In his short story titled ‘Forty-five a month’, R.K Narayan gives a view of the brutal, profit-driven business world, and the story of a common man who must undergo the grinder to serve the demands of capitalist system we live in. This paper analyses Narayan’s portrayal of a white-collar employee bound in a tedious employment routine, as well as José Armas’ account of a similar nature in his short story ‘A Delicate Balance’ discussed later in the paper.
Venkat Rao’s dilemma is highlighted best with the innocent image of his young daughter; Shanti-she represents all innocent children of lower-middle to working class parents. Narayan, whose favorite devices include the flashback technique, uses a psychological ordering of ideas. By presenting the young girl’s desire to spend time with her father, he creates an emotive feel, and also arouses the reader’s attention, creating excitement for what is to come.
Herzberg (1959) noted, in a study, that job satisfaction results from pay, but more importantly from a sense of achievement and appreciation. This is something Venkat does not get out of his job. In terms of labor-management relations, he faces the ‘do it, or leave it’ attitude by his authorities [Stimpson, 2002]. When he finally resolves to take Shanti out to the movies at any cost, it is quite ironic-irony again being a favorite tool of the author of the remarkable ‘The Guide’-as the reader can hint that his resolution will not be fulfilled, which is what exactly happens. The writer links the two plots together in the end to get his theme across, and both father and daughter are helpless- this is thus a recurring motif throughout the story.
The ignorance of workers and their rights, and proper human resource management are the business lessons which can be drawn from this story. What Rao himself learns is that he has no alternative, and must continue with his ethic routine, where he feels his employers have ‘bought [his] body and soul for Forty rupees’. This evokes feelings of pathos, and the language is tersely deployed. Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs (Maslow, 1943) recognizes social needs and safety needs of an employee, but most importantly it put the need for self-actualization at the very top.
Management does not keep in touch with employees on a personal level, a motivating factor noted by Mayo (Mayo, 1933). A worker like Venkat is bound not to be too productive for the organization in the end, because he is doing the job out of force and not free will. The sheer depth of Venkat’s desperation, frustration and helplessness, however, points out to the ruthlessness of the capitalist machine.
‘A Delicate Balance’ by Jose Armas also presents a similar scenario. Romero’s work satisfaction derives not from monetary concerns-he does not receive any monetary payment- but from the feeling of satisfaction obtained from helping the community, and the fringe benefits attached which do not just include the drinks from the bar or food boxes, but more importantly the comradeship of his fellows from all around the community.
He likes the nature of the job, his peers and the entire work environment, so when Seferino steps in, he misconceives the entire situation. To Seferino, by providing a sort of micro-finance to Romero, his economic conditions can be improved. He will also be more motivated to do his work-but Seferino is new and is unaware that Romero’s sincerity to his work is nevertheless unparalleled.
When Romero starts receiving pay, others start lending him credit because of lesser risk. However, by putting Romero is a powerful position, Seferino empowers him to be able to come and demand for a raise. The irony at this point is that Romero points out all the sweeping and cleaning he has been doing for countless years. This goes to show that the true social benefits his output gives, as well as the sincerity of his service cannot be truly measured in monetary terms-they are priceless, and without any monetary value attached to them.
He gets social acceptance, a need recognized by Maslow’s hierarchy (Maslow, 1943), and has set his own high productivity levels. Elton Mayo’s Hawthorne Effect studies (Mayo, 1933) come in here, as one sees that productivity levels are determined by more than just financial rewards.
The value of experience over education is also realized when Barelas’ perception of the entire situation reigns superior over Seferino’s, even though the latter is a high school graduate whereas the former never even attended school. ’On the job experience’ is a lot more significant than a mere university or school certificate.
Although it is just a simple tale, ‘A Delicate Balance’ challenges conventional ideas about human resource management, as can be seen from the discussion above. By giving a vivid description of Romero’s thought process and way if life before tackling the main theme of the story, the writer creates a positive attitude on the reader’s part towards Romero. Similarly, Narayan uses his trademark style of weaving in folktales with important hidden lessons, and delving into the life of the ordinary man. The creation of beautiful narrative, interesting plots and also significant workplace lessons is a remarkable achievement on the part of both authors.
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