Nation on Vacation

‘What the nation on vacation!’ Sounds strange but is true. Thanks to the holiday culture that we have in India many times in a year the nation goes on vacation. There are long breaks when weekends get converted into extended weekends due to the plethora of public holidays-national, regional and local. To these are added unscheduled holidays that are declared at the drop of the hat, bringing the govt. machinery to a grinding halted every now and then.

Then, there are holidays that are declared on the demise of VIPs. The chief minister of a southern state died in a tragic air crash and its impact was felt in the state of Punjab. It was an occasion to have another day off the work calendar. A former chief minister of an eastern state died at a ripe age and as a mark of respect to the departed soul, the govt. offices were closed in Punjab. Work seems to have no value, and must be subordinated to mock mourning. In fact, we make a mockery of solemn occasions by declaring holidays. People throng multiplexes, movies run house full and the shops do brisk business- all in the name of mourning.

The two states of Punjab and Haryana vie with each other in the declaration of public holidays. After the Columbia tragedy, Haryana, the home state of astronaut Kalpana Chawla declared a holiday. All the govt. offices, schools and colleges were shut down. What a lazy tribute to the woman of determination! In USA, however, there was a resolve to work harder. Here it will not be misplaced to quote the experience of an Indian army top brass who happened to be in Washington DC when the incumbent American President Kennedy was assassinated. The officer was scheduled to have a meeting at Pentagon on that fateful day. Being used to Indian culture, he took it for granted that a general holiday would be declared. But to his surprise the meeting was held as per the schedule. What a contrast it is to Indian ethos and culture where mourning on the demise of high profile is converted into leisure and pleasure of holiday.

Not only is the list of public holidays a long one in India but the list keeps growing with the addition to the number of historical figures to be remembered. After all, ours is a secular, democratic state where every religion, caste, creed and group must be appeased. Don’t holidays make an excellent sop? Our politicians, cutting across the party lines are indeed generous in declaring holidays. To hell with the public, the so called public servants must enjoy the leisure and pleasure of plenty of holidays. Never mind the inconvenience to the common man, the govt. offices, hospitals, schools and colleges must remain closed to pay tribute to a great man, to celebrate the birth anniversary  or mourn the death of a leader. Isn’t there a better way to celebrate than declaring a public holiday? Perhaps a holiday is the right time to ponder.


(Published in HT Chandigarh on Dec27, 2010)

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