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Sunday, September 27, 2020

To work to earn a living or to make a living? A conversation between colleagues at work

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By Rohey Samba

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When someone, anyone, who is not worthy of being a secretary for his/her lack of skills and basic education – by education I mean the whole gamut, comprising IQ, attitude and knowledge of the job -when that person is made a manager in an institution by his/her charms and innuendos of bringing other people down in order to rise and so forth, then we are headed towards disaster. Because there’s a catastrophe waiting to happen.
More than ever, our institutions today are choked by two cancers – the cancer of favouritism and preferential treatment, all of which culminate from the lack of basic understanding of work itself. When we work to earn a living, our utmost desire is to attain the highest rank/category/salary in the institution. When we work to make a living, we are concerned more about the impact of our work. The impact it has on us first and then on our colleagues at work and the institution’s goals and objectives.
Now that is the work that will give one sweat. As Albert Einstein once stated, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration”.

In today’s article I bring an ongoing conversation between two colleagues at work.
Kumba am Ndey barged into the eerily vibrant room, where Kumba amut Ndey lounged on her very comfortable job drinking too much coffee and listening to too loud music. She looked up at her visitor in quite abandon and motioned her to sit on the seat directly facing hers. She reduced the volume of Omar Pene’s Nange Def blaring over the speakers plugged into the desktop computer, all the while swinging her head to the beats of the music.
They had both addressed letters of complaints to their office’s management and the board responsible for the oversight functions of management and has each received very different results. Kumba amut Ndey’s was ambushed and left hanging, while Kumba am Ndey was summoned to a dialogue to be pacified.

Kumba am Ndey
What’s up girl? You’re in your own world you created, enjoying yourself as if you have no concerns in the world.

Kumba amut Ndey
I thank God for life, for the peace of God and for the joy of living.
(Deflecting, she adds). You know, I think the greatest artists on this earth are musicians. These people, (motioning to the blaring sound system) are God-sent. I had once entertained the thought that they were the writers, you know how writers weave stories that transport you to places unknown and make you experience things you could not fathom and all…(Pause)…but now I know for sure that the best of the best are musicians. Music works wonders to my soul. I can’t think of any better way to relax and free my mind from the drudgery of my own life experiences. Writers make words spring to life, musicians make words repose in life, like a soothing balm to an aching soul…

Kumba am Ndey
(Chuckles and says under her breath.) I will not even begin to argue with you on that one because I will not win the argument. You know the arts more than I who studied them anyways. (Nods; discharges an imaginary cough before speaking up again.) So how far? Still nothing for you to do?

Kumba amut Ndey
(Pretends to be baffled by the question before replying flippantly with a shrug). Girlfriend, I have nothing to lose. My only bleeding pain is the loss I cause my country by not contributing meaningfully in this youthful age of mine after having been sponsored all of my life by government; the distress of my conscience by virtue of the same, and the gnawing of my soul each day I return home having accomplished nothing for that day’s work. But I have reached the end of my tether – now at least, I can say I have tried. I am done with government work for good. I will not subject myself to ridicule, rudeness and downright disrespect anymore than the Baygon spray does to a cockroach’s frown. Out here, it’s a Judeo-Christian pact…like the alliance between America and Israel, Palestine stands no chance. (Laughs uncomfortably) I am little Palestine here. I will linger while it lasts and by God’s will, better will come. But government politricks, I cannot stomach again…I want out.

Kumba am Ndey
But why don’t you do as you have been advised?

Kumba amut Ndey
(Laughs out loud this time). My conscientiousness does not allow me to bring down my fellow human being. I will be directly incriminating people I have no business implicating. Remember no human being can give the other favour except by God’s will, and no human being can prevent the other’s favour against God’s will. My promotion, my demotion, my rise and my fall is all by God’s will through the hands of whomever among His servants He so chooses as His instrument. I will be recalcitrant to pinion my distress on any human being for their neglect or cuss them for not coming to my aid. That burden of responsibility I can only lay on Allah, Subhanahu wa Ta’ala. I will complain no more because I have said all I needed to say. They have been too contemptuous of my person…(she bites back her tongue and hisses in deep angst).
Kumba am Ndey
You speak like a Christian, act like a Jew and live like a Muslim. You are really multi-talented. (Laughs, and continues) I cannot understand you really. (She sighs and looks up at her friend)

Kumba amut Ndey
(You will never be able to understand me, she wanted to say when their gazes met, but she waited patiently for her friend to continue).

Kumba am Ndey
First, you are disturbed you have no assignments, and then you can’t go further than you already have by writing another rejoinder addressing all the relevant personalities…(Pause). I find it kind of strange. Really, I wouldn’t have minded doing just that as long as it’s someone trying to sideline me and bring my reputation down by insinuating that I refuse to do work given to me. Next of all, I would have written as advised to pay back my pound of flesh. Either way, it’s your decision even though I understand where you are coming from. I am just different I guess.

Kumba amut Ndey
(You don’t know how different we are, do you? She wanted to say but again checked her unlicensed mouth and merely said instead). It’s a Judeo-Christian alliance, my friend. I am no fool. (Pause)
But do you really mean it when you said that if I resign now I will not have any social security benefits? I have worked for the past donkey years and I deserve to be compensated. I cannot retire on marriage grounds; it’s many years ahead for me. Is there any way around it, aside from a termination letter? This is preposterous!

Kumba am Ndey
Why resign from a well paid job because of some old hounds? You must be joking, right?

Kumba amut Ndey
(Looking her friend eye to eye, she replies). I have never joked in my life. I prefer respect to financial reward, responsibility to lassitude, personal integrity to vainglory. I highlighted the contradictions that embodied the mediocrity of this institution and the abuse of power which characterise it, and still I am asked whether I have a strong case to make? I am not that gullible, and I am not going be anyone’s sacrificial lamb. Maa ngae Santa Yallah.
(With the count on her hands, she began to enumerate.) I don’t pay my own bills. They are all catered for. I don’t give out fish money. I don’t pay for my children’s school fees, my watchman or my maid or my gardener. My house is bought for me. My car, which I drive to work everyday, is bought for me. My only responsibility is my allowances I give to my parents. My friend, I don’t work to earn a living. I work to make a living. I might as well stay at home.

Kumba am Ndey
(Gasps and swallows before she could find the words to say…) Are you joking about all you said or not?

Kumba amut Ndey
(Instantly regrets her tirade). Well, I just told you I never joke. (Pause). And I don’t bluff too. Their isolation has opened me to windows of opportunities I never thought possible, Alhamdulilah. But I cannot forfeit the money I earned in my years of service in social security by following my irate self. I cannot because it is mine to take. Look, I have been working since I was 18 years old. When I was young, I never heeded whether I worked or loitered in my office. I was in the Albert Market all the time, buying stuff I didn’t need. I absented myself from work without any consequences, as I was well spoilt by my bosses. I blew my meagre salary in a week on Foroh Chaay”, and my poor hubby ended up sponsoring my tastes for the rest of the month. I wasted too much time on doing nothing but still God has favoured me. I want to give back as I grow older. If they pay my salary every month for doing nothing as many others here, that’s their loss. But I am not going to waste my life here. I have all I needed to reach the top and I will not clamour for attention in order to be on top. Bottom line is, I don’t know how to fight for myself. I have fought many wars, which were not mine… never my own. I shall not begin to fight now. But I shall be heard. Oh, yes. I shall be heard! I will not cower in my corner and feel sorry for myself. I AM NOT THAT KIND OF WOMAN…
To be continued

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