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In sickness or in health.

An online debate was triggered by a father after he sent a note to a school saying that his son could not attend classes after his favourite team lost a football match. Apparently he was concerned about his son being teased by friends who were ardent supporters of the winning team.

If only my father had been as supportive of me whenever I wanted to miss school! Unfortunately, we knew that playing truant was not to be condoned. Even if you did feel a little under the weather, you had to prove that you were at death's door in order to get a parental reprieve. Only the sight of you burning with fever or looking visibly sick would convince the adults to let you stay at home.

I must admit that, unlike my siblings and most friends, I hated going to school. I would much rather stay at home within reassuring distance from my mum. To see a brother refusing to stay at home, even though he had a high fever, made me feel sick with envy as the parents literally begged him to reconsider his decision. Adopting a martyr's stance with no sacrifice too great for the common good, he was reduced to tears when he was told in no uncertain terms that he wasn't going to school. As far as I was concerned, he needed to see a doctor, preferably a psychiatrist, to see if he was right in the head.

Some carry the habit of malingering into adulthood which can be vexing for those who are directly affected. At the workplace, there are a few who think of sick leave as their birthright and will take as many days off for perceived ailments, which will be relayed as life-threatening to those in authority. I am glad that the rule of compulsory sick leave certificates has come into being although this is not yet applicable across all emirates.

When you have to cough up Dh60, you will probably rethink the seriousness of your illness and decide it's less expensive going to work. All you have to do once you get there is to elicit the sympathy of co-workers. This is where your thespian skills come into use. If you are the talkative type, remain silent for the day. That will definitely get others talking and thinking, "If he/she's so quiet, he/she must be really unwell."

If you are normally a fast worker, disposing of huge volumes of work each day, slow down. Every few minutes, let out a deep sigh and then get on with the work at hand. This way you send out strong signals that, despite your being under the weather, your work ethic is so strong that you are determined to cross the finish line no matter what.

No-holds barred account

There are a few, however, who revel in sickness and never lose an opportunity to let others know exactly how they are feeling. My advice is, never ask such people the seemingly innocuous question "How are you?" That's because that query will be mistaken for a no-holds barred account of the diagnosis and progress of their ailment, with vivid details of the recuperation period. Hearing their use of medical terminology, it would be difficult not to come to the conclusion that they must have a degree in medicine at the very least or else their idea of bedtime reading is the Hippocratic oath. Their days off are spent doing the rounds of hospitals or clinics hoping they will be diagnosed with a rare illness that they can talk about for days to come. Or better still, no doctor can come up with what they are suffering from. Of course it never occurs to them that this is simply because that they aren't ill in the first place.

After a lot of thinking over the subject, I have decided it's less trouble shrugging off illnesses, real or imagined, and just coming in to work. You get to save money and don't have a lot of explaining to do.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Mar 21, 2014
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