Bitter and sweet partings

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on: May 16, 2012


People marry their workplace and treat their spouse like work. Turning it around may help.

The Congress party knows all about rocky marriages. It also knows how difficult it is to extricate oneself from a sticky relationship. See how Mamata took Manmohan to the cleaners.

Perhaps that's why last week the government quietly made some big changes to India's matrimonial laws. Divorce will get quicker now. Couples will not have to wait out the mandatory cooling off period of six months to bid adieu to a life together.

Indeed, it appears as if there is no waiting period because in cases of mutual consent one can breeze off one's own way pretty fast. The alimony will pant along but keep up. And dividing the assets will now be plain sailing apparently.

I wish I could get as quick and painless a divorce from my broadband service provider. It took me just a half day to get hitched to Airtel. No courtship was needed. I called, they came and that was that. But to get unhitched, that's proving pretty difficult. The first rude shock came when tired of the patchy connections, I called the call centre and told the company to disconnect my line.

“It will take seven working days to do that Ma'am,” I was told.

In those seven days, the same company that had not managed to repair my connection for months inundated me with technicians, got the faulty line fixed, waived off half the bill, and wooed me with sweet calls asking me to reconsider and promising better service.

I fell for it. Reconciliation happened.

But the service has broken down again. Now determined to end this once and for all, I called up only to be meted the same sweet treatment again. Needless to say, the relationship is still on. In tatters, on life support — like many marriages — but we are pulling on, sticking together.

Mutual consent is what I need but the party of the second part is not willing to let go. Perhaps, that's one secret to lasting marriages.

There are other relationships too that are difficult to break. A friend has been grumbling to me about how hard he is finding it to quit his company, and take up a more lucrative offer, as he is emotionally blackmailed into staying.

“Wish one could obtain divorces from the workplace as quickly,” he muttered.

I have often thought that modern corporate-employee relationships are treading the same societal path of quick marriages, incompatibility and messy divorces. This is quite unlike our parents generation where people tended to stick on and on in one job, and retired with silver ware or grandfather clocks.

Also, partings from companies are increasingly getting like marriage separations, with a lot of airing of dirty linen in public — witness the recent loud acrimonious exit of Greg Smith from Goldman Sachs, and his noisy venting about the toxic culture of the place.

Perhaps if people treat their relationship with a company like a marriage (giving it a bit more of commitment) and a marriage like their affair with the workplace (giving it the same amount of time and attention), things might work better all round for everyone.

The genius who coined the phrase wedded to one's work may have been on to something after all.

Published on March 29, 2012
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