by Dr. Harleen Kaur
(Patiala, Punjab, India)
I have recently been deeply troubled with the connotations of the overused word grace/graceful. Amid the repeated reminders of pre-ordained and tangible grace, I have been at a loss of words to articulate all that is unjustified about the mandate. At a typical conservative workplace, one is subjected to unnecessary, undeserved, and unwritten draconian norms. It is often a cruel display of overpowering ethical domination by the unlettered authority for validating its own inefficiency.
Grace manifests itself in decent appearance and composed demeanour. The one who takes a grave note of the surroundings before an emotional outburst or who is kind enough to facilitate others is graceful. Grace thrives in giving your best at work in spite of a disturbed state of mind. It puts work before self. It expects co-workers to put in their most efficient self forward while working with ill-tempered ones. It enables working on undesirable and unagreeable tasks. It enters co-workers into an ethical contract where each is dignified enough to respect the other's privacy.
On the contrary, the upholders and proponents of graceful conduct have the audacity to justify crime for protecting their fraternity at the cost of outraging the modesty of women. They indulge in brazen exhibit of biased treatment, and the clandestine flouting of rules. Thus, without realizing they become the oppressor themselves. If basic etiquette could be an indicator, grace demands addressing co-workers with vous and not tu. It does command an iota of respect to be accorded to subordinates by offering a seat. It is meant to be set afar from envy, enmity, and favouritism. Well, grace by default is compassionate towards all, does not judge anyone, and certainly doesn't measure a human being only against set performance indicators. After all, human beings are not machines meant to comply with the regulations selectively set by the authority. The captain of the loaded ship, in addition, expects unprecedented intellectual benchmarks in spite of the hectic schedule at work and home.
This imposition of signified grace is regressive and inhibiting. It is a major obstacle to comfort, conviction, and confidence. If one is to indulge in properly placing the tangible throughout the day lest it be regarded disgraceful, one can hardly think of delivering the best at work. It puts a dampener on independence, freedom, and liberty to be ourselves at all times. Interestingly, it tends to accentuate interest in what is concealed, thus, inviting prying eyes and unwarranted conversations. It makes one excessively conscious of our bodies, always being excessively conscious of being a gender than being a human. It compels one to spend our precious time (most productive hours) on arranging the paraphernalia for setting off to work. It makes work environment restrictive and exhausting. Such edicts lead to inexpressible feelings which then translate into mistakes, rage, and disharmony.
As they say, "Wherever life plants you, bloom with grace", one is bound to make workplace acceptable by cracking light-hearted jokes of such mandates. Like mature individuals, one sets on a stereotypical, unrewarding, and repetitive work journey. With clipped wings and ensconced selves, one charts a self-effacing and counter-productive path forever. *****