For job-hoppers flitting from one organisation to another, someone who has stood steadfast in a single organisation for 25 years is a relic. A fact to rejoice, lament or just forget? Much as one would opt for the last, the office tradition does not allow it. A publicly gifted watch — ostensibly in honour or perhaps more for sticking around — is a symbolic handcuff. Even a well-meaning recognition of such a long stint evokes awe and pity from the youngsters, chuckles from colleagues and derision from others.
But the watch tugs at the chords of happy times of bonhomie — the affable news agency where all worked in anonymity, for the thrill of it, unmindful of the long hours. Nobody looked at watches amid the unending flow of copy, leads, the updates and fresh leads. Such warmth and excitement that steps were retraced at the mere thought of quitting. Working at a speed racier than the dailies, news agency work has its own addiction, minus, of course, the bylines.
The wire service’s reach into India’s heartland provides a unique high when you spot your own story. Despatches picked up by newspapers in Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Goa and many others call for a collars-up. Delivering socially relevant stories on suffering women leaders in panchayats, hungry children and the dispossessed, to audiences in their own language has been a joy. Well, only an agency could be the vehicle. Reason enough to hang on.
The diminishing visibility of such stories has sometimes prompted a guilty rethink. But then the loyalty factor kicks in to get the better of it.
Age and maternal concerns have also tugged in the reverse gear. Sapped of youthful energy, one reconciled to the changed reality. But with computers, it was less of a grind. No rummaging through heaps of papers, no visits to the library. Google did it all. In contrast, the ambitious giggling young colleagues — perennially on the lookout for greener pastures, higher pay packets and exposure — left even before one got used to them being around. They called the place their best training ground. Those who stay put get loads of sympathy and advice befitting the new work ethos: “You’re still around! Move on, man.”
The new work culture has no room for relics. It’s either move on or move over. No time to look at watches or look forward to being gifted one to mark silver jubilee stints. “Such watches we can buy a dime a dozen, man.” True, but this is a watch that encapsulates the best years of one’s life given to one’s work by choice. Better avenues were ignored by choice, despite a son’s prodding, “Move on, mom, get a better job, make more money. Why rot.” The son isn’t around, the job is. But am I rotting?
Have I let time slip out of my hands? I better watch out.