• Mohana Prabhakar

It’s about more than a paycheck

Sometimes you see things, which show you that contrary to what you read and hear on the news (and of course, social media), good things and good people still exist.

I had the opportunity to tag along with a group of charity workers and performers who were on their way to put up a musical show at a construction company’s workers’ camp in Nizwa. I didn’t know much about this company, except that it was large and reputed, and that we were going to the site of one of their ongoing projects.

With the sun telling us that summer isn’t over yet, we left Muscat in a giant hired bus at 1.30 in the afternoon, only for it to break down just after Samail.

Funnily enough, despite the prospect of being stuck in the searing heat with no air conditioning for god knows how long, it didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits beyond the worry that we would be late reaching the camp. Sarath, the representative of the company who was travelling with us, was a star, and a few taxis and a replacement bus had all 27 of us on our way with just about a delay of an hour.

You know how when some things happen, you take it as an omen of how the rest of the day will unfold? Our breakdown, however, unexpectedly turned out to be the harbinger of a fantastic evening.

I am admittedly a bit sceptical when it comes to the many CSR-related speeches I have heard about the welfare of employees being the core of all activities, ‘We are one big family’, etc and tend to tune out after the first couple of sentences. At this camp in Nizwa, it was not what was said by anyone but what some people did that I will remember for a long time.

I should have realised they were different when I discovered that the soft-spoken young man, Sojan, who welcomed us and made sure we got our tea the way we liked it, was actually the general manager of this big firm.

When we finally arrived at the hall where the musical programme was going to be held, hundreds of workers were already seated and waiting. Bottles of water were handed to all of us before the show started and just as I was thinking that all these men must be thirsty too, I noticed that some of the supervisors had picked up cartons and had started distributing water bottles to the audience as well.

I don’t know whether you would think it was nothing or a lot, but I wanted to get up and cheer. To me, that screamed ‘we care’, more than anything anyone could have said in a speech.

The evening started on a sedate note with a couple of devotional songs, but the tone of the evening was set when the compère, Sudeepto, decided to belt out one of the most popular songs of the 70s in Bollywood. To say the audience erupted doesn’t even begin to describe the energy in the hall at the time. The smiles, the waves and the cheers that rang through the hall – it was worth a hundred journeys to be there to watch it.

As the singers continued, we caught a glimpse of the back of the hall where a few people had taken to the floor, unable to resist the catchy songs. The ones in front were clearly itching to get up as well, but stayed in place with the top management, including the managing director and the general manager, present along with us - the visitors.

All it needed then was the 2017 Malayalam hit song, Jimikki Kammal (which famously got Jimmy Kimmel’s attention), and these young, enthusiastic men threw all caution to the winds. Even as we clapped and cheered, I watched the people in charge of security gather quickly, and unobtrusively link hands to form a human chain to contain the highly charged group within a particular area.

Soon after I noticed Sojan getting up from his seat and moving towards the medley and then came my second most favourite moment of the day. Instead of asking the supervisors to herd them back to their seats as I expected (and would understand), he jumped right into the middle and joined in. After that, it was bedlam, in the best possible way.

I can only imagine what it would have meant to those young men to have the big boss dancing with them, and he continued until the end even as more and more joined in. Obviously, this is one management that doesn’t need to talk about motivation or being part of one family: They just live it.

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