This article first appeared in the news magazine Tehelka’s financial newspaper Financial World and its portal here. SINCE THE evolution of the corporate culture, particularly in the past couple of decades, it has enriched the English language with newly coined terms, metaphors and new interpretations of old words. Unarguably, no other generation before had such a clear demarcation between personal and professional life in mind. Without any second thoughts, it can be said that, never before have people had so many things in their to-do list. And, with a little bit of argument, this can be said that, in the history of humankind, rarely has any generation felt that they are not doing enough in their lives. The most fascinating part of any journey is to stop and look towards the point of origin to get surprised by the distance we have covered quickly. If we take a look at the relationship of human beings and work, we will find that a couple of centuries back, work was an integral part of the human life. Except monks, there was barely anyone in society who was not involved in any kind of work, though there was no such term as “job” and “work profile”. Neither were there clear-cut remunerations, nor did we have well-defined responsibilities. But, work was so much part of an individual’s life that it gave a sense of identity to them and their families. It was considered to be an individual’s raison d’etre. There were political struggles; there were social struggles; and there were economic struggles. The workplace was uncomfortable; the remuneration was barely enough to survive; and there were constant voices of dissent complaining about the work condition. But, none ever uttered the term, which is equivalent of today’s “work-life balance”. This trend continued even after India gained independence. If anyone got a job, which was reasonably comfortable and provided enough income to take care of basic needs, there was barely any reason left to complain about. That is precisely the reason why government jobs were most sought jobs for a long period of time. Till a couple of decades back, there were barely any quick sources of information, so they had to spend hours figuring out stuff. There were barely any offices that were air-conditioned and had beautiful artificial sceneries. Even typing on computer seemed to be an intellectual and geeky exercise. Still, the middle class rarely talked about being dissatisfied with their job or nature of work. Complaints were made about the politics being practised in the country, not in the office. People stuck with their first job longer than with their first wife. Moreover, there was barely anyone who was depressed or stressed out due to the nature of the work. Even then there were people who had their midlife crisis, but that used to strike them literally at midlife, not in the twenties. Few of them nurtured individual angst in their heart about the social structure, and it manifested in forms of few political struggles. There were existential questions like “Why do I exist?”, which made one restless in that era too. But, the numbers were small. That was the old generation, not-so-intelligent and not-so-ambitious. That generation belonged to the era of the closed economy and enjoyed Test cricket. While this era belongs to the ambitious generation, where everyone is a wannabe Alexander, and is willing to conquer the whole world. Now waiting for anything is considered as punishment. Most of the gadgets and evolving technology are primarily aimed towards saving more time. Still, 24 hours in a day do not seem to be enough, neither for work nor for family. Moreover, interest is not an activity that one undertakes during leisure time. The time has to be taken out of one’s tight schedule. Waking hours are divided very cleverly, making way for most of the important activities. The faith in gods is diminishing in the English-speaking, logical urban population. Stress has emerged as the new god of this century. Its omnipresent nature can be experienced in corporate meetings, with family and even in discussions with peers. Stress emerged as such a powerful force that simple activities, like shopping, cooking, playing, etc., started falling under the category of activities to destress. But these measures started proving to be counterproductive. There is a pressure to perform on weekdays in office, and then there is a strange peer pressure to party harder in the office outings. All attempts to reduce the restlessness, trying to find meaning in the work make the work appear more meaningless. Primarily the number of people suffering or enjoying this condition of angst can be found in the corporate office. This acute realisation has helped us in coining another term – “corporate angst” – and made the English language richer than before. Deepak Dhamija is a VC-turned-serial entrepreneur and runs theatre group Shoelace.
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