A take on breaks!

Ever felt the overwhelming urge to throw in the towel, shout ‘to hell with everything’ and disappear into blissful oblivion, if only momentarily? So, when my doctor advised me to take a break, it was as if God Himself was writing the prescription. Of course, all of us know it is all in our mind, the belief that we are indispensable, that we will be missed, and things will grind to a halt in our absence and that it is always now or never. In the competitive, all-consuming world of ours the notion that time and tide waits for none has been drilled into us and, therefore, it is ever a race against deadly deadlines, the latter always beating us to the post, rendering us late, sometimes even Late. So, Dr or no Dr, a short break seemed to me a far better option than a lasting break-down. And I must say, in this decision I was aided in no mean measure by the current milieu in TN where governance and many other important things have themselves taken a break! What am I, which includes you, after all?

To an absent-minded populace addicted to holidays on one pretext or another, the Thamizh conference has come as a bonanza of sorts. The annual summer vacations had just ended and now comes this unexpected top-up. Of course, the closing of schools, colleges and sundry other educational institutions, which had all just re-opened and even private tutorials and training institutes which ran even during the summer break, is ostensibly for encouraging attendance at the conference.

The same alibi reigns at government offices too; though no holidays have been declared officially, the unwritten writ is the staff can take leave of absence if they wished to go to the conference. ‘As I have been affected by the Classical ‘Thamizh’ conference fever, I request leave for …’ is probably a classic leave letter sample that is presently filling the files at the Secretariat. That is, assuming there is someone there to receive and/or file the letter. And lest I forget, the pre-sanctioned (paid)leave request is best presented in Thamizh, for a trouble-free post-leave ‘retirement’ plan even while in service! It is relevant to add that many outfits which deal with the government or otherwise have nothing worthwhile to do have also voluntarily shut shop, for the sake of Thamizh, no doubt.

The rational question naturally arises: have all those who availed themselves of leave and the students and teachers who are relieved of academic duties been sighted in Kovai? The law of conservation of the masses deems that the reduction in the population index of Chennai/rest of TN should automatically result in an equal and opposite accretion at the conference venue. However, there appears to be some slippage here. Instead attendance at Ooty and similar other hill stations is reported to have gone up, besides quite a bit of cross-border leakages. Tirupati and Palani have also reported increased collections. FIFA, Wimbledon (on TV, that is), malls and Ravanan, as against Raavan…ji, accounts for the rest. Mother Thamizh is surely serving its sons and daughters well!

I remember starting off with taking breaks, but got lost somehow after being bitten by the infectious conference bug. So getting back to breaks, to us ordinary folks (belonging to the non-government, non-student population) who know no vacation thanks to our chosen vocation, the conference is no consolation, on the leave front I mean. But that doesn’t mean there is no brighter side either. Chennai for one is having the best of climes after a rather roasting summer and a ‘break’ here itself is not a bad idea after all, though it might seem like mud on the moustache for many who have no choice anyway. The city seems to offer other attractions too this week. I am not imagining things when I say the traffic on the roads have eased a lot. Though it is status quo vis-a-vis potholes, probably because they do not attend conferences, there appears to be more of pavement to drive on. A great number of hawkers and peddlers too have gone to Kovai to purvey their various wares there, leaving a peaceful Chennai behind. And besides autofares which are on a bear-run, I am sure the crime graph of the city has also taken a dip. And no mischievous irony intended, but the police have virtually vanished from our midst; after all, Thamizh needs all the protection it can afford. But by far the biggest blessing is that the city is bereft of its big-mouthed politicos and that is something indeed!

Cutting a short story shorter, conference or not, and Chennai or not, a break was surely in the offing for me, on both medical and non-medical grounds. So here I go: ‘As I am suffering from fatal boredom combined with frequent bouts of frustration and failure of purpose besides the feverish force of futility and, finally, very few points to fill the blanks, herewith, I beg leave of absence for the next week and if I cant help it, the week after, too.’ I can hear some sly murmurs that that would actually make Chennai an even better place, but, sorry, good things don’t last. I will be back soon enough!

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Jawahar T R