Saturday, September 25, 2010


What is similar between a tea-bag and the young-boy who brings us the dawn-time cup, I asked myself?

A fortnight had passed but all that I could gather was a faint idea of the grueling routine that Gopal used to go through as part of his job. I would always see him around as if someone had embedded him in the detail around me. Others were around too, but somehow he became a focus of my attention. I was careful, not to let him know about my observations though, much like a cautious bird-watcher.      

Meanwhile a strong voice from within began to disturb me. I wanted to ask him something but somehow I was not able to. So dinner-time, while I sulked in one corner of the Officers-Mess, I called him near.

“Gopal, morning time you gave me a cup of tea around 5 a.m, and its 9.15 p.m now. For so many days now I have been thinking about your working hours, but…..ok tell me when do you get free finally”, I asked? “Sir, morning time I have to start at 4.30 am, and we usually get free by 10.30 pm”, he replied rather grimly. “Twelve….no, sixteen…no eighteen hours of work…, and while I paused to use my mental-calculator, he drifted away towards my fellow Officer-Trainee. I had always found a complaint on his face and his eyes used to shine, whenever he felt I might ask something. There was a feeling of weightless in him, as if he had just had his moment of catharsis. I felt as if he had also been waiting for my questions the way I had been struggling to peek into his little-world of great-suffering.

        A few days back, one of our faculty members had been praising an OT  from the previous-years batch for having done some innovation in the management of Officers-Mess. Precisely, it was about “saving a lot of money” by contracting-out and getting rid of the excess man-power in the mess, I recalled. Did that innovation have anything to do with Gopal’s eighteen-hours, I asked myself? Stop this exaggeration and extrapolation, I pinched myself. But then why not, it is quite possible!      
I was not thinking like an economist, I knew because I was thinking “about” the margins. I was thinking of exploitation. Of the desperation that forces a Gopal to accept a job where he has to work for 18 hours a day without being paid adequately. I was not thinking like an economist for I had no regard for the innovations that over-burdened a poor-mans shoulders so as to safeguard the rich-mans pocket. I had no under-standing of the cost-benefit analysis, no appreciation of the rules of business. I knew I was more of an idealistic moron than being a man bestowed with practical wisdom. I exerted hard but somehow I was still unsuccessful in thinking like an economist to plot Gopals life on a supply-demand curve. How could it be about a “curve” for it was clearly about that “line” between the haves and have-nots of our country, I wondered.
        Now I realized that Gopal was him-self not much different from a tea-bag. He was also being dipped and squeezed, day-in and day-out. “Law, administration, justice, IAS, IPS, sensitivities, change, choice, voice, training, development, all this jargon  upon that we are  fed upon, appeared so meaningless and distorted when I tried to see  through Gopal’s spectacle.
                Gopal personifies both tragedy and triumph. Triumph of the man and the tragedy of a society whose scaffold and steel-frame we are about to become. We need to do something for the millions of Gopals around us. At least notice them, if nothing else. 

Ibn Battuta


  1. Ibn,
    Fantastic post. I also felt bad for the old man with a big mush serving us all day. He brings us tea, cleans our tables, fills water in the empty bottles. yet, I don't find him complaining one bit. I find him to be a true karma yogi (a person who does his work without thinking of returns). He has never spoken to us ever with the intention of getting tips. I am really inspired by him, more than anyone else in this campus.

    Regarding contract jobs, there is a fundamental difference between govt jobs and pvt jobs. Govt jobs are like marriage, though it may look unimpressive, boring, mundane, it really stays with you forever. Private job despite all its glamour is like hiring a prostitue, simply USE AND THROW.

  2. awe-some. but ibn battuta,who?

  3. well said..but thats just the tip of the ice berg i guess..

  4. very touchy & disgusting too...but wht happen to gopal nxt...