Sidhu Jethu of Sonar Kella

For some work is simply a job. For some it is a calling. For some work is ‘vital engagement’. We wish to be engaged with the right kind of work. Competence and dedication are not enough to fulfil these engagements. We also need complimentary workplace environment. For some work is work, and thus, there is no scope for dissatisfaction. They say someone has to do the work, and that someone is me incidentally, and so what’s the big deal.

Work ethic places a heavy burden on our working life. We should not take the responsibility of the work to which we are ill suited. Some of us don’t hesitate to accept work even if that is disproportionate to our abilities. If we have the right to work under just and favourable conditions, we also have the obligation to perform to the best of our capacities. We take pride in our work. We should also be willing to accept blame for our outcomes.

Work reflects our status, and our identity. We work because we have wants and desires. We work because it fulfils our monetary, social, and ego needs. We work for security, comfort, and luxury. We work to fulfil our aspirations and potential.

Luxury is an ever-expanding want. “Just work” may demand that we suspend doubt and dissatisfaction, and reconcile ourselves to what must be done. Luxury is vital for many of us. It is important because its level distinguishes us from others. Those who don’t care for that distinction don’t care for luxury. If the luxury is not well-earned, should one indulge in it? But the important point is how many of us believe that ‘wealth without work’ is a sin.

In Satyajit Ray’s film Sonar Kella (The Golden Fortress) there was an elderly character, Sidhu Jethu, brilliantly played by Harindranath Chattopadhyay. Sidhu Jethu, a storehouse of knowledge, believed in playing games mostly from the neck up. He thought, for playing games, arms, legs and shoulders are of subsidiary importance. ‘Neck up’ matters the most.

Once someone asked Sidhu Jethu, “What do you do?”. He said, “I do nothing.” Then he clarified, “If I start working many people would lose their jobs. It is better for them if I don’t work.”

Perhaps, Sidhu Jethu never felt the need to be engaged in conventional work. Work for him was to know. Sidhu Jethu, a smart talker, was confident and articulate. His talks were his substitute for action.

Sidhu Jethu was not a street smart. He really knew what he knew. Sidhu Jethu knew the big difference between a trained worker and a merely enthusiastic worker. He knew that by just selling medicines one doesn’t become a doctor.