sachin mittal
If serving is below you, leadership is beyond you

For many years, I have grudged against society. I have complained to myself. I have felt hurt and upset. But why? What made me feel that way you ask?

It was the discrimination, visible amongst workers of the same office. The attitudinal problems that stemmed from different job roles. I have (and so have you) witnessed day-to-day discrimination towards those who are not employed because of the merits of their CV; but for manual, smaller or menial tasks, which are actually equally important in an office. We are not strangers to the cold, large divide between the ‘white collared’ and the ‘blue collared’ workers.

It used to be infuriating for a young man like me, who was interpersonally sensitive. I revolted at the thought of treating some as “God” and some as “servants”. I had once expressed to a friend that by this discriminatory attitude, not only are we disrespecting one man and his work, but also one man and his soul, which hurts just like ours.

What are Blue-Collared And White-Collared Workers?

Let me introduce you to two American terms in the simplest manner I can think of.

  • Blue-collared employees: Those involved in manual labor of sorts; Member of the mainstream working class: They cook your meals, they stack boxes in warehouses, they sweep the floor, they drive the trucks, they make your life easier.
  • White-collared employees: Those involved in non-manual labor: They can be classified as office workers from the middle and upper classes; They work on computers, they administer offices, they are signatories on your important documents.

Hope these terms are clearer now.

Dignity of Labor

‘Dignity of Labor’ is an alien phrase to many in India. It is because we are a society being used to division according to profession as well as imaginary differences amongst one another. But what is dignity of labor and why am I harping on its importance?

Straightforwardly, it means that each profession has a dignity associated with it. In such a situation, no profession is to be considered ‘low’ or ‘high’ but is treated as equal, understanding and appreciating the fact that each requires equal amount of hard work and skills. When one works to be blue-collared, philosophically, their jobs carry more dignity than those who operate solely on intellect.

But, as you have already related, in India the scenario is different. The mentality towards the blue collared professionals is far from ideal.  The ‘educated’ workers are armed with a privileged mentality. This behavior always innately stirred me to give a speech on equality- one that I have rehearsed hundreds of times but never orated in society. Often, the social and financial advantages of being white-collared somewhat affect the person’s humanity. When the class of ‘English speaking graduates’ arrived, they  ingrained that they were better, with a ‘higher worth’ and often derogatory behaviors were meted out to people of other classes.

New Age India & Dignity of Labor

There is a new trend emerging. There seems to be a rise in the combination of ‘white’ and ‘blue’ collared workers. I have noticed the current generation of the working class is engaging in tasks of both natures. They are becoming versatile and rising above these preconceived societal notions. To mention a few examples, recently, airhostesses/stewards, waiters/waitresses, chefs etc are engaging in the so-called menial tasks such as general cleaning, fetching, cleaning of toilets, etc.

If this pattern continues then we are welcoming a sensitive, sensible generation.
This sort of pragmatic workforce will rise about societal notions and can be a big boon to our country.
The realism associated with such behavior demonstrated how down-to-earth these professionals are.
As a developing nation, we have been in need of such a workforce.

Softening towards blue-collared workers has also occurred over the last 20 years. It delights me to notice the changes- slow, subtle yet effective. These trends do rekindle faith somewhere in me.

I am reminded, “If serving is below you, leadership is beyond you.”