Atta Nahi Hai
The rich get richer and the poor still work hard.
You realise this, between the chaos of everyday life when your house help looks at you with embarrassment. She needs Rs 100 because this month she doesn’t have money to buy grocery to feed the family. Here we are in the middle of 21st century, trying to buy cheap alcohol. Doesn’t it dishearten one that someone struggles to fulfill basic necessities and some of us spend on ‘feeling easy’?
The gap between the labor class and the upper middle class is shocking. We all suffer from our woes but to completely different degrees. We all struggle to meet our needs but the definition of “needs” in these classes are different. Despite the argument that these differences define the classes, have we noticed that there’s almost no way with which the labor class will improve?
Let’s understand this with an example. Here onwards, middle class man is Joe and our labor class buddy is Jeevan.
Jeevan wakes up early in the morning, gets ready and says his morning prayers before he leaves home. In the chai-stall next to his 1-room shelter, he has his “breakfast”. On a bicycle, he travels around 7-10kms to reach his workplace. He irons clothes. His boss “welcomes” him with the day’s pile of clothes. It’s a whopping 200-cloth pile. It doesn’t surprise him because he’s used to it. In fact, he knows that he’s going to get at least 50 more clothes as emergency service. He finishes ironing 150 clothes before lunch. He breaks for lunch and opens the little lunch sack that his wife gives him. He eats the 4 chapatis and potato-curry, drinks water, washes his hands and gets back to work. By 5PM he’s ironed 250 clothes for the day. But today the delivery boy has to leave early. So, Jeevan picks up 4 sets of clothes and in the next 45 minutes delivers them to 4 different houses. It’s dusk and he’s riding back home. He is welcomed by his 2-year-old son who jumps to his embrace. His wife takes the lunch sack and asks him if he needs refreshment. While he drinks water, he’s lost in his thoughts. He’s done his day’s work but he knows he still hasn’t made enough for his growing son. He’s worried about his future and with every passing day, the concern grows. He’s stressed but can’t show it. His father was an iron-man and he passed on the skills to Jeevan. Jeevan didn’t study beyond Grade 4. It was the same situation. You only make enough for two adults even in this era. Customer’s pay higher price per cloth piece today but that’s directly proportional to inflation. Hence, what an iron man makes today is worth the same items years ago. You pay a higher rent, buy more expensive grocery and pay higher bills. How hard can Jeevan work to support the unpredictable needs of his son? Will he have to give up on his son too? Despite wanting to be a good father, does his intent match the means to fulfill it?
Joe doesn’t wake up before 9. That too because is wife pesters him. He was partying the night before. He’s hung-over and needs to recover to be fit for work. He needs to get the dizziness off his head. He walks out of bed like a zombie at 9.15. His wife tells him that the breakfast and coffee are on the table. She has to rush for her workplace. She leaves a peck on his cheek and leaves. He lazily brushes his teeth and suddenly his eyes fall on the clock. He has to rush. But he is used to it. Everyday after 9:20, his life is the same. He runs to the bathroom, he runs for the breakfast, he runs for the carry bag and then forgets the car keys inside the house. He manages to leave the parking at around 9:45. After struggling with the traffic and abusing a few people on the road, he reaches his office at 10:10. It’s an auspicious time. Not for him. He walks through the office corridor as a guilty man. But he’s done this many times before. He knows this guilt is healthy. At least he knows he’s late. Or so he tells himself. He settles on his desk. Takes about another 30 minutes to finish the coffee and finally start his tasks. Joe’s clients have again given a negative feedback. Joe gets up with anger and rushes to the manager. He accuses the manager of failing to explain the report he drafted last night. The manager explains that it was too late to talk about it. Joe asks him to set up a meeting right away. It’s noon and Joe anticipates the outcome of the meeting. They meet in the conference room. Joe explains his report for about 10 minutes and the manager adds 20 minutes of extra explanation. By 1:30PM, the client agrees to the draft and accepts it. Joe comes out of the conference room looking tired. It was a lot of pain to make the report go through. His manager congratulates him and he looks at his watch. It’s lunch time. He searches for his friends. They were all waiting for him to break for lunch. A group of 5 people head out for a nice beer-lunch. After all, it’s a sunny friday afternoon. They come back by 3.30. Everyone wants to be done with work early today. Joe is panicking. He runs through the pile of work that’s pending. He postpones 3 out of 4 tasks to Monday and somehow finishes 1 task by 5. At 5, his manager runs to him with an emergency. Someone is on leave and their job needs to be sent right now. It’ll take about 30-40 minutes to do it. But why should Joe do someone else’s work? That too it’s a Friday. He doesn’t want to sit late hours. Joe refuses to do the job. Even though Joe’s polite, for the manager it’s harsh. Joe chills around the office till 5.30 and picks up his bag. He asks people to join him for a friday night bash. Everyone will join him wherever he goes. After all, he’s our Joe. Our average Joe.
Joe and Jeevan are both living their lives. They have their needs, wants and accomplishments. While Jeevan’s accomplishment is in everyday, Joe accomplished a lot when he was in school, college and probably first few days of work. Jeevan has to work hard everyday to make his money while Joe will get his salary even if he puts in some hard work for at least 5 days in a month. Not unjustified but it’s very dismal.
Is there anyway to bridge the gap between salaries and wages? If not, can we help the people stuck in everyday hard work by spending less on recreation? Can we give up cigarettes, alcohol etc to lend money to these people? Can we help them help future generations? Can we?