The English word ‘hobby’ has an interesting history. In early English, the word was used in two senses: a horse and a falcon. It is from the first sense that the present day meaning of ‘hobby’ a favorite pursuit’ has been derived. ‘Hobby horse’ meant “a child’s plaything, consisting of a stick with a horse’s head on one end.” The children rode this ‘hobby horse’ or stick fitted with a wooden horse’s head astride for their amusement. It is for this reason that we still talk of a man ‘riding’ his hobby when he occupies himself in his favorite pursuit. So a hobby is an interesting pursuit, not our main business, which we take up for amusement in our leisure time. What is business to one man may be a hobby to another, for example, a photographer may have gardening as his hobby; and a paid gardener may go in for photography as a recreation.
Hobbies in the sense of ‘favourite pursuits’ admit of an infinite variety. Some people take to gardening. They spend thousands of hours of their lives on the growing of turnips and carrots,
mint , spinach or tomatoes according to their individual liking. Again there might be some who would scrape out time from their busy vocations and’ make out of fret (ornamental net-work) fine, attractive fruit stands, inkstands and even door-plates. Photography and painting are hobbies that appeal to the imaginative and the romantic. As Wordsworth,.- with a nutting crook (a staff bent at the end for gathering nuts) in hand used to go into the virgin scenes of nature, in search of hazel nuts, so do many people travel to Kashmir armed with the camera. ,There they take photographs in different sizes of the glaciers in the distance or the nearer scenes of Lake Dal, Gulmarg and Sonamarg or of daffodils or pansies in their wild profusion. New patterns are conceived and new tastes created. Refined mothers and housewives often fill in the blanks of their day-to-day lives with the preparation of toothsome jellies, ketchup and sausages. If hunting as a hobby appeals more to the sterner sex, philately and coin-collecting have a charm for either sex .. Both young men and women make albums for stamps of different nations in the different periods of their history. Falconry (the art of training or hunting with falcons) was a
hobby of the great hockey Olympic player, Muhammad Jafar.
Hobbies have a great value. After the strain of a clay’s hard work, one feels refreshed by indulging in. some hobby A hobby chases away fatigue and restores mental energy. One completely forgets oneself in the pursuit of a hobby. A professor after working hard at research during the day, a lawyer after ten hours’ continuous mental work in preparing a case for the morrow, a doctor after the rush and hurry of attending upon various patients. a student after finishing his home task will all derive considerable pleasure by spending a couple of hours daily in the exercise of a congenial hobby that will lend a sort of charm and interest to life.
Besides serving as restoratives and mental tonics, hobbies are an excellent way of spending one’s leisure. A man can too easily abuse or misuse his leisure. The worst way of passing the leisure hours is just to sit idle and do nothing. Now, if a man is idle in the Stevensonian sense, he will no doubt be spending his time in an ideal manner. In his Apology for Idlers Stevenson says that idling, according to him does not mean doing nothing but utilizing one’s leisure hours in healthy and enjoyable pursuits out of the sphere of one’s routine-life. His idlers are marked by a catholicity of interests and possess a keen zest for life like Stevenson himself. To do nothing at all is not only dull and boring but actually depressing. An idle brain is the devil’s workshop. One necessarily thinks mischief or impairs one’s brain by developing a habit of sheer laziness. Hobbies fill up one’s leisure hours most admirably. They are a welcome Interlude in the tedium and monotony of work. .
There are very many kinds of hobbies. Strange and interesting hobbies have been devised for man’s delight and recreation, hobbies that not only keep a man pleasantly busy but also excite and thrill him. They create in him a warm enthusiasm and keen appetite for wholesome and healthy pastimes. One can, therefore, make one’s own choice. The range of hobbies is very large and one can select a hobby that suits one’s taste and temperament. There are quite hobbies calling forth no great effort of the mind and body; there are hobbies that enable you to enjoy the company of your friends; and there are hobbies that require a full-blooded effort on your part and call into play the maximum enthusiasm you are capable of.
To begin with, there are countless card-games. There are games for one, two, three or more persons and games of all degrees of interest. But instead of playing them for the sake of pleasure alone, one is likely to start playing them for money. This leads to gambling in its most harmful form. A more innocent, interesting and instructive hobby is photography. The camera is a wonderful invention of science. With a light hand-camera loaded with film one can spend all one’s leisure in moving about and taking photographs of interesting scenes or people. One must, of course, develop the photos oneself and learn all the technique of photography.
Many hobbies take the form of collecting something in one form or the other. Collecting postage stamps is a common hobby in England. The people who are fond of stamp-collecting possess several albums containing stamps of various countries. They are always on the lookout for a new stamp and whenever they see an envelope bearing a foreign stamp in the hands of a friend, they beg leave to remove that stamp and add it to their precious collection. Such albums look very beautiful as they contain a variety of pictorial stamps of all countries, Some make collections of wild flowers and ferns and press and mount their specimens. Others take an interest in geology, and find much amusement in collecting fossils. Such hobbies do not cost much and are within the reach of all. But .. others, such, as collecting pictures, old books, curiosities, and antiquities, are only for the rich.
