If there was an election to choose the best time of the week, my vote is for Saturday. Particularly, i will tick the box : 4pm Saturday afternoon.

There is competition. Sunday is popular and highly rated. It prides itself as the first day of the week, and a holiday. It is precious – and that, paradoxically, is its downside. The pressure to do something relaxing, while being constantly reminded of the slippage of time, that drags us towards yet another week that is still to be planned.

Monday stands no chance whatsoever – infamous for its morning blues. Historically, it hasn’t proven to get better during the day, as one bears the brunt of many mails, calls, actions and the sudden realisation: should have worked during the weekend to catch up.

Tuesday is the day people wake up to the reality of the week. So, it won’t win as there is no time for frivolous elections.

Some of us are mentally dead by the time we scrape through Wednesday. It is nevertheless a decent contender for the vote, as I have noticed a lot of people pre-maturely celebrating its evening as the beginning-of-the-end-of-the-week.

Thursday is usually a serious day, when the managers chase their teams to see what could be salvaged for the week. The last chance to “begin” something, as it would take at least two days to do an acceptably shoddy job of what was originally estimated to be a week’s effort. As the philosopher of our times Alain de Botton says, “Work finally begins when the fear of doing nothing exceeds the fear of doing it badly.”

Friday is like a celebrity who simply expects everyone to vote for her, being famous for the TGIF theme (Thank God its Friday!). She doesn’t realise the truth: people don’t really thank God for giving them a Friday; they are just relieved that the week is soon over.

What is special about a Saturday? At one end, we have the morning, which begins with a “hangover” of the arduous week – the unfinished business still lingering – followed by weekend chores and errands. Saturday nights at the other end, have a special significance in the popular culture – a time set aside for entertainment, a chance to catch up with friends. All of this require planning, scheduling, coordination. Effort. But there is something about an undemanding, effortless Saturday afternoon.

Illustration by Sowmya Ramanathan

It is that period, when it would be too late to finish anything pending for the current week, but too early to worry about the upcoming week. A golden, yet fuzzy time space that overlaps the boundary between the weeks. A land without rules, ruler or expectations. A zone to indulge on a meaningless pursuit where no one keeps track of your time. No one cares.

I have cherished the memories of many such blissful Saturday afternoons of my childhood days (late 80’s). Life was simple. Less TV, no social media, and there was such a thing called boredom. A scene from a typical Saturday 4pm: My mother eager to prepare the perfect afternoon snack, enthused by her weekend wish coming true – being taken out for shopping earlier in the day. My younger sister quarrelling with me over trivial things. Me being physically outmanoeuvred by her yet again; we end up disrupting my dad from his well-earned nap after a gruelling work-week. The unimpressed grandma admonishing us for making a fuss. All of that brought to a peaceful end by the spattering sound of the spicy bajji and the smell of filter coffee. The nourishment for not just the body.

Growing up, the sweet Saturday afternoon zone got shrinking. Weekend homework increased, priorities changed, we all got busy. Still, those afternoons were a medicine, a recharger of sorts, where time stood still for a brief while, preparing us for the countless weeks ahead. It was all about leisure, less focus on doing anything specific and more about just being together, often spent talking about a random, point-less matter that appears meaningful when I look back.

2020 was a tough year on many respects. Nevertheless, it was a blessing in disguise. After many years, i sense to have re-acquired this “zone”. The recent year-end break was a great time for me, my wife and our daughter to do what the younger-me did with my family during those Saturday afternoons: be together and do nothing in particular.

I did something after all. Picked up a few of the books that were staring at me for a while. One in particular blends with this Saturday 4pm mood. Work: A History of How We Spend Our Time, by James Suzman is all about how we humans have completely misunderstood what Work means, missing out on what our (hunter-gatherer) ancestors had an abundance of: Leisure.

Stepping into 2021, i promised myself to dwell more often on this Saturday 4pm zone that i voted for.

What is your vote ?