Goa Forward Party leader Vijai Sardesai has an attractive item on his agenda for the 2022 elections in the state: A compulsory siesta hour. Goa’s embrace of the susegad — a laidback appreciation of life — has always been characterised by its people taking time out to enjoy life’s little pleasures, siesta included. Why should it be given up to embrace frenetic pace, especially if it doesn’t compromise on the people’s capacity to perform?
There is truth to the argument Sardesai makes for slowing down and savouring life. Rest and its rejuvenating power has never gotten its due. For years, organisations have glorified the 24/7 work culture, in which an employee’s productivity is measured not by the quantum of her contribution but by her ability to make herself available round the clock. This has been particularly true of developing nations, where the assumption of productivity relies heavily on the supposed efficacy of such a culture. So, while countries such as France have moved to a four-day work week, or some like the Netherlands have reduced the average weekly work time to less than 30 hours, most Asian countries hold on to a stereotype in which rest is equated with indolence.
What the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has done, though, is to show the chink in all our armours. A 24/7 work culture operates on the implicit assumption of the availability of a caretaking infrastructure that frees up the employee to devote herself completely to work. But as workspaces collapsed into homes, it exposed the tenuous work-life balance that has helped perpetuate this myth. With no distinction between the two, this has been a year of relentless fatigue and a struggle to keep pace with the increased demands of both the workplace and home. It’s time indeed to embrace susegad — take a step back, kick off the shoes and settle in for a siesta. And keep the feni ready for when we wake up. The rat race can wait.
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