Develop a work culture that appreciates dignity of labour
Anaiyssa, my granddaughter, was three years old then. She was travelling from Seattle to New Delhi with Sawan and Tanu, my son and daughter-in-law. Carrying her haversack on the back, her doll in one hand, and her passport in the other, on seeing me she ran and landed in my arms, saying, “I did the immigration all by myself, Dadu!” She was proud of her achievement and the confidence was palpable.
In the West, people build a work culture around for everyone to follow without feeling anything inferior or superior about the job at hand. Even the president of a country would take pride in sharing that he worked in a restaurant to earn his living as a boy or a girl. In our system, if someone goes to drop a child to school, often the bag is carried by the person himself and not the child. In the US and the UK, schoolchildren carry their stuff themselves.
We have a different mindset. In fact, it’s feudal and caste and class based. One who comes from a so-called higher class, or a creamy layer, is not supposed to do certain tasks of cleaning, assigned since centuries to a particular caste of people. Mahatma Gandhi did break this age-old practice. I was surprised to see my host in London cleaning the commode himself. Otherwise, who would do it? Nobody does it for others, without charging a hefty sum. The good thing is that the job is not looked at being lowly. Dog lovers, when they walk their dogs, carry polythene bags to pick up the poop and dispose it in the bins kept for the purpose.
As an Indian Police Service officer, I’ve always lived in bungalows with security personnel in tow. Having been transferred on deputation to the Government of India and staying in a two-room accommodation with a bathroom at Pragati Vihar Hostel in Delhi, I once mopped the floor of the bathroom with a wiper. My son, Sagar, ran to help me, making it obvious that I wasn’t given to doing my own work myself. I know I should have been wiser.
We had a get-together at Sawan’s home in Seattle when some neighbours were also invited. I was introduced to our immediate neighbour, who was a multi-millionaire having retired after selling his company worth $800 million. The next day, I was surprised to see him going up his roof through a ladder and clearing it of leaves. He later fixed a window, carrying the handyman’s tools. We would depend on others to carry out such tasks. The point to underscore is a need to develop such a work culture and appreciate dignity of labour.
During the Covid-19 lockdown, I saw neighbours carrying out household jobs themselves, be it pruning plants, mopping the floor, brooming the driveway, buying vegetables from vendors, attending to courier boys, passing on the garbage fills to the collector outside, etc. I’m sure, like me they help one another inside the house, too.
Trust me, it’s fun to be doing one’s own jobs. I had always been driven by chauffeurs and surrounded by security men, but since the lockdown, when I started driving myself, I’m a man confident more than ever. firstname.lastname@example.org
The author is a retired IPS officer and an advocate