The rats are winning. The rats are winning. Time was when India was regarded as a lazy country. Writers like Nirad C. Chaudhuri postulated that the hot climate in most of the subcontinent didnt allow people to work. Life was a break between sleep and siesta.
You can blame the air-conditioner manufacturers if you like, but its a different picture today. Amongst upwardly mobile Indians, vacations are fast becoming a threatened species. A recent survey by travel portal Expedia shows that India comes near the top in vacation deprivation. At the top of the list is Japan the land of the salaryman. India comes fourth after the US and Australia.
The latter is a bit of a surprise. But these days, the continent down under has been badly affected by job losses (particularly to Indians in the IT domain) and they feel the need to keep their home fire burning by staying at home. As for the Americans, they talk all the time about their strong Protestant work ethic. But they have a different concept of that; a good part is traipsing from meeting to meeting, which achieving nothing excepting a bit of networking.
The Expedia survey was conducted amongst service class professionals at managerial levels and above in 11 countries in end 2010 with over 1,000 respondents per country. The happiest folks as far as vacations go were the French.
A caveat is in order here. Given the composition of the sample, one is really talking about Generation Y in the cities. An all-India survey cutting across socio-economic sections may have given a different picture. At the same time, one should realise that the concept of vacations is quite alien to rural India. People go on pilgrimages or for extended family functions such as marriages. But thats not quite the same thing as a vacation.
The sample composition also explains one apparent anomaly. While Expedia says India is vacation deprived, the country is near the top when it comes to the number of public holidays. That was the culture. But, as we have said before, the rat race has arrived. And the rats are winning.
The survey in India was conducted in three cities Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore and there were significant differences. The Mumbaikar is in control of his vacation. Some 61 per cent of Mumbaikars take all their annual leave compared to 33 per cent in the other two cities. Only 22 per cent of Mumbaikars encash their leave, while in Bangalore it is 32 per cent and in Delhi 41 per cent.
But bosses in Mumbai dont like their subordinates going on vacation. Only 17 per cent of the sample felt their superiors were supportive of their taking leave. The corresponding figure for Delhi was even lower 2 per cent. In Bangalore, it was a more respectable 25 per cent. Expectedly, nearly 43 per cent in Delhi considered work their life (Bangalore 23 per cent; Mumbai 13 per cent). The result: 82 per cent Delhiites work more than 40 hours a week followed by 52 per cent Mumbaikars and 40 per cent Bangaloreans.
This disease which we have caught from the West can cause huge problems. First, there is a health issue. All work and no play doesnt make Jack just a dull boy. It makes him vulnerable to heart attacks and other debilitating diseases. Second, it destroys equations on the home front. You work hard and earn good money, but there is nobody to earn it for excepting alimony payments.
Even those who do take vacations dont really get away from it all. They travel with Blackberry and business plan, Galaxy tablet and antacid tablets. A large part of this is caused by insecurity; colleagues will steal a march when you are on vacation. A simple solution that some companies have started adopting is to make it mandatory that everybody has a statutory vacation. Send them to Alaska if possible or at least a holiday home with no Internet and no cellphone signals.
Number of public holidays
Hong Kong 16
South Korea 13
Source: Euromonitor International
Days of annual leave taken
United States 14