It took me some years as a child to realize that it was ‘stand-at-ease’ and not ‘standardees’ in those march-past practice in school and I remember never standing at ease even then. The shout of ‘stand-at-ease’ and ‘attention’ still reverberates in my ears as I write this. I wonder if standing at ease is ever possible.
In another matter but in a similar context, earlier last month, we hired an attendant for my father who is not keeping well. The attendant, as the title says, is to attend to him for around 10-12 hours daily. Since my father has an inactive life the attendant is usually just sitting by his sofa-side and/or watching TV or sometimes goes out in the sun for a stroll and bond with his ilk. Initially we were quite uneasy to see him just sit and do ‘nothing’. After all, what was he doing really in those daily 12 hours – helping papa with his 5 meager meals through the tube that takes barely 5 minutes every time – so that is 25 minutes, cleaning up his dishes and room and clothes (another 20 minutes) and give head and arm massages (40 minutes). Papa’s half an hour daily ambling was also cut short after another emergency surgery two weeks ago, which meant that the attendant was doing papa’s work even lesser than before. But that was precisely what he was hired for. Just to be with papa! Of course when papa is asleep or just sitting down, he has no choice but be idle. It took a few weeks for our uneasiness to go (almost!) and accept his idle time at work. Having said this, we still ask him to dry clothes daily and peeling of veggies once in a while.
Why is idling in between work such an issue? I remember working full-time some years ago and editing documents in real-time and meeting the turnaround time. But what were we to do while awaiting those documents? How many times can one take tea and loo breaks? So I got myself a novel to read from home. What was the harm in reading while waiting for work? However I could see a few uneasy seniors giving a look of reprehension but unable to find a rule to tell me off! In fact I felt I was better than one of them. I was not browsing websites and using the company’s electricity, Internet and taking printouts! This particular fellow was fond of browsing health and fitness related websites (social network sites were blocked) and standing up at his seat and doing yoga-at- work stretches or discuss the pros and cons of nuts and fruits, etc with others who could lend their ears to him. So that was supposedly an okay thing to do. I was not told-off ever but after I had left the job passing on the legacy of reading a book when idle at work to another colleague, I was informed that there was a hullabaloo with this book-reading business and the health-fitness freak was shown his place.
In my neighbourhood, it initially nonplussed me to see why people in my area made their uniformed security guards perform errands like watering plants, sweeping the area outside the house and/or walking dogs. It is that nature of uneasiness to see them idle.Why can’t we just let them do their roles assigned?
I can blame our culture for this inherent nature of ours as what I thought was just an issue with me and around my surrounding was not so. It was on the prime-time national television last month. The topic was not about to idle or not to idle during the free time at work but about army officers making their ‘buddy’/sahayak do things that they shouldn’t really be. While an officer defended his fellow colleagues asking what was the harm if the army officer got his shoes tied from the buddy or/and get his guns cleaned as the officer had a bigger role to play in defending the nation and going to the battlefield. Fair enough! But when somebody asked him what about the officers’ better halves making the buddy walk their dogs and do grocery shopping!!! I don’t remember what he answered. These clamorous news debaters never give direct answers, do they ?
Now when I say this problem is of our country (and perhaps of our neighbouring countries as we tend to have the same mentality mostly)it is purely because I am trying to recall if I have seen such an act in the West where I have lived for a short while or if I have even heard of it. Probably it doesn’t happen there for the following facts:
- Acute labour shortage. They can’t afford to make them do extra things just because they find them sitting idle.
- Workers there know their rights better and don’t mind taking their master to court.
- There is respect for humans even if it happens to be a blue-collared worker. You won’t see customers clicking their fingers to call for the waiter or addressing them as “aye waiter!”
So, it is time we learn to inhale, stand at ease and let others do the same in between work.
pic: Happy, our lane stray and my daughter’s friend, can never be at ease! 🙂