Where is the opposition party that has not been decried as commuterist by its opponents in power? Where is the opposition that has not responded to the fervent reproach of commuterism, both to the most advanced opposition parties and to its reactionary adversaries? Two things follow from this:
· Commuterism is already recognized by all the Indian powers as being itself a power.
· It is high time that commuters openly share their views, goals, tendencies, to the world, and respond to this nursery tale of the Specter of Commuterism with a manifesto itself.
To that end, commuters from various professions and backgrounds have collaborated with me in this column, to express their views in the following manifesto.
Commuting is the belief that everyone should get to their place of work, spend enough hours in the office doing something resembling productivity, and then go home. Of course, the journey is not the destination, but it is at the heart of the idea of work. Critics have historically pointed out that Indians spend more time commuting to the office than people in most other economies. So? Aren’t our cities good enough for you critics? So why not do the WFH in Abbottabad!
A Boston Consulting Group (BSG) report from 2018, “Unlocking Cities: The Impact of Ridesharing Across India” (on.bcg.com/3AdPttv) highlighted that the level of congestion in Indian cities is significantly higher – with a average of 149% – than in other Asian cities, despite Mumbai’s commuter rail and Delhi/NCR metro services. Roadier cities like Bengaluru and Kolkata apparently fare less well. BSG, at least, offers carpooling – what
kshatriyas call carpooling.
The Travel Time Report Q1 2019 v Q1 2018 (bit.ly/3Ph3lr1) goes even further, stating that a working day in the four metros “constitutes at least 2 hours on the road” – and 1.3 to 1 .6 times longer in peak traffic than in other comparable Asian cities like Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh City. As if to rub a commuter’s nose in data filth, he adds that Mumbai and Bangalore are the slowest cities, averaging no more than 12 mph during journeys.
This pre-Covid report was done by ’employee switching’ company WorkInSync in 2018. Post-Covid, his dhanda, interestingly, has shifted significantly towards ‘implementing a hybrid workplace’ . In other words, to crush commuting and have India’s WFH/WFA white collar workforce. WTF!
Covid has come as an opportunity to drive the commute out of the urban Indian’s work experience. Whether the company’s CEO is stuck in traffic in his Audi after crossing the Sea Link like a breeze, or the Delhi office worker originates his own body to fit into the New Ashok metro car Nagar is an experience contrary to our work culture that cannot be denied by new western technologies and management’s fanciful ‘productivity’ and ‘quality’.
The essence of the ride is to feel exhausted, mentally exhausted for at least an hour or so after entering the office space. It can only be compared to the thrill of fatigue after a competitive run before a competitive swim. Time spent on the road to work is not “wasted” – as anti-commuters would have it – but part of the “work will set you free” experience that slackers and under-/ unemployed do not get.
The post-Covid obsession with continuing telecommuting or “hybrid working” – the term itself sounds straight out of a jar of formaldehyde designed by a home-multibody Victor Frankenstein – is an attempt to deny this natural friction and healthy between a worker and his daily pilgrimage. As Musk and Goenka well know, where will the ideas for water coolers come from if we don’t gather next to the office water cooler? Get unaugmented real!
The drive home is not a problem, as one has the luxury of being just as tired and without energy by the time work stops. So, workers of the world, commute! You have nothing to lose but your sense of irony!
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