Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What If There Were No Poya Day Holidays?

It was six o'clock and I drove to work in the pitch darkness of a typical London November morning. I listened to Learn to Fly by the Foos, as I had to have it mastered for that evening's band practice, and felt excited about the week ahead.

There were no specific reasons for the excitement, just general ones to do with all sorts of things to come. Learn to Fly and some serious steering wheel, brake and accelerator drumming always gets the old RD blood pumping a bit too. You wouldn't want to be driving behind me though.

"Run and tell all of the angels....... make my way back home and learn to fly" sang Lord Grohl as I drummed along damn near perfectly. I glanced up at the sky and saw a gleaming and large full moon observing me intently. It was a picture book moon, made of cheese and urgently requiring a boy, or was it an alien, on a BMX bike to float past. It reminded me that the day was a Poya day over there in Serendib.

Poya days create a strange kind of jealousy in me. You see, over here we have bank holidays. They always crop up on a Monday, which does give us a long weekend, but they're seen about as often as Sicile Kotelawala waving her Golden Key credit card on a huge Odel shopping spree.

And, when we do have them, they're usually an excuse to fit in some DIY, to sleep a bit longer or to have some extra shopping time. Going to gorgeous places like Yala, World's End or Ooonerwartooner just isn't an option here. Unless of course you have a strange passion for Swindon, Birmingham or traffic jams on the M25. Some people have passions for all of those things and just love bank holidays here. They're not normal though.

My strange jealousy is because, while a public holiday here at least once a month would be cooler than Java Jones in a fridge full of cucumbers, what I'd really love would be the holidays combined with the absolute abundance of things to do within a relatively short distance.

Being sort of attached to Sri Lanka as I am, through blogging, friends and the like, I'm aware of Poya days. I see them from my readership figures alone, views go down dramatically, other blogs are quiet and Kottu becomes a ghost town. Except it's not a town. Colombo is, in its city sort of way, and I know how it empties each Poya weekend.

I wonder about Poya days. I wonder in all seriousness what the result would be if they stopped. Well, not so much stopped more stopped from being a holiday. I'm guessing even MR can't do anything to stop the occurrence of a full moon. But, if they became normal working days, I wonder what the effect would be in Sri Lanka.

It's fair and more obvious than an Elephant attempting to hide behind a naked Dinidu to say that productivity in many industries would go up. There's a very clear and big link between days worked and output that can't be argued with. I know at my Company that a bank holiday reduces our week's revenue, not necessarily to four fifths of what it would have been, but a reduction nevertheless.

As an employer I hate public holidays. People have to be paid, overheads have to be paid and we get no revenue, nothing at all in return. From a pure profit and loss point of view they're evilness personified. As an employee I love them. I get an extra day to my weekend and also one less day to the week.

But life's just not that straightforward and simple, particularly Lankan life. I ponder on the positive effects of Poya days, the rejuvenating results that they have on many people. We all feel better and more motivated after a holiday, we all have a bit more energy and feel fired up don't we? The benefits of sending employees off on a course are well documented, the positives of a short break are clear but hard to measure.

Not only that, but there's also the impact that a Poya day must have on the internal tourism industry. Hotels get busy, in a time where that business is much needed, and all other related industries, those that are allowed to operate on a Poya day, must gain business too.

I ask you, what do you think?

If Poyas were normal working days what would be the net result to Sri Lanka?

The best answer gets an extra day's holiday.


Anonymous said...

It'd prolly destroy our laid-back islander attitude and work us all to our deaths... :(

maf said...

there is actually another way of looking at the poya holiday from the perspective of the employer and that is an entirely predictable holidays for everyone.

I know everyone goes on about how productivity suffers etc but try organising a meeting with 5-8 people in Europe between June -Sept or between Dec- Feb and you will be missing at least 2 people beacuse they will be on their summer or winter holidays. In Sri Lanka everyone pretty much takes the poya off and goes away for a long weekend if they can - a good set of mini-breaks probably about 4-5 times a year. The other thing is those around 20-40 tend to do this with their friends as everyone is available at the same time.

the loss of productivity is there but I believe it can be planned for (by those with a strategic mindset) :)

btw congratulations on the Millenium posts

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Anon - Perhaps!

Maf - thank you for the millenium wishes.

You make a valid point about the holday season in Europe. In my experience it's more of an issue during the summer months than at Christmas, presumably because the school hols here last about 6 weeks in the summer and many parents organise family holidays and take time of work to fit in etc.

However, it seems slightly different problem as people stagger their leave more, rather tha the "everyone being off at one time" issue. I'm not sure that either is better or worse.

Is it fair to say that many Lankans have long holidays as well as Poya day holidays? Or do you think that most only have the long weekends through the year?


Java Jones said...

My beef with the Poya nonsense is the crap about liquor and meats. And anyway, the Buddha made no pronouncements about Poya - it's all a bunch of politically motivated shite that makes no sense at all.

Anonymous said...

But to do away with poya holidays!!!!?? Have notified the authorities. Don't be surprised if you are detained at katunayaka next time and questioned about your anti Sri lankan views.

Serendib_Isle said...

I think Poya holidays are great – to visit the YMBA temple in Fort. Not a bugger in sight, except for the man with a gun standing outside on the street. Colombo city is as busy as Kottusphere – especially if combined with “Avurudu” holidays.

For a country that wastes its labour force at least a good couple of hours everyday on traffic jams and bad public transport, taking another 9 hours off a month is not a big deal. I don’t think it has any negative effect on productivity - perhaps it increases it like you suggested.

Poya was the only suitable day to visit the village temple when there was no electricity – people could spend the day at the temple observing “sil” and find their way home safely in the moonlight. That was year 0000, not 2009.

I’d say, we need to evolve.

But then again, why?

Devaka said...

Your blog is coming alive over here. On the news 2 days ago, there was an segment which spoke of poya days NOT being official mercantile holidays since 2000, although it wasn't enacted. It seems that in 2011 this dream/nightmare may come alive!

On a parallel note, Im thinking, probably the best answer for the dilemma of Poya holiday good or bad - would be if for the sake of productivity and the like, poya days would NOT be mercantile holidays, while employees proffer or allow hours/days off for individual employees as an kind of bonus every month, where work wouldn't be detrimentally affected. But, im sure there's a ton to debate about that!