Work from home, yes, this is an utopic world where you can actually say you are employed and salaried and yet, you are home. This work from home concept however has many implications for many, especially in the sleepy town we call Belagavi.
Belagavi is a town that can best be described as one inhabited by the Aam Aadmi, the tax-paying, humble, religious middle class. Everyone knows everybody, knowing your neighbor’s welfare and contributing to it is but natural and inconsequential suggestions are like our bonded duty.
An unemployed uneducated young man, an unmarried girl are the only ones privileged to stay home, they are then the subject of intensely researched gossip. Others only stay home when sick or if there is a lockdown.
Men feel caged if asked to stay home “once in a while” and work is compulsorily out there somewhere even on Sundays. Staying at home means working for home and not working from home.
Belagavi is structured like any middle-class town, is a city of hard-working students who burn their night oil to claim the best engineering seats, every household has one Rajkumar who finishes his engineering in flying colors and flies away across the seas to America the “land of iPhones and chocolates ” ( that’s what they get from there).
Half the Kulkarni’s, Deshpande’s, Patil’s, and Math’s are permanent residents of America, and these are the surnames of half the people in the city.
“My son in the USA” is buying a new home or the best car is a daily topic that lonely elderly parents often discuss in the morning walkers group. Somehow there is no jealousy here because we know that uncle and aunt have only these stories to live by as the children never turn up.
Aunty may be needed for a daughter’s delivery but uncle is unnecessary. The city, however, does not let them be lonely, noisy neighbors will have unnecessary interventions, budding cricketers ensure there is always glass shattering and maids will broadcast their every emotion.
The city has three distinct tiers of employment the highest being NRIs who are employed abroad, the RIOC’s are second these are Resident Indians Outside the City who find Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, etc as places of employment, and third and lowest in this hierarchy is people like me doctors, shop keepers, etc who run the city and stay at home.
The hierarchy is well maintained when it comes to “bhav” given to each of the constituents too. The NRI is the Apple’s of everyone’s eyes. Their arrival is a much-awaited yearly or less frequent event. They Abring with them chocolates, imported whiskeys, electronic apples and importantly they carry an aura. They have a distinctly American accent and can’t digest the sweet Belagavi water. Their arrival rejoices, there are dinners, lunches and they are welcomed in every household. They are surrounded by fans, prospective brides, and aspirants of H1B visas.
The RIOCs are second, they come home once in two months and for festivals, they too bring in local stuff like Chithales Bhakarwadi, Mysorepak, Mahim halwa and so on. They are missed by parents and are pampered at their homes, neighbors usually don’t care much.
The third and the most common variety are the Permanent Belgaumites the PBs, these are perfect examples of “Ghar ki Murgi Daal Barabar”. They come home everyday so nobody misses them. They usually get Farsan from Purohit and sometimes Kunda. No special dishes for them and they are like old furniture, toot gaya to repair karalo.
Corona was like divine justice to the PBs, suddenly they got the recognition they always deserved, “Jhootha hi Sahi,Palbhar ke liye hi sahi”, they were most sought after during the pandemic. Shopkeepers, doctors, policemen, bankers were suddenly made to feel important, people clapped, there were royal salutes and things were like never before.
The RIOC came home too, but they were taken inside with much fear, Pune, Banglore, Mumbai were the epicenters of the pandemic.
Parents advised children to delay their arrival if possible, and stay in their metropolis if feasible. The metros suddenly seemed like death traps and everyone was positive unless proved otherwise.
But the worst was for the NRI, they were caught in between, they were no longer welcome, from chocolate boys they became USA strains, UK strains and were deemed nightmares.No amount of chocolates were enough. The neighborhood watch always called the police and made the NRI go quarantine themselves away from home. No more welcomes and the lavish dinners were out of the question. The sight of an NRI was scarier than corona itself.
The PBs now had places to go, work to do and other formerly privileged classes had to work from home. Working from home means sitting in front of the computer all day long. Putting on weight and taking orders. This is something the Niagara going NRIs could never imagine. No nightlife, no pubs made the RIOCs unhappy too. The PBs however were happy they had their sweet revenge, the others could now feel their pain. They could go out of home and not work for home.
This blog however is about the work from home guys, the NRIs and the RIOCs. The poor guys are home for months now. The companies are finding this a good proposition. Workers at home means, no premises, no security, no goodies, no perks and no food bills. You just have to set targets such that it is impossible to achieve if the employee does not work for late hours. If targets are not reached you can just fire and no HR required. So the employees work hard, work all day and work from home.
Working from home is not easy though, especially for those coming from Belagavi, here staying at home means you are jobless, the fact that you toil all day just escapes realization. It’s comfortable sometimes because you can attend board meetings in your shorts just like those beer commercials but taxing on most occasions. Moms don’t understand the concept, sitting in front of the screen is not work at all. And since you are home you may as well get the occasional kothimbir, mirchi from the market. Eggs, milk and bread suddenly become your responsibility and finally you come to terms with the fact that there are shops outside malls too.
The kids don’t understand the nature of work and since they are on a long vacation want you to be game with them. Actually, this is a boon for the kids for they are getting quality time with their parents for the first time. But targets are not going to stop even for the kids.
Friends don’t understand targets too, you at home means you are free and once the lockdown is over, it’s Tillari, Amboli, Sural party time. You can’t be a snob refusing this and yet your boss will not understand the peer pressure.
And so work from home is ultimately more taxing than relaxing. Suddenly you know where your parents get their medicines from or who their doctor is. You realize that there are actually places that handle electricity and phone bills and it’s not all done online. You realize that your parents, your wife/husband and children are good people to spend time with instead of the Saturday pubs and discos.
Some are so bored and miss offices so much that they make a home away from home at places like Goa, atleast the neighbors think they are working. ” ijjat ka sawal “, who wants the day-to-day household problems.
Office hookups become distant relationships and the only solace is zoom and Google meet. Life becomes one long target-based protocol. Work from home changed the very concepts of work itself.
But all said and done this pandemic had taught us a lot, one lesson we learned is that we don’t need all the luxuries we run after, we don’t need Ola, we don’t need Zomato. All we need is a place we can call home. My hard-working friends need to know while you work from home that when you go away, your family and town miss you and home is the only place that works for you.