Date: 1st October 2016
Subject: Submitting my leave application for a month-long backpacking trip to north-east India.
The first time I officially applied for a leave from work was during my 2nd job. This was when I first encountered the social stigma surrounding the desire to take a long leave from work. Organizations did not prefer employees doing silly things like having a life. Moreover, the incriminating amount of guilt associated with asking for leaves was surprisingly accepted by the employees, too. Senior colleagues tried to indoctrinate me, but I found it hard to agree with this convention. If work should be a young adult’s priority, then living my life was my main full-time occupation, and giving myself a travel experience was the next task on my to-do list.
I worked with an environmental engineering company. The company was planted by the grandfather, cultivated by the father, and reaped by the grandson. This grandson, the half MD of the company, was my boss. I knew nothing, but I wanted to explore and learn. My boss shared a similar predicament after being promoted as the active leader of the company.
Passionate about the environment, I wanted to contribute my time and energy for its betterment. The company may have started with similar sentiments, but now it was chasing money more than the mission. At the beginning of September 2016, I was six months into the job. I was far from ideal. Out of all the tools at my disposal, as a fresher, I mostly worked with vague philosophical replies. But between such replies, I worked hard and effective. I worked on ongoing projects, learnt from seniors, and delivered some decent results. I was sincere, and a satisfactory employee overall. Compared to what us employees were getting for our efforts, the bosses were having a real bargain.
The middle weeks of September were hot and humid. My boss felt dissatisfied with the staff’s work. Somehow, abusing and yelling at employees wasn’t bringing in the profitable results. In an already unfriendly atmosphere, I was given the additional honour of being despised by my boss’s father, the senior MD. The senior was a big bully. But I was from an only-boys school. My lack of experience, lack of fear, served with ineffective philosophical answers, had greatly pissed him off. He hated I knew little and was suspicious of my intention to learn. For him, I was his son’s one of many disappointing decisions. The younger MD left room for consideration, but the senior MD was calculative and distrusting. But being rude, arrogant, and violently dramatic was something they both had in common. On 30th of September, while ‘Daddy’ was brewing tension between me and my boss, I was sitting in line at Chembur railway station waiting to get a tatkal ticket for next morning’s train to northeast India.
Tatkal was an immediate ticket issued at 11 am, one day prior to the outstation train’s departure. I lined up before the counter at an eager 5 am, as the allocation follows the first come first served arrangement. Having nothing much to do while waiting, I intently listened to some music, engaged in some early morning writing, watched the bustle of people grow with the rising sun, went out to have a nice breakfast, and came back to join the line. After all this time, it was still 3 hours for the ticketing to start.
I bought a ticket for Siliguri with a waiting-number of 52. That meant if 52 people cancelled their tickets, I would get a confirmed seat. In peak season, I stood a better chance of winning over the older MD. For the moment, the ticket only granted me access to travel inside the 3-tier sleeper compartment without an assigned seat. I had a confirmed seat booked in advance, but I gave it up because both my parents fell sick and I wanted to look after them. After two weeks, when they had recovered well, I decided to take the trip. Mom didn’t approve of me going solo again, but I had earned some points because of the sickness episode. While I was paying for the tickets, I received a call from my boss. He furiously grilled me about why I wasn’t present in the office, which started at 10 am. I lied I was helping with some preparations for a pooja at my aunt’s house and promised that I’d be at the office soon. My boss’s family was religious, so they accepted religious practices as a valid excuse for irresponsible behaviour.
Past few days, my boss had been displeased with my work. I focused more on the engineering part as opposed to the business development position for which they recruited me. I felt inclined to understand the technical aspects of environmental engineering before trying to pitch it to potential clients. My boss always disagreed, and with Daddy’s intervention, he grew intolerant. In this situation, I had to break the news that I was going on a month-long travel journey. Luckily, both the bosses had not come to the office that day. It was a slow day, with just 5 of us employees minding our own business. I sat at my desk, drowsy from insufficient sleep and jittery from a mug full of strong coffee, wondering how to inform my boss about my oncoming absence from work.
I had submitted a leave application for the original planned date. This would have been my 2nd leave after the sudden leave for dengue, which was for almost for 20 days. That fever ridden leave was 4 months into the job, and it had been 2 months since then. This inconsistency, along with an average of 4 self-sanctioned holidays per month, lent little weight to my application. Still my boss allowed me a 10 day leave on the first application. That was nice of him. I was grateful for it. But I needed more. He had forgotten about it after I informed him about the trip getting postponed.
It was no longer about asking for leave; it was about informing. I didn’t tell him during the office hours. After returning home, I got lost in the fun of packing and preparations. In the morning, my train departed at 8. I reached there early to see if I could score a seat by negotiating with the TC. The train was jam-packed, the TC couldn’t help me. The only way left was the uncomfortable one; to travel without a reservation, with the floor as my seat and politeness as my currency. As per the TC, I seemed a bit soft for this style of commute. He wasn’t wrong, but he hadn’t seen the stubbornness and malleability of a KT-ridden engineer. He asked me if I was going out of a big reason. I couldn’t articulate why the trip was important to me. The thought of not going sank a hole in my heart. But there was no grand reason for it; it was something that I dearly wanted to do.
I boarded the train and made the most of somebody else’s upper berth. I made acquaintances and arrangements with fellow space sharers. Everyone was friendly and cooperative. Most of them were natives of the northeast, going back home for the holidays. We all were in good spirits and shared good vibes. To my mom’s delight, a friend was joining me on this trip. He, too, was a soft looker, but highly adjustable to circumstances. After sharing a few moments of excitement about the trip, we settled in for the 44 hour train ride without designated seats.
During our conversation my friend mentioned my leave from work. It reminded me that I still hadn’t informed my boss that I won’t be coming to office for a month. I thought the best way of conveying the news was through text and hence I wrote the following mail, which I consider my first successful leave application.
This is with reference to my leave from work.
I am sorry to spring this up suddenly but I request you to please consider my leave of absence from S#%^kl*n organization.
The leave is for a travel journey that I wish to take to North East India as I had mentioned in the application. My plan at that time was cancelled but all of a sudden it has come into action. I didn’t think I was going but just last night, in the spur of the moment, I took off.
The absence is of a great number of days and I can imagine your concerns on subject and I understand them completely. I am aware of the responsibilities that I am abandoning without notice, please don’t think that I take them or S#%^kl*n lightly, I am grateful for the opportunity you have given me. I have much more to learn. But I feel it also is our responsibility towards ourselves to live the life we’ve been graced with.
Environmental engineering is what I wish to do to earn my living and in such travel endeavors I try to find my living, it reminds me how beautiful our world is and sparks a drive to help the world to stay beautiful, clean, superklean!
I wish to convey that with great hope and enthusiasm we have undertaken this venture and it would mean much to me if you’d grant us your support.
To which he replied,
– OK. Go and come back soon.
After deploying my application, I hoped that he’d understand, but I also prepared myself to return and not have the job. I was relieved to receive his supportive reply a few hours later. I was now travelling with an unburdened mind, free of stigma or guilt.
I wasn’t the best employee and they weren’t the best leaders. But all of us were thinking and feeling individuals who could be better if we tried to be more understanding of each other.
So, no matter how difficult things seem, it helps to talk to people; be communicative and sincere about your intentions, be it in a packed train or in an unfriendly work environment.