(New Series No. 176, February 2003)
I am 32 years old. I work in a big company. My job is collecting dues from factories and offices situated in Faridabad and depositing them in the Delhi office. I work 6 days out of the week. I have to go to Delhi 18 to 20 days out of the month and in those days, my duty is from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. On other days, from 9 to 6. My work is such that my body is getting out of shape. During these 4 months, every day I get up at 5:30 in the morning. I drink a lot of water and after going to the toilet, I go for a walk. We five, seven neighbors go for a 4 kilometer long walk and do half an hour exercise. While walking, we have a discussion on some topic. Here and in other places also, I have a lot of difficulty when similar people amongst themselves try to show themselves as superior or important.
We are all working. All are staff members. Some in Purchase, some in Accounts, some in Sales. We don't consider ourselves workers. In our definition, a worker is one who goes on a bicycle, has his lunchbox on his back, and a bidi lit in his mouth. But we all are bothered by more work and low wages. If someone falls ill in the family, then a thousand to fifteen hundred have to be spent and it takes many months to recover from such a blow.
Refreshed by a walk and exercises, I return home by 7:15 a.m. My wife is often asleep till then. We have two children- three and a half and another one and a half years old. I wake my wife up and together we have tea and read the newspaper. Twenty days in the month, I make the morning tea. If the children wake up, then we are able to have tea together and I read the paper alone. I have a bath at 8:30 a.m. and by then the children are usually awake. By placating them, and sometimes leaving the girl child crying, my wife makes breakfast and lunch, I pick up my bag after breakfast, take my son for a quick ride on the scooter and then leave for work at 9.
Collecting dues is a very difficult job. At some places, they put the condition of first getting the machine repaired. At many places, the customer is short of money and makes excuse upon excuse. At many places, the system is so inefficient and clogged, payment is tied up. Everywhere, there is a demand from me for New Year and Diwali festival gifts. And sometimes, there is even a demand for bribes.
From one place to another, throughout the day, I'm busy running around on my scooter. At every place, I have to be a gentleman before entering. These days I have to remove my muffler, remove my gloves, take off my windbreaker etc. It's compulsory to wear a tie but I don't wear it and instead keep it in my bag and only put it on before entering the Delhi office at 6 p.m. We consider the person who wears a tie to have monthly wage of 20,000 rupees. But they only give me 8,000. If they give me 20,000, then I'll accept the punishment of wearing a tie. Tie is the definition of gentleman.
At every place, I have to go through the process of enquiry and an enter myself in the register with my name, address, and work. Meet the dealing clerk in the Account department. If the check is ready, take it, otherwise wait till the next date. Out of 30 places at least 20 offer me tea. In dealing with one customer, it takes 30 to 45 minutes. One, then second, then third...Sometimes, at 1 p.m., or at 2. I have lunch and again that factory-office round. Work is such that I have some flexibility. Therefore, there is some possibility for shifting time depending on my mood or other work. But the pressure of work is such that whether there is desire or not, one has to go to the customer. On average, I go to 30 customers. The need for money smothers my body and soul and the company has also put out the bait of commission.
When I have to go to Delhi, then at 4:30 p.m., I park my scooter at Old Town or Balabgarh and catch the train. Then I take a bus to the company office. There I meet 8,10 people like myself.
Giving a report and listening to the boss about this or that takes an hour or two. I take a bus and then the train back home. I pick up the scooter from the station and reach home at 9, 9:30 pm. Sometimes, the children are asleep, sometimes they are awake. After a wash, have my meal at 10. After dinner, my wife and I used to go for a walk at night but we've stopped this because of the winter. Now we talk about something that occurred in the day and watch t.v. for awhile. When I was a student I used to come from the village to Faridabad to watch films but now in these four years, I have not seen a single film in the hall. I don't feel like it. I am fed up with the job. I want to leave the job but where can I go? We sleep at 11 pm.
I am not yet 35 years old. My husband and elder son both work. I look after the house and also earn some money from stitching and embroidery. Every day I get up at a.m. I have to go out for latrine in the open. It is dark. I fear pigs and dirty men. (Men sit and hide). It's forced on us. I have to prepare for it. After coming back, I fill up water from the public tap. If it is not crowded, it takes twenty minutes, otherwise it takes an hour.
After bringing water, washing the dishes, cleaning the place then I cut the vegetables and grind the spices. I don't use readymade spices. My husband works in Okhla now and he has to catch the 7:40 a.m. train. On one stove, I cook vegetables and on the other I make rotis (bread) after kneading the flour. Sometimes, on the kerosene stove, I have to heat up the water because my two kids have to get ready for school. After the vegetables are ready, I make tea. My husband has to leave home at 7:15 a.m. to catch the train. The children leave at 7:45. In the morning, they have breakfast of roti and vegetables and then drink tea. My husband also takes his rotis. The children come back at 1 p.m. and eat. After I've completed my work then if some tea is left, I drink that or I make another cup. I drink tea but I don't feel like having breakfast. I heat up water and have a bath. Then I wash the dishes, broom the place, fold up the beds. I work very fast but still it is ten to 11 before it's over and if some guests come in it takes more time. Then I take rest for an hour or two.
I again fill up water in the morning from the public tap. I have to collect water three times in a day. Then work for money. I stitch a pajama for ten rupees. An underwear for five. A petticoat for ten rupees. Contractors bring clothes from factories on which I do embroidery at piece rate. It is 4 to 5 p.m. By the time I bring milk and vegetables from the market, it is time to start preparing for dinner. Taking it all into consideration, it means that I cannot take care of my body. There is no time for myself.
My eldest son has night duty for 15 days in the month. Today he has night duty. He has to go at 8 p.m. from the house. I had prepared food by 7 because if he leaves immediately after a meal, then he'll have a stomach. He eats one hour before and takes some rest. At this time, he is also ill. His duty is of 12 hours. From 8 p.m. till 8 a.m. tomorrow, the boy of 17 years old has to stand at a plastic-moulding machine for 12 hours every day. I feel a lot of pain. I wish he didn't have to work but he is forced to. How can I have him sitting idle at home?
By 9:30 p.m., everyone is free and lies down for bed and watches T.V. Sometimes, I am not able to sleep the whole night because of worries. When I've fall ill, I worry about who will do my work as my son and husband go to work and my children go to school. If you take help from someone then one fears the false allegations by neighbors of having a 'loose' character. My daughter is getting older (she is 13) and I keep thinking about her. I have to carry so many burdens, yet have to still keep going. How can I go on? I have not even lived half of my life. My blood-pressure goes down very low and I have very bad thoughts. If I die, what will happen to my children? Now I don't feel like meeting people whereas earlier I used to get-together a lot with people. Now my daughter has become a great support for me.
When I was 12 or 13 years old, I was married. And my husband and I stayed like two friends. Our children respect us. Again and again I try to convince myself that my children will support me. Like others’ children, my sons will not leave for their marriage. The fear of being left alone in old age...I cut down on meals to save some money so that at least their greed for money will make our children look after us in old age.
When I get too tired then I become irritated and think why is this life being given to me? Death is better than this life.