Sons-in-law who skipped office at Writers’ and elsewhere on Friday to be pampered by their in-laws needn’t have done so because Mamata Banerjee had a surprise half-a-day off lined up for them as a Jamai Sashthi gift.
Many of the jamais among the babus had played truant anyway. The few who turned up scampered away after 2pm, irrespective of marital status.
The early break that brought forward the weekend is in addition to around 138 official holidays, the list growing since the Trinamul Congress came to power. “Not all of us have to attend Jamai Sashthi but all can enjoy the early break,” said a PWD employee.
If the babus were all smiles, the canteen employees were left wondering what do with the food they had cooked.
Mamata, who often talks about how she has done away with the Left’s legacy of strikes and brought in work culture, seldom misses the opportunity to give employees a break from work to foster the festive spirit.
Name an occasion and Mamata has had a holiday to offer.
Students of government schools got a two-day holiday for marching with the chief minister through the streets on the death anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, which was almost converted into a celebration of the poet’s 150th birth anniversary that had passed before Mamata took oath.
Madhyamik schools in Bengal were asked to stay shut on September 26 to commemorate the birth anniversary of Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, who had never skipped office as principal of Sanskrit College from 1851 to 1855.
A special holiday announced by the chief minister last year gave government employees an uninterrupted 10-day break during the pujas last year. She has promised to do the same this year.
Chhath and Buddha Jayanti were added to the holiday list last November.
Some senior ministers apparently didn’t have a clue to Mamata’s Friday plan.
Agriculture marketing minister Arup Roy said: “Bhaloi hoyechhe chhuti hoye gechhe. Ebar aami Shyambazar jete parbo (Good that a holiday has been declared. Now I can go to Shyambazar),” Roy told Metro.
The first few generations of “writers” or “junior servants” of the British East India Company, for whom Writers’ Buildings had been built in 1777, might not have needed leave on the sixth day of Shukla Paksha in the lunar calendar of Jaistha.
According to social historian Gautam Bhadra, Jamai Sashthi finds no mention in the scriptures.
“It is a Bengali social custom that possibly came into prominence in the end-19th or early 20th century. It has no place in the earlier almanacs,” he said.