By Naba Bhattacharjee
Skipping work on some flimsy pretext is a national phenomenon with varying magnitude depending on the nature and type of office, work responsibility, boss and accountability. Normally the foundation of excuse for absence can be built on anything – from genuine casualties to wilful absence for being elsewhere or just plain indolence. Those can be broadly categorized into good, believable, funny, last-minute, medical, unrealistic and absurd like “….diarrhoea since morning”. ‘On my way to office, I slipped on a banana peel,” “Appointment with the dentist,” “Leaking water tank at home,” “Maid did not turn up for work” et al. How long can the household help remain immune to their employer’s contagious habit of skipping work? The most popular excuse which has survived the test of time is the demise of a grandfather or grandmother over and over again. The total number of grandparent(s) declared “deceased” is directly proportional to the change of boss, number of postings and cycle of excuses. Being too common, the cliché is being replaced by a more innocuous – “There was a sudden loss in the family and I have to attend the funeral”. In case of a probing boss the case is strengthened by referring to name of a deceased appearing in the obituary column of a local daily. Deaths followed closely by weddings are the most popular plea. Then departing early on Fridays and reporting late on Mondays are considered normal rights. Culpable absenteeism becomes an addiction when allowed to continue without deterrent action.
2013 was a year of paid holidays in Meghalaya, particularly in Shillong, due to a windfall of regular agitation driven closures, without having to resort to any of the above excuse. There was probably more non-working than working days during the year. The slew of office picketing and bandhs were stress free prolonged breaks together with the usual National, State and local holidays, resulting in extended weekend blast for the city’s office goers, some of whom planned getaway trips, weddings, attending time consuming personal and household obligations et al. A good number of picketing and blockades resulted in week long weekends at times with strategically availed single casual leave to complete the chain. While normal holidays are expected to recharge efficiency level on return to work; reverse has been the mindset here when many attending office to be fully rejuvenated for the next round of paid break and to reconnect with colleagues at work. Discussion during such presence centred mostly around speculation on next round of closures and manner in which the previous round was utilized. Cent percent attendance is guaranteed on pay day as it is always extremely thoughtful of those announcing closures never to disturb this auspicious day of the month. In the meantime holiday mood of Christmas and New Year 2014 still lingers on with all eyes and ears probably were tuned to the outcome of parleys slated for fifteenth of this month which as of now confirms a temporary thaw in the standoff for at least next few months.
The office goers constitute a vibrant, educated segment of the middle class in our country and Meghalaya is no different. This particular category are the opinion makers and in most cases sets the agenda of the middle class outlook on different issues, due to their proximity to governance and general awareness on different subjects both national and state specific. Government employees and the teaching fraternity take the lead in ensuring proper education and related values for their children. It is therefore not surprising that children from this segment are generally performing well and encouraged to pursue higher studies in the field of IT, Medicine, Engineering, Management, Law, Commerce et al both within and outside the state. The aspiration of parents from this segment is inculcated from their interaction with bureaucrats and technocrats with whom they work during their service period. Although a perceptible shift has been witnessed during last few decades or more when children from business and other professional background of parents are also diversifying to pursue careers removed from the earlier generations.
The salaried working class, unlike others, have limited options to further the careers of their children. Hence the stress on education as the only avenue for moving ahead to meet the challenges of life with fortitude and dignity, together with related moral standards instilled in them from a young age. It is therefore all the more surprising and intriguing that when members from this knowledgeable circle who have the capacity to improve and usher in change for the better of the middle class succumb to such indiscretions as highlighted above. The economically weaker sections of the society mainly in rural areas look up to this class for articulation of views on different issues and enlighten the less fortunate on the difficult socio-economic challenges faced on a daily basis. Society shall benefit immensely if the working class particularly the government employees come out of their comfort zones and contribute towards solving the multifarious ills afflicting our state to-day.