Last week, I was at a virtual press conference learning all about brew bags that ensured good coffee. What a great idea, I thought. Where you can spoon ground coffee into a pouch that straddles both sides of the mug and pour hot water into it. Delicious coffee then drips through into your mug, ready to drink. So much easier than brewing on the gas and so much tastier than microwaved instant coffee. And you don’t even need a coffee filter, or a French Press or an automated machine to do it. All you need per cup is a disposable brew bag and some ground coffee.
I was pretty chuffed about this, especially as a travel accessory. Hot water is easily available in most hotel rooms. This happiness lasted a couple of days. Until I was off on a weekend trip with friends and saw one of them fishing out a sachet that contained a pour over that came ready filled with coffee! Now why didn’t I know about this, I asked myself. This seems like an even better idea! Pour overs have been around for a while but I hadn't explored the concept because I hadn't realised it would heighten the experience of coffee drinking. And so it goes in the world today.
There’s always something better, brighter, and more brilliant just around the corner. There are many, many, many things that are being created to make our lives easier. What our parents’ generation would look down upon, we snatch up because it is so convenient and allows us to do more, more, more. But I also do believe that this lazy living often stresses us out more than it helps give us more time to do things that would enrich our lives.
Like calling for an Uber or Ola instead of driving ourselves or waiting for a black-and-yellow cab or, argh, a bus! When we didn’t have this service, we thought nothing of taking one of the other options. But now that there’s an app for it, we spend agonising minutes looking for network connectivity, making the right choices, fielding calls from multiple drivers who reject our ride, and then waiting painstakingly until one arrives to pick us up, mentally chanting the code we have to relay to him to start the journey. Or take online shopping. It’s so easy, we think. We can do it from the comfort of our homes. No more pesky salespeople, no more lines at cash counters, no more jostling.
But there’s always the risk of the product not being as good as it looks. Of coordination with impatient delivery executives who always seem to arrive at the most inopportune times. Of coordinating returns and following up for refunds. All while ostensibly doing other things. Sometimes I wonder whether it isn’t easier to just go to a shop and buy what I want. Do I really need such a variety of choices to merit this whole online oopsville?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m usually the first to try out the latest app or appliance, and an advocate of the new in most forms. But I do recognise how much more complicated my life has become by succumbing to things supposed to simplify it.
Take nude make-up. It's supposed to exemplify the natural look. But if you check all the online tutorials, you’ll be thoroughly shocked by how much effort people put into their ‘no make-up’ make-up!
When I was growing up, listening to music meant switching on the radio or accumulating a collection of audio tapes of my choice. You just put them on and let the tunes wash over you. Then came mp3s, which allowed you a lot more choice, and lead to a lot more skipping through songs to reach the one you wanted. Not because you didn’t like the others, but because you wanted to listen to a specific one. Now that’s a good thing to have that kind of easy control and choice. But in my experience, it just led to half-heard songs that didn’t allow you to really soak in the music. And now with online audio streaming sites, it’s just that much more complex. You have access to just about any music of any genre by any musician. And sometimes the variety on offer just frazzles you.
Same with OTT channels, right? There’s never a limit to how many sites and how many shows you can have at the click of the remote. But there’s a limit to how much time and mindspace you have to watch them. And so you have to narrow down your watchlist. You think you’ve done it successfully. Until you go to Facebook and see someone’s recommendations and get a fresh bout of FOMO (fear of missing out) that you haven’t chosen the best, or the newest, or the ones that everyone is talking about!
I see this in every sphere of our lives, from what yoghurt to buy to the partner we pick on a dating app. Greater access gives on to greater pressure to make the ‘right’ choices. And this leads to growing dissonance with what we choose. Because we believe that something better might just turn up when we aren’t looking. And so, we keep our antennae up all the time. Forgetting that peace is what we seek through these ‘easyfying’ mediums. But the one thing we don’t seem to be getting.
(The columnist is Associate Editor, TravelDine, and a bespoke Mumbai tour specialist. Find her on Instagram and Twitter @priyapathiyan and @thehungryhappyhippy on Facebook. She blogs on thehungryhappyhippy.com)