Duty and Ramadan

One can’t grudge a family man or woman his or her desire to be home with kids for iftaar after a hard day at work. This applies as much to professionals like doctors, teachers and lawyers (journalists being a breed apart), as to those generally known as the working classes, and the business community.

With Ramadan falling, and slated to fall for some time to come, in the year’s torrid season, these columns rise in tribute to those who fast from dawn to dusk, withstand scorching temperatures and the pangs of thirst, and still deliver at highly exacting and testing terminals like surgery, public office, the classroom (not to speak of the newsroom), and labour at construction sites, with road crews, in factories, at the wheels of public transport vehicles, or deal with grouchy and demanding customers, be it at vegetable stalls or in fashionable shopping malls.

With apologies to those left out in this rather lengthy paean, it is still distressing to note that Ramadan more-often-than-not comes as a godsend to take things a little easy in the work sphere. The practice used to be more pervasive when government jobs figured prominently in Kashmir’s economic profile, and has diminished somewhat with a gradual, but marked, shift to entrepreneurship and self-employment. Nevertheless, a socially ingrained disregard for public duty – public servants of all categories being custodians of public resources – is still easily discernible in most institutions functioning on the tax-payers’ money.

 Ramadan, a school of discipline, duty and diligence, must necessarily bring out the best in the devout on every one of these counts, and heighten an individual’s sense of moral responsibility towards the source of his or her livelihood, his or her rizq. Many could rightly be reminded of the leisurely ease and dismissive attitude employees in government offices and corporations would bring to bear on their work on Fridays, downing pens and tools a good one-and-a-half hours before prayer time, and virtually calling it a day soon after taxing exertions at the weekly, congregational service.

It is ironic that private enterprises and service-providers, be they shops, and stores with only a handful of employees, or ventures with large workforces, should put such a high premium on the wage-to-working hours ratio, and expect and demand the full wages’ worth from their staff, irrespective of any “religious season,” but public (read government) institutions be regarded as a free lunch, particularly in Ramadan.