pursuit of happiness: Long weekends in the US
brought up to believe that ‘work is worship’ take to the American
concept of long-weekends like ducks to water. These weekends
are marked in calendars, as get-togethers and getaways are
planned weeks and months in advance, says Mohan Babu
two centuries ago, America’s founding fathers envisioned a
nation that would work towards securing “Life, Liberty and
The Pursuit of Happiness...” to its citizens. Long after attaining
“Life and Liberty”, Americans are still serious about the
pursuit of happiness, a key to life that everyone here, including
my fellow Indians, takes seriously.
hours and conditions are highly regulated and unless one is
working for a dot com or financial consulting house, projects
and work-cycles are highly organised to optimise the working
hours such that people generally do not have to put in endless
hours of overtime unless warranted by contingencies.
work-weekend cycle here has been refined into an art form;
so much so that the pursuit of happiness is actively encouraged
and is something every one strives for. One gets initiated
into this on first landing here, and realising that to most
Americans, weekends are sacred. The average John (or Jane)
Doe has a life outside work and they rarely like anyone transgressing
their personal time. Of course, that is not to say that one
does not come across the odd nerd who “lives and breaths”
work every waking moment of their life, but they (nerds) are
too few and far between as to be inconsequential. Most people
like to take the weekends off and pursue their hobbies or
after a few weeks or months in the US, realise that we need
to ‘get a life’ outside work and fall into the rhythm of workweek
and weekends. It takes a while to get used to the fact that
people work only forty or fifty hours a week, except when
faced by aggressive project deadlines (which is rare and too
far between). Weekends are generally reserved for socialising,
shopping or catching up with the new movies. It is the long-weekends
that people start looking forward to. Long-weekend is not
merely an American concept Canada, UK and the Europe too have
a tradition of long weekends. Although the exact days vary,
the concept is still the same. In America there are five or
six long-weekends, well marked on most calendars.
India, the ‘festival seasons’ are generally associated with
religious fêtes and the festive atmosphere is contagious.
Weeks before any major function, families start shopping and
preparing for them. This changes when one moves to the US.
Most first generation Indians, myself included, are unable
to appreciate the nuances of Thanksgiving, or summertime barbecue,
so we decide to make the most of the holidays in our own way
by hitting the road.
annual long-weekend cycle begins with the New-Year’s day -
1st of Jan, given to people so that they can recharge their
energies for the new year after the revelry of the holiday
season. The next holiday comes during the second Friday in
April - Good Friday. Memorial Day, generally the last Monday
in May, the official beginning of summer, also heralds the
summer holiday season. Fourth of July, the American Independence
Day is as sacred as any other long weekend. Next comes Labour
Day, generally observed on the first Monday of September.
Thanksgiving, which generally falls in November, is an All-American
holiday when most families get together to thank the pioneers
of the nation. Of course, December ushers in the Christmas
season, culminating in Christmas Day along with the day after
Christmas, which is also a holiday. These are the major holidays
and most companies have their own schedules of ‘extra’ holidays
that they dole out to their employees.
might not come as a surprise to you that even Indians, brought
up to believe that ‘work is worship’ take to the concept of
long-weekends like ducks to water. These weekends are marked
in calendars and socialising, get-togethers and more-often-than-not,
getaways are planned weeks and months in advance.
region in the US has at least a dozen national parks, resorts
and other tourist attractions. The most popular way to get
to any of these places is to rent a car and drive down. Hertz,
National, Alemo and other big car-rental giants anticipate
the demand and hike their prices around the holidays; so do
the local hotels and motels near the tourist spots. Driving
800 to 1000 miles (each way) to visit some of the ‘nearby’
attractions is not unheard of. Of course, the intriguing system
of interstate highways criss-crossing the length and breadth
of the country facilitates road travel. All one needs is a
good car and a map.
past weekend was Memorial Day and my wife and I joined a few
friends to drive down to visit Mt Rushmore. The planning began
over a month in advance with the booking of rental car (a
large Jeep Grand Cherokee), the motel near Mt Rushmore and
of course included a study of brochures of nearby tourist
attractions. Thanks to the Web, what would have taken a couple
of hours or days to plan, took just a few minutes. Booking
hotels, accommodation, rental cars and planning the trip could
all be done by the click of a mouse. Incidentally, at times
like these, hardcore techies like myself get to experience
what it feels like, to be the ‘user’ of someone’s complex
customer management e-commerce system. Did someone say that
e-commerce is dead?
covered the round-trip, of over 1500 miles in a little over
two days with a number of stops at the local tourist haunts.
The trips, per se, are generally enjoyable and help us get
away for a short while. Of course, needless to say, most Indians
in the US also tend to think the same way. One invariably
bumps into hundreds of fellow Indians, who have planned similar
trips to get-away from wherever they happen to be living and
forward to today, it is Tuesday morning and I’m back at my
cube-farm, checking on my e-mails getting back into the groove,
ready for another short workweek. By afternoon, I am already
thinking of the next long-weekend and shoot off a mail to
my buddies, and start planning for the Fourth of July....
In pursuit of happiness?! I think we are working to make America’s
founding fathers proud.