By Jay Shankar
Bangalore - Indian software engineer Mehul Patel, working with cellphone maker Kyocera, arrived back in Bangalore after hectic business trips to the United States and Europe in a "state of daze".
So, like thousands of other stressed-out code writers and call-centre workers in India's southern technological hub, he took up meditation.
"Different time zones and food habits take a toll on your body and mind. Stress at the workplace worsens it," says 31-year-old Patel, who now makes it a daily habit to meditate for half-an-hour.
"The effect is immediate. Half an hour of meditation is equivalent to three to four hours of sleep," says Patel, whose firm has a dedicated yoga room.
For those who prefer a more active form of stress-busting, there's an ever-mushrooming choice of yoga centres, specialised spas, gyms, Jacuzzis, spas and swimming pools.
Major software companies like Infosys Technologies and Wipro have long recognised the problem of stress and have built in-house recreational centres where employees can unwind after long and demanding hours of constant pressure.
Now private companies too are jumping in to help those buckling under stress to create a "balance between work and life".
The Art of Living Foundation, an international non-profit and charitable organisation with a presence in 142 countries, says more than 400 code writers enrol every month to learn meditation.
The organisation's volunteers impart training based on India's ancient art of yoga which combines meditation, breathing and physical exercises during the week-long courses at 20 centres spread across Bangalore.
"On average we spend about nine to 10 hours at work daily and face different pressures," says Anandh Venkatraman, a senior software employee with technology consulting firm Sapient.
"There are times when I thought I would not pull through. The business itself is aggressive and deadlines are hard. There is pressure both from junior and senior employees. Meditation helps me to maintain my calm," he tells reporters.
Bangalore is home to more than 1 500 global and domestic firms currently riding the outsourcing boom.
More than 300 000 software professionals are employed in the city, many of them having to work at night due to a 12-hour time difference with the United States, which accounts for 68 percent of its total software exports of $17.2-billion.
Most of the outsourcing firms have late hour shifts which employees say adds to stress.
Other code writers say peer and family pressures are also major factors.
"The moment you see your colleagues going abroad stress starts working on you," says Tithi Pathik, a consultant with Indian software major Infosys.
"For me, being a woman, I have to take care of the family and compete with my male colleagues equally, if not better. That to many is a situation which is stressed," the 28-year-old says.