Imagine your boss calls you on the phone after work hours or on the weekend and you tell him that you have a right to disconnect and hang up.
I cannot imagine such a scenario. Not the boss ringing you up and asking you to go to the office on your day off to complete an important report, but you ticking him off that he had no right to call on your ‘me time’, because many Indians, and I am sure many other nationalities, are too meek to protest.
You would grumble, rattle off choice expletives, but will go to the parking in the basement, pick up your helmet, press the start button of your mobike and off you will go to work.
As you ride into a deserted road because there is no traffic as it is the weekend, you chew over the fact that your job has some terrible working hours, but at least the wages pay for the groceries and the kids’ school fees, you think.
Things are expected to change in India if a private member’s Bill introduced into Parliament, gets passed. It plans to empower people to disconnect after working hours and not take any calls or emails from the workplace.
France was the first country to initiate such a law and it is now followed by many European countries. It is against the law if the boss calls you after work.
One of the provisions of the Indian Bill is that employees will not face disciplinary action if the call from office is ignored. But I can see this happening at hundreds of offices in Indian cities, the day after the call from the office is cut off:
“Come in Murlidharan, yes I need to talk to you. No, don’t sit down, this will take a minute. I called you yesterday. You disconnected the phone. You never bothered to call back. Why do you think I called you? That I was lonely and needed to speak to someone, anyone, even you?
How many years have you been working here, Murlidharan?”
“Sir, I am extremely sorry, I dropped my phone in the toilet in surprise when I saw your number. My wife and I tried various ways to get it working again. She even gave me her hair dryer, but the chip had got wet and the phone made watery noises when I called you back.”
“How many years?”
“This September, 28 years, sir.”
“Your appraisal is coming up ...”
“Sir, I have my rights now. Do you know I have high blood pressure and sugar in my blood? It is because of you calling me at home every weekend and the stress, after I take your call. Do you know I never got paid overtime? Maybe once in 2012.”
“Murlidharan, you think politicians know how to run a business? Why don’t you ask Parliament for your overtime? Ask them about low productivity and the reason why? I will tell you. Because we are too weak and cannot work for more than 8.1 hours every day.
Do you know why Japan is so advanced? Because they literally die at their jobs. India needs more people like that. Do you know how many government holidays we have? Do you know why I am here so early every day?
“Sir, my wife says she will divorce me if I take any of your calls on the weekends.”
“Murlidharan, who are you? Jeff Bezos? Are you a millionaire?
Here, take my BP pill. Go to the recreation room, meditate for 10 minutes, grab a cheeseburger and come back. We are expecting an official call from Cincinnati at 10.30.”
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi.