Lessons in Kashmiri Work Ethic

Arshid Malik

sleeping_officeI am utterly traumatized and trivialized as a person by the “work culture” of the people of Kashmir. First of all I am ambiguous towards the very applicability of the concept of “work culture” in Kashmir which is a perception I have developed over the years of encountering people in all walks of life who just do not want to work and have every plausible reason to excuse themselves out of almost everything they are supposed to do. Even though some of it has to do with the violent conflict in Kashmir which has long ceased to be in all practically comprehendible manners yet survives in all its fervour for the sake of it but largely it is the branching out of the exact attitude of the people of this region, their peculiar way of life. Do excuse me but Kashmiri people, since ages, have existed in a state of sleepiness which is a fry cry from the state of sleeplessness that the rest of the world lives by and the conflict and the conditions rising thereof have offered them a refuge in the shape of an excuse which enhances the credibility of their beneficent state of sleepiness or in other (better) words described as sloppiness. There are a few people around me who are rather energetic and share the “problem” of sleeplessness with the rest of the world, but these people are very rare to come by and their behaviour is more or less characteristic of the state of being non-Kashmiri for whatever that may connote.

I am not implying that all Kashmiri people do not work at all, but what I am trying to say is that the eventuality that categorizes as labour or work and “bears fruit” is almost negligent here in Kashmir. People work but the way they work is quite pointless since the effort and essence of the matters associated do not even match, apart from the fact that there are other people from this place who just do not work. Now there are categories to this whole thing and I would deliberate briefly upon each one I have been able to identify in my own sloppiness since I am blessed with it as I am a Kashmiri.

THE SHOPKEEPER IS ALWAYS RIGHT WORK ETHIC: When I walk into a shop, for instance, as a prospective customer here in Kashmir I am met with the owner of the shop or salespersons who wear a face that deliberately pronounces their state of dis-affection towards what they are doing. Most of the shopkeepers are up in arms and denounce you as a client as soon as you tell them what you want and turn down what they think suits you best. You might step in purchase a key chain and they will exhibit a hookah for you not even caring to listen to their intent mind which is constantly trying to impress upon their ultimate behaviour that there is evidently no consequent point of connectedness between the key chain and the hookah. There are other cases where you want to purchase a particular commodity and with this intention you enter a shop which you guess might have what you want only to your sheer disappointment as the shop owner informs you that “such a thing does not even exist” and shocked to the root you begin doubting your mind which you think might be hallucinating for all practical purposes.

THE GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE ATTITUDE WORK ETHIC: The peculiar attitude of the government employee types is that they are not willing to work even though they are getting paid (well) to do their work but since there is no direct authority which holds them accountable, they get away with almost everything. This attitude is bulging in government offices everywhere in the country but the very sight of some greens (money under the table) makes them lurch forward right into the cockpit and work, whatsoever it be – legal or illegal – gets done. The case in Kashmir is quite spectacularly different. Here in government offices you encounter people who are not willing to work even for money – and I am not speaking about the money that the government pays them to do their work but the extra money they earn which one offers them in the shape of a bribe. This does not mean that government office staff in Kashmir is not corrupt; they will accept the bribe and still won’t work which is like obtusely wrong. Other problem with people holding government jobs is that evade work by means of not even attending their place of work. So, you will find hardly half the working population present in government offices while the rest is on “on leave”. Some people working for the government pay good money to get transferred to far-flung places and divisions where their attendance is almost never checked. Then there is a certain category of people who do not work for the government but want to though there is hardly any chance of their getting a government job but they bear the exact same attitude of government employees, which is they won’t work even if you pay them extra dough. These set of people have taken to the attitude of government employees just like that.

MISSING IN ACTION WORK ETHIC: Quite a chunk of the working population of Kashmir is engaged in the private, especially, the retail sector and more than often these people are not working, which means they are consequently absent from work over one pretext or the other. This is a malaise of kinds in the business sector in Kashmir. You engage employees, pay them and they hardly show up. This section of people is the one that actuates the hartals (shutdowns called by separatists) in Kashmir.

ARM CHAIR WORK ETHIC: Another rare kind in the modern world, the arm-chair types work hard when it comes to talk and we have these in abundance in Kashmir (I am in fact exploring the export potential of this sector and my wild guess till now is that they have a huge market in Europe, US and UK and need to be registered under the title of “novelty items”). This kind will talk and talk and talk about how things could be done but they won’t budge to do it themselves. Their “blame it on the stars” attitude earns them a good audience always.

I WILL GIVE IT MY BEST SHOT AND REST IS UP TO GOD WORK ETHIC: Bereft of any idea of achieving anything, this section of the population in Kashmir promises you the best and pins your hopes on God so that they do not have to cut a sorry figure when the work is not done. Religion and people who are quite religious are their primary benefactors.

Well, by now you must have figured which category I fall in. The “Arm Chair Work Ethic” is right if that is what you guessed. Let me tell you, I need to end this here since there is a lot to be done and done quickly so I will give you a tip. Why don’t you get busy while I tell other people that there is a lot to be done and done quickly…

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