In July, the rain gods of Kolkata ease up. Their office hours display significant remarkable flexibility. The mortal, however, holds on dearly to Rousseau’s chains. Here certainty comes at a premium. For much like the future, in the subcontinent even history is uncertain. With this double whammy, the IT soldiers of Gen Y fight their lone battles in glass towers. Placement cells have their statistics in place.
“I have just been able to complete 2 trips today. I left home at 8.30am. Driving in the city is a tough job. I would rather drive for 500km at a stretch on the highway than do 15 trips in a day in Kolkata. Even then the money does not add up. Business is bad Sir”, said the Uber driver.
“There was a michhil today. People from the gram side have come in. 6 lakhs I’ve heard. So much money spent. It makes my head spin Sir. Every one of them is getting at least Rs 200 I suppose. Otherwise, why would they come to the city in hoardes great numbers in the first place.place? Then there’s food. They’re getting biryani, eggs, and fruits. The costs must be huge. The arrangements must have cost more I suppose. A total of 20 crores easily! So much money. If only the Government would set up a small industry instead. And here we are working as foot soldiers of foreign companies making huge profits. No certainty Sir. Tomorrow my malik might throw me out for not running enough trips. Today has been a waste. I got stuck in Esplanade for 2 hours. So many rides rejected. What to do!”
K looked out of the window. He had his SSB in August, East Zone, Allahabad. 600 boys would compete for 4 posts in his category.
“After graduation TGC entry is just ghadar. NDA is not as bad, because the mushtandas are not ready by the 12th. But after graduation they know what to do. You have to make yourself heard in the GD. It will be an absolute fish market. Their motto is ‘hum doobein yeh nahi tha kam, tujhe bhi le doobenge sanam’!”
Earlier in the year K had sat for Government exams where a good 5 lakh candidates competed for 990 seats. Sometimes it was 1 lakh for 250. The numbers kept changing, but the equations were mostly absurd. Permanent jobs and certainty come at a premium in the subcontinent.
“Jab tak hai dum, form bharenge hum.”
“People are very angry these days Sir. Did you see the motorcyclewala? He knew there was a fast approaching car. And yet he just rode his way in and glared when I pressