Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Learnings from the "Painturewallah"

Sorry for being away for this long. In the 3 months that I have been away I have made a few self-discoveries. I have realised that working full-time is not my cup of tea. I enjoy the freedom of deciding every morning what I would like to do with the unfolding day. I detest the idea of "job commitments" taking away that decision from me. I am loathe to letting a job keep me away from all that I love doing, blogging included.

The other day I had a flat tyre and I took the car to a road-side "Painturewallah". It was extremely hot and I was not looking forward to the time I would have to spend in the heat while the car was being repaired. All of 5 minutes actually, 10 to the maximum. I looked at the young man working on my car. He seemed to be a teenager, probably my son's age. He was dressed in a tee-shirt and jeans which were completely black with grease. Obviously. I was being careful to not let any part of my clothing accidentally brush against him, lest it gets dirty.

And then the cruelty of my behaviour hit me. This guy was helping me do a job I was ill-equipped to handle myself. I had neither the strength nor the expertise to do the job I had entrusted him with. And yet I was looking at him disdainfully. Agreed his working conditions were pathetic and his overall appearance was filthy. But didn't the nature of his job require him to be that way. Why was I judging him by his appearance and not by his competence at his job?

We look down at people doing manual labour. They are the people consigned to the bottom of the heirarchy of workers. They are the ones with whom we haggle before paying them their due. We use phrases like,"Bhaiya, is kaam mein kya hai? Yeh toh koi bhi kar sakta hai"; "Itne se kaam ke itne paise?". It's like we are the experts at the job and not they.When you consider that these are also the people who are struggling to scrunge up one square meal a day,one really amazes at the strength they display in accomplishing their tasks which are physically demanding to say the least.
All of us living in our fancy homes and moving in our fancy vehicles cannot function for a day without the presence of these faceless people around us. And yet we do not value their work nor do we acknowledge the importance of their being. To us they are just the scum of the earth who are out to cheat and steal from us when our guards are down. To us they are the illegal encroachers of valuable urban space.To us they mean nothing as individuals.

Like the cart-horse Boxer in George Orwell's Animal Farm, these are the people who are happy doing their jobs, firm in their belief that one day their lot will improve. They are sure that all they need to do is work harder and harder for that to happen. And that's what they do.

Are we as convinced of our jobs as they are of theirs?

1 comment:

  1. Mudita, I'm completely with you in your decision. Way to go!! This is really the time when you will discover yourself..
    Take each day as it comes, but even more than that, make each day a meaningful and satisfactory one!