A few months back, I had my second encounter with a proposed sabbatical. Over a couple of not-so-chilled Budweisers, in a darkened Bandra bar, my editor Priya mentioned, matter-of-factly, that she was planning to take almost a quarter of the year off.
On leave: Lock up your laptop and go.
Did I gulp my beer and frantically ask for a stronger drink? Maybe…but mostly, I think, I flashed back to my first real encounter with that term. While I was studying mass communication at the Sophia Polytech, Mumbai, my professor Jeroo F. Mulla had announced that the following year she would not be conducting the course. She had asked for, and been granted, a year-long sabbatical. I remembered the bouts of happiness Jeroo would go through every time she outlined her plans for the coming hiatus — more Bharatanatyam, more photography, more vipassana…
At the time, I wondered why people needed to take time off from their careers to pursue their interests. Weren’t we supposed to balance all this alongside our jobs? Today, after a decade of being in and out of jobs, I know that most of us end up packing in so much time into moving ahead that sometimes, in the midst of work, spouse and kids, it is just easier to leave behind all the things we really enjoyed doing when our time was all ours. And, I discovered long back that two-week vacations, even regular ones, are just not enough to recapture those lost interests.
If it is undistracted time you seek — to travel, take a class, paint, research, live an alternative life—a sabbatical from the daily work routine is a must. But, how many of us think about halting a hurtling career?
Not many in this part of the world, says Anita Belani, country head, Watson Wyatt India, a leading global HR consulting firm. Most people here define their success through jobs and rarely will you find people wanting to take time off to do their own thing, she says.
The practice of asking for a sabbatical and getting it is prevalent in the West. In India, however, it’s not easily available across sectors (IT, consulting and financial companies being the exceptions). Here, an organization’s willingness to grant a sabbatical largely depends on whether it understands why it is being sought, and if the person asking for it is part of a critical talent pool, says Sandeep Chaudhary, business leader, Hewitt Associates.
So, does hearing all this make me think that in India the sabbatical dream usually remains just that — a dream? No. Jeroo got her sabbatical years ago and Priya is out there exploring the world right now (keep in touch with her travels on Blogs.livemint.com). Someday, maybe when my four-year-old is older, the two of us will take a sabbatical, she from school and I from work, and go and live in a village (yes, that is what I want to do) or travel around and see all the Disney princess castles (that’s top on her agenda).
Meanwhile, my colleagues and I at Lounge want to hear what you have to say about your favourite Saturday read. Do start by telling us what you thought of the journey Samanth Subramanian and Harikrishna Katragadda took, tracing the swansong of the shehnai, our cover story this week. It all started when Samanth set out to understand how the reed, which is used to play the shehnai, is made.
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