Yes… I totally get to work in my pyjamas
No… I don’t use the office wi-fi a lot because most of the time it does NOT WORK
Yes… We cook in the office because we have a tiny strictly-essentials kitchen
No… I don’t get more work done
Here’s the context:
I arrived in Kanpur on 15th of August 2017. Yes, The day India was celebrating the independence spirit, I was testing my own by arriving at a place (I knew no one, here) with my all my worldly possessions packed in one luggage and backpack. It was so exciting and since my emotional quotient can only handle one emotion at a time, I had no fear, Just pure curiosity and excitement. I was going to build a life here. Find a place in the world, make friends and acquaintances and probably even (and this was a long shot) learn to cook for survival. Even as I arrived in Kanpur, I knew I would have a place to stay as it was arranged that I would live in the community radio station itself. I was given a brief description that it would entail a vegetable patch garden and I would be living very close to the community so that I can have the authentic experience. By now, You must be sensing a pattern, because I felt excited. It felt like the whole world was my arena and I could make as much impact as I wanted to make in this span of a year.
On 16th of August, I arrived in Kanpur Dehat (where my radio station is) and met my colleagues and my boss and they all seemed nice. The day ended and night crept in, as it tends to do, and finally it was bed-time. My bed is a foldable-wooden mechanism that I had to lift and shift to the office room that would turn in to my bedroom. I laid down my mattress and bedsheets and from that day started my life in which my office was my home. Here are my key insights that I can bestow as far as my wisdom allows:
1. You don’t control your time. My life works according to the schedule of the radio station which broadcasts every day, so essentially there are people dropping in to meet and talk at all times of the day. So no sleeping in late ever and I can’t take a sick day because there is no way I can lie.
2. Living in the rural teaches you a lot about lack of control. You have no control over the climate and seasons. Not like you can do so in the cities, but at least the ACs and the heaters create enough facade. Your life and schedule are dictated by the length of day, heat/cold of the season. No temperature control with the ease of remote.
3. Electricity is a bigger boon than we realize. Electricity is basically defiance against the helplessness that dark of the night brings. It enhances the productive hours of an individual and the prospects those productive hours can bring. For example, with electricity, students can study for longer hours, and probably score better marks and eventually be able to make a better choice for their lives and future. They could use electrical appliances such as iron, mixer, water heater, computers, laptops etc. Appliances make our lives way easy and comfortable.
4. Privacy. I believe my mind lacks the scope of imagination which is why I never imagined that I could be in a situation where my co-workers would get to witness me brushing my teeth or even be privy to my daily skincare routine. Even though I schedule my laundry day on Sundays, it never fails to be embarrassing to have your dirty laundry on the line, metaphorically and literally.
5. Your day does not end. When you leave work for the day, the day ends, a line of thought ends, you unwind. If you live where you work, that doesn’t happen.
6. You get to know all the gossip. You are a constant fixture of the setup and people end up telling you many things than normally if you were to be an in-and-out presence.
7. You will find evidence of your leisure time scattered all over the office space. I find socks, books, my teacup, plates and skin care items which I have to embarrassingly retrieve and return to its place. People become surprisingly insightful about your routine and you become the butt of many jokes.
8. You don’t have to travel which I thought is a plus, but it has its own downside. Travelling to and fro work allows you to adjust your temperament and outlook in that space of mind. With me, If I have a crappy start to a day, the day then has no scope of getting better.
9. You get more time to critically evaluate your work and colleagues. I feel my time here in the community radio station has made me more aware of the implications of Community Radio than if I were to stay at a distance from it.
10. It is not easy. It gets to you in small and many ways. If it were, every setup would prefer to have you and your productive hours on their hands. They would certainly want to skimp on the housing and rent allowance category of our salary slips. People talk about the idyllic village life but what they fail to mention how difficult this life really is. Most people can’t fathom the hard manual labor that really goes into agriculture, animal husbandry, maintaining a rural household. The transition is difficult to go from filtered-tap water to handpump life for every time you need water.
11. You cant be ‘Joey doesn’t share food’. Every time I open a packet of my scarce and very beloved cakes and biscuits, I have to share it with everyone on the premises. Sometimes you really want to have your cake and eat it too so you sneak it in to your bag and eat it when you think no one is watching. Guilty as charged.
*** The author continues to stay and work out of the community radio station which by the way she loves and have people around her (a little too close, agreed) who love her too. But she often imagines, how would life be if she were living elsewhere …