Other hobbies take the form of games and sport. Many take up open-air games, like golf, tennis, cricket or football. or indoor games such as chess, droughts and cards, as their hobbies. Hunting, or fishing, or yachting are the favorite recreations of others. Rowing is an excellent hobby if there is a river or fake near one’s town and a boat available. Rowing builds the muscles of one’s arms, besides affording plenty of delight. Then again playing upon a musical instrument like the sitar or violin is a hobby worth cultivating Music is not only the food of love but has also a very beneficial effect upon the soul.
Many people find great pleasure in gardening, especially in cultivating some special flowers like roses. Those who are so lucky as to live in bungalows or houses with large compounds often develop a love of gardening. It is most interesting to sow the seeds and look after the plants with an almost paternal care and anticipate with joy the appearance of a bud and flower. Some even put their gardening to advantage by cultivating vegetables and then take a particular relish in eating the vegetables they so fondly cultivated. It is, indeed, foolish to attempt an exhaustive list of .the world’s hobbies they dodge classification.
There are two classes of people who discourage hobbies and even hate them. The Puritans who always insist on fine points of morality consider a hobby as sheer waste of time which could be profitably used in listening to sermons. Equally vehement is the condemnation of those who take an extremely materialistic view of human life; they argue that one might make a pile of money during the time one wastes on a hobby. Both, however, are clearly in the wrong.
It is true that photography or painting, embroidery or crochet, boating Or mountaineering, pursued in amateur fashion do not increase one’s bank balance. But they are certainly not the weaknesses of human nature which Duty ‘the stern daughter of the voice of God’ might forbid. Far from being idle or immoral, hobbies always add a zest to life; they are a stimulus to the mind, and in the 10Rg run, they exercise a deep and wholesome influence on one’s life and character. For maintenance a person who pursues painting, photography or singing as a hobby displays in the minutest details of his life a sense of balance and proportion-a love for the beautiful and an aversion for the ugly – which people without such hobbies singularly lack. Even , so does the lady who devotes time and skill to cookery, embroidery or leather-engraving during leisure, bring to her home an elegance and a refinement which even apparently Insignificant things such as the disposition of furniture in the drawing-room might reveal. Truly, said Lord Brougham: “Blessed is the man who has hobbies.
Everyone, young and old, should have a hobby of some sort for his leisure hours for it adds greatly to the pleasure of life. It is often an education in itself and it fills our vacant hours with interest. It gives us, also, something to fall back on when our business days are over, in the leisure time at the end of life.
The mind that takes to. a hobby is essentially plastic.; it can take interest in more things than one and has wide sympathies. It should not be thought that the people who pursue hobbies are light-hearted and flippant or that one cannot be serious about a hobby. Sometimes the pursuit of a hobby becomes s,? serious that the person who pursues it makes in the end a greatcontribution to a whole department of human knowledge. For instance, all of us are familiar with the great French natural philosopher Henri Fabre. He watched the behavior of the bee and the wasp, often pursuing them with the joy of a school boy. He had begun the study of the neglected in nature as a mere hobby but later made a solid contribution to the subject. But just here a note of warning should be sounded. idiosyncrasies and personal whims pursued in an inordinate degree are not hobbies. They are a case of abnormal psychology and, have, therefore, to be religiously avoided. The keeping of old cigarette-cases or collection of used up railway tickets is just such an idiosyncrasy.
Some writers classify hobbies under two heads: personal and national. Even nations according to such writers show preferences for some particular pursuits. Cricket and philately are the national hobbies of England. King George V was a philatelist of international repute. Base-ball is the national hobby of U.S. Singing and dancing have been the national hobbies of the people of Madras and Bengal.
Nothing is more interesting than to study the hobbies of some of the greatest men of letters and action. Dr. Johnson and William Cowper were great lovers of cats. The former used to buy oysters for Hodge-for that was the name of Dr. Johnson’s cat-and protected her from the abuses and reproaches of his wife and servants. Gladstone, the English Prime Minister, would sometimes dive into Mathematics ami classics, two apparently self-contradictory subjects; and again, he would ‘play the horse’ carrying on his back his little grand children in the parlor.
Of all the hobbies in the world, the intellectual are of course the best. Caesar’s Commentaries, Gladstone’s Studies on Homer, and Disreali’s Lothair were not written with a purpose; they were composed during leisure as mere ‘hobbies’. Even so was composed the famous Journal of Amiel, the Swiss Professor of Philosophy, In the pursuit. of a hobby, the mind relaxes itself, follows its own course without any restraint. Unhampered by any demands of the flesh, the person who pursues an intellectual hobby puts on record his impressions of men and things, in a free and easy manner.’
It is worth pointing out that we should never ride a hobby too hard. We should not make a toil of pleasure. In other words, we should not indulge in a hobby to such an extent as to convert it into a dull and cheerless task. A hobby should be regarded just as a mental recreation, not as an end in itself. People often develop such a keen fondness or their hobbies that they put their hobbies first and their real work second. This is clearly absurd and shows a lack of sense of proportion. First things first and everything in moderation should be the rule.