Tuesday, April 26, 2011


50 Year Old Electricity Board Worker

Duties and Shifts.

Right now my shift is from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., but I am only really off-duty at 9 a.m. because early in the morning, there is a lot of load on the electrical line and some mishap is bound to occur. There is not enough staff there, so we have to stay back and I get home late.

I am tired when I get home. I don't feel like doing anything. At this age, physical fatigue is natural. But nowadays, mental stress is greater.

These days my family is with me so when I get home, I get a cup of tea. After having tea, I rest for an hour or two. Then after a bath and my meal, I go to sleep around 1 p.m.

Of course, I don't feel like I have to get up around 3 to 4 p.m. Sometimes, it is because noise in the house or noise outside. But I don't get enough sleep. Because of this, my heart and mind are restless...

After getting up, I go and get the vegetables or some other household things. If I leave, I have to go here and there at 6 p.m. It's 8 by the time I return. These days I get my meals cooked,so I don't have the additional burden of having to cook my own food. But still there is usually there is something or the other to deal with.

Sometimes, I am ill or my kids are ill and we have to go to the doctor. Depending on the season, there is some illness or the other. On the days I have to go for treatment for myself or the kids, then I have to squeeze in all the other things I have to do. I don't get a chance to rest. One has to be on duty during the prescribed shift hours. If there is any work on the electric line, then one has to go. Otherwise one has to stay at the Complaint Center. As soon as some break-down takes place, one has to inform the officer.
During summers, there is a lot of power failure. Because of dust storms and winds, there are breakdowns on the line. There is also too much load on the line because of people running fans, coolers, leading to breakdowns. Even at 1 or 2 in the night, the public will come to the Complaint Center. It is because those who come in and complain give us an helping hand with the manual work that we are even able to work. Otherwise, there is too much staff shortage.
During winters, there are less power failures, but when they do happen it is difficult to search them out. Because of fog, there are additional problems. A ten minute task takes half an hour. And sometimes, it is even difficult to locate the reason for the failure at all.
During the rainy season, the transformers get burnt. Cables get burnt. Trees fall and wires are broken. The danger of accidents is high. Most workers are busy. Conversations are few. Discussions only take place when people are happy.
When my family is not with me and they return to the village, then life becomes very difficult. Before I come home, I have tea at a shop somewhere. After coming home in the morning, I have to clean the place. Mop the floor, dust, wash the clothes, wash the dishes. I have to collect water from the public tap. Then I cook my lunch and dinner. Sometimes, I make vegetables with bread or rice and lentils or bring curd from the shop and eat it with bread. It gets to be 1 to 1:30 p.m. once I complete all this. Then I rest for an hour or two.

After getting up, I clean the utensils and get vegetables from the market...Sometimes, my bicycle needs repairs and sometimes my body needs repairs.By this time, it's already 8 p.m. And then I have to get ready for the night shift.

Life alone is very difficult to handle, whatever be the shift. For the morning shift at 7 o'clock, I get up at 5 a.m. When I am alone, then for half of the week, I am not able to make food for myself. I have to go for duty without tea or breakfast and there is not enough time to prepare a lunch to take with me. One reason for this is the laziness that come in the body with age.

Even if one does not get meals, one still has to work. I have to either eat in the hotel or share whatever co-workers have brought. When the family is with me, I get home-cooked food. During the morning shift, there is more work. Instead of 3 p.m., we get off at 4, 5, 6 p.m. Some work or the other comes up so that we can't leave yet. But we don't get overtime payment for staying back.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Coming together to help one another used to be called Ihaas. Fifteen to twenty persons would join together, take up the task, and quickly complete it. The beginnings of Ihaas are not known, but in the villages of Punjab and Haryana (northwest India), even 50 years ago, Ihaas-Ihaasiye could be seen.

As much as we decrease the necessity for money, that much more space increases for us. There is an easy, simple way to decrease the necessity for money: help one another. Our close coordinations shrink the space for money and enlarge the space for you, for me, for us...

We do not know whether Ihaas questioned caste-based oppression-exploitation or not. Still, Ihaas ad Ihaasiye which shrank the space of money by means of mutual help are a source of inspiration for us.