How we all appear to have taken a holiday

In the good old days, the word “holiday” had just about the same effect on us as aniseed would on a dog. Of course, in the good old days we were not good, not old, and not good or old not during the days. But that, as the actress said to the bishop, is another matter. Help me, my dears, to focus on the matters at hand, as the bishop said to the actress. We are talking here about taking holidays – and how our nation in general and some individuals in particular will yap, bark, whine, chase their own tails, foam at the mouth, and roll over and play dead at the prospect.

Doubt it? Just saunter in and take a dekko at what passes for work in any government department. An air of apathy pervades the place like Mary Jane in a Turkish bordello. The emotional and intellectual cripples who find sanctuary here, away from the busy world of work outside, float like clouds over vales and hills. I could call them morons or cretins, but that’d be an insult to morons and cretins. Meanwhile, what about that poor harried and hassled citizen, desirous of having some urgent problem addressed and hopefully resolved? Well, he’ll have to wander lonely like a cloud for a while. At least until we have had our morning tea and second breakfast, and strolled over to our neighbour’s cluttered (with files from yesterday; and if it’s been a hectic time, from last week) desk for a casual chat on the state of the nation and other pressing problems that require our languid eye and lolling tongue. But if there’s a cricket match on, we know our stern duty. No lolling and strolling, then… we’ll either head for the grounds or park ourselves in front of the telly.

Is that it? Not by a long chalk. Some private sector concerns are not much better in their approach to industry. Check out the busy ladies at the bank, working the phone lines. To communicate important information to their friends in adjoining cubicles: on the cost of saris, the price of sugar and tea, and how sweet their boss is – no, men? Aney, child, stamp that form or sign the document and give me my money so that I can get back to the business of life… while you enjoy the lotus-eating social life of business.

Any other interesting examples? Why, plenty. For lack of time, space, and energy, we’ll present three. For starters, professionals and academics have taken a sabbatical from providing valuable and once-welcome inputs for the sake of the country’s progress on the right lines, rather than willy-nilly or along the path of least resistance. Then again, civil society seems to be on one long vacation when it comes to standing up, speaking out, and sitting down after a good job well done. While on a sillier note, there are state-funded public construction projects that give signs saying “Slow … men at work!” a whole new need for punctuation, to say nothing of punctuality and punctiliousness. You get the point, don’t you, dears?

What about the political field? Ah, there’s the rub. Certain rowdies in the House behave as if they were hormonal teenagers on summer camp. Ministers of state and other statutory mandarins whiz in and out of the island like it was a VIP rest stop between their tours of the world’s hot spots. Busy-bee movers and shakers take French leave to jet-set about ‘top secret’ business that eventually leaves no paper trail to their unnumbered Swiss bank accounts. And it’s an ironic enough pity that the only people among the powers that be who are working too hard look like they don’t intend taking a break for a very long time indeed. Last but not least, there’s the leader of the proposition, who’s conveniently forgotten what opposition means and has let those who need to be held accountable off the hook…

Yes, dears, we’re all taking time off from duty and chores. Add to this our plethora of mandatory, customary, and discretionary holidays – bank, public, mercantile, poya – and it’s the ninth wonder of the world that we get any work done at all. But now you must excuse me. I’ve done all the talking, and I’m tired. So I think I’ll retire, lie down, and pop that little green tablet which leads me by the cerebral cortex to slumberland. How cool it is to snooze and snore in such distinguished company!

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