The word ‘Karyakarta’ literally means worker in English. I’ve been trying to understand it better. Who is a Karyakarta? Is it you and me? Is it a CEO of an organization? How often do we introduce ourselves as a Karyakarta? I have never had. In fact, I had always taken pride in bragging about our designation. Don’t we all?
I am the CEO of a multi-national company.
I am the Director of an XYZ company with an annual turnover of 50 crores.
I am the Manager of a global level firm.
I am the Driver of a company.
Did you feel a difference while reading the last statement? I did. Because I had never seen someone taking pride in telling the world that they are a driver. I remember being taught in school that “Dignity of labor” means to give equal respect to all occupations. That no job or profession should be considered inferior, or even superior. I assume that we all must have been taught the same. But, how often do we follow it?
In our minds, we have associated respect with a profession or with the per annum package. We learn from the society we live in. “Sharma ji ke bete ne IIT se engineering ki hai aur aaj laakhon mei kama raha hai”. Unfortunately, this is what I have frequently heard and seen. And, I am not proud to share that I have associated respect with certain professions and the money they are earning. I respected an individual. But, did I respect the profession of a driver? I doubt.
Crossing two-state borders and landing in interior parts of Maharashtra, in a place whose name I had never heard before, I didn’t realize I would encounter a cultural shock on my first day itself. My mentor (Aniket Ji), a humble and generous man, introduced me to all the staff at Manavlok in his adorable Gulabi Hindi and said, “Idhar sab Karyakarta hain.” I nodded with a smile and didn’t put a lot of thought into his statement.We chatted for another 5-10 mins talking about my journey from Delhi to Ambajogai, where Manavlok is situated.
Suddenly, there was a lot of hustle-bustle around me. People were arranging the table, getting a knife and matchsticks. I was confused about what could possibly be happening so early in the morning. It didn’t take me much time to figure out that it was a birthday celebration. Aniket Ji merrily joined the crowd and invited me too. Unable to comprehend the new language (Marathi) everyone was speaking; I was trying to spot the birthday person amongst the 12 of us.
I noticed Abhishek bhaiya* (he came to pick me from the bus station) holding the knife, and all eyes were on him. We all sang the birthday song for him, had a cake cutting ceremony, and one of the staff members even made a small bouquet of flowers for him. I was delighted. My heart was filled with joy. But all this while, in my head, a constant thought was bothering me – Why have I not celebrated the birthday of my driver at home? Do I even know his birthday? The answer is a loud NO.
I never even thought of asking about his birthday, forget about celebrating it. But why? Why nobody in my family ever cared to do it. This question kept bugging me for days. It still does!
The more I got to know the social norms of the organization, the more I started questioning myself. It was not even 15 days since I joined that I got a chance to visit Ratnagiri. After traveling for almost 7 hours, we stopped at a small dhabha for dinner. Being used to the social norms I was exposed to, I didn’t expectAbhishek Bhaiya to join us on our dinner table. It was uncommon for me. We all talked about movies, laughed together, and enjoyed the delicious food, something I had, unfortunately, never done earlier, with people from different socio-economic backgrounds.
Before even coming to Ratnagiri, I told Aniket Ji about my misfortune of never having seen a beach in my life. As generous and kind he is, he made sure that I visit one even though it was not in our original plan. Abhishek Bhaiya got caught up in another task and couldn’t come with us. He was upset that we went to the beach without him. Aniket Ji noticed this and made sure that we go again, together. The kind of consideration he has for all the Karyakartas of his organization has moved me to bits.
Here’s why all this was new to me – On our family trips, we would stay at expensive hotels and eat in fancy restaurants but would give a meagre amount of money to the driver to figure out his lunch somewhere else. On work trips, I never cared to bother about the accommodation for our driver. I always assumed that he prefers to sleep in the car, even after driving for 12+ hours.
Sandhya didi* is working in my family for the last ten years, doing the majority of the household chores. It is strange to believe that I don’t even know her last name. It is the hypocrisy in me that I want my workplace to be welcoming and friendly, but I never cared to create the same environment for people working in my home. We still have separate cups and plates for them, and as pathetic as it sounds, it is forbidden for us to touch their used utensils.
We never invite them for birthdays or ceremonies. Even after spending ten years with us, I have never treated Sandhya didi like a family member. Why have I not questioned this before? Why have I not thought so deeply about it earlier? Why did it take so long? Maybe because nobody around me found it wrong. Maybe because it has been accepted as a norm since it’s happening for ages. It is disgusting, and I am ashamed to admit that I was a part of it all along.
Almost after a month of observations and self-realization, I understand the depth and the reality behind “Idhar sab Karyakarta hain.” Placing everyone under the umbrella of Karyakarta demolishes the hierarchy and distinction amongst the designations. In quite contrast to the organizational hierarchy often found in government structures, corporate setups, and even in our homes, Manavlok treats and respects individuals irrespective of their background and social status. There’s no division here.
The generosity, humility, and egalitarian approach I have witnessed here has instilled a change in me. A behavioral change. I remember when Swati from India Fellow told me, “Bohot se badlaav ghar se shuru hote hain.” and now I know what I have to change when I go back. Now I continue to respect an individual.But, do I respect the profession of a driver? Yes, I do.
*Names changed to maintain confidentiality