Saturday, March 14, 2009

“It happens only in India.”

I thought I was being exploited when I was working 8 hours a day, six days a week. But I met a man who works 12 hours a day, seven days a week, almost twice the hours I am working.

Now don’t say incredulously, “What?” There’s a Bollywood song that goes, “It happens only in India,” and, sadly enough, it’s one of those things that happens only in this country. That’s 84 hours a week and the job isn’t that simple, too. It’s that of a guard and he has to be awake and watchful and will be held responsible if something goes wrong when he is on duty.

These guards come cheap. And they are exploited. They also perform duties like maintain the muster, arrange for vehicles, even double as telephone operators, receptionists and drivers, which aren’t jobs they are trained to do. But being poor first time migrants, they are treated as cheap Jacks by the mushrooming security agencies in the metropolis and are given the raw end of the deal.

He stays with ten others in a small room in Colaba. It’s near the workplace and he can’t afford anything else for the monthly pay of Rs 4,500. He spends around 2,500 on himself and the rest he sends home to his wife and two children in Uttar Pradesh. His uniform is provided by the security company, he doesn’t even have time to go for a movie because he is working seven days a week.

What future does such a life hold for him? He doesn’t have a family with him, he is a loner, he lives like an animal, he lives a bare essential life, has only two pairs of uniforms which he wears to the place of work, eats frugal meals, he is like “Animal” in Indra Sinha’s “Animal People” and has come to signify the sad state of teeming humanity in cities like Bombay.

“It happens only in India.”

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