic syllables long and so, damn, slow; like delicate dough in the hands of a pizza master in the back alleys of Rome.

Speaking of back alleys, I can never forget Anantashram — the legendary Goan ‘khanaval’ behind my childhood home in Bombay’s Khotachi Wadi. Some of you may remember that super annoying sign as we waited impatiently in long lunch queues — 'Ghaae la pann vel lagto' (loosely means 'Haste needs some time, too'). The pre lunch grumbles and complaints sheepishly turned into post lunch burps. The wait was as worth it as Senhor Khadpe’s long pause before he was sure the pomfret he was picking up from the fisherwoman at Grant Road’s L.J. Market was the one he really, really wanted.

Now, I have been worried for quite some time that the Age of Expressionism (in other words, the current world of social media) is slowly degenerating into an Age of Reactionism. An age where thought is after and forces justification that can be termed as hindsightful. An age that is mistakenly celebrated as the one for ‘doers’. You know, do, we’re told. Not think and do. Not pause, mull, feel and do. Just do. Well, I got news for ya — there might be a day when AI will do it all for you.

And then comes along this Big Pause that strangles humanity into a freeze like never before. Maybe, it’s trying to tell us something, should we care to listen? I dunno, but maybe? Maybe, among a lot of other future-bending things, the one small thing it has taught us creative folks is to punctuate the rush?

Punctuate. The. Rush.

Pause. Hold back. Use that comma. Take a deep breath. Take a step back. Wisdom sometimes is a bit slower than instinct. Let it catch up. Good things could come to those who pause. Good storytelling that is empathetic and heartfelt, rather than manufactured entertainment. Good brands communicating like humans with emotions, style and feelings. Good businesses flourishing from conscience and ingenuity.

(Sorry, I’m not telling you what to do here. I’m only saying what I feel.)

I believe that the mind has its own way of doing some good stuff when you close it (yes I said it) and just let it be in a state of La Pausa. I believe good things have a way of living. So, the optimist in me tells me 'thehraav’ is not dead or dying, it’s just paused.

Have a think. I guess the one thing we all have right now is time. Because once the Big Pause hits play, the world will resume at full throttle and go back to its helter-skelter normal; faster than ever before, to make up for lost time.

Hopefully, we won’t need another pandemic to pause.

(Parag Tembulkar is a New York-based creative consultant and writer.)