Almost everyone around me is pretty excited about the UAE’s new weekend format: they are planning new routines, new brunch regimens, and are most chuffed that they can now say ‘Thank God it’s Friday’ — instead of ‘Thank God it’s Thursday’ — out aloud while getting into their Friday dressing.
But what I am more intrigued about is how my social ecosystem outside of the UAE is reacting to the news. On the day the news broke, I received at least 30 messages from friends, family members and former colleagues (a few who don’t even bother staying in touch on a regular basis) living in different parts of the world which read (roughly) along the lines of “Congratulations! Now you will have two-and-a-half days off!” And then, there was moaning and groaning that they are still having to contend with “two-day weekends” or, as the case may be, 1-and-a-half ones, whereas I have (apparently) pipped them to the post by 12 whole hours — aka, half a day — more.
So, first, I had to give them a reality check: in the media world (such is the nature of the domain) and in several other sectors (services and hospitality, for instance), it’s easier said than done — let’s wait for it to devolve before flooding me with “congratulations”. Second, for the longest time, I’ve tried to figure out why there’s such a fuss about weekends. Whenever anyone asks me “What are your plans for the weekend?”, I usually have no answers. I guess it’ll just roll its course, I mumble, a bit much to methodically sit and plan what you’ll be doing on the weekends through the workweek, no?
My unorthodox approach towards weekends probably has to do with the fact that a larger part of my journalistic working life — the one spent in India — had very little to do with the “romance” that the end of the week ushered in. Back then, journalists had no concept of work:life balance, and we would usually get one day off, and, many times, it wasn’t necessarily a Saturday or a Sunday, but would be just any random day, like the luck of the draw (it’s improved now, with many media organisations moving to a five-day week — but that still doesn’t mean one gets off on Saturday-Sunday, it could be any two days of the week).
There used to be a time when I actually preferred having a non-conventional off-day. Say if I was off on a Tuesday or a Wednesday instead of a more en masse Saturday and/or Sunday, I could really enjoy my time off. Malls, cinema theatres, restaurants would be less crowded, you could go to a coffee shop without fear of a waiting list of people breathing down your neck and read a book quietly in one corner while sipping on a cappuccino or flat white. Most importantly, you’d get work done. If I had a pending bank meeting or a doctor’s appointment — which I couldn’t box in to a workday — a Saturday or Sunday would usually serve no purpose because it would probably a day off for my banker or my doctor too.
The thing about weekends is that they are over too soon. I have a theory. Time moves exponentially when you’re trying to savour the taste of “time out”. There’s also the added weight of the baggage of expectation: you need to prove “it’s the weekend”, and, at times, it stresses me out. Just the other Saturday evening, I was fretting that my weekend’s almost over and I’d done nothing to qualify it.
I suspect the Covid hangover has had a role to play in accentuating my loss of feelings of the weekend. During the course of time when most people — all over the world — were working from home, time management assumed a different stature. Earlier, you had five days to wrap up your working week; you were on deadline because you needed to wash your hands off work before the ‘weekend’ set in. With the virus hovering around insidiously, you could cut back on work time on a regular work day and pretend it’s a day to take things easy, and compensate on a weekend — because, in any case, there was nothing much to do by way of socialising.
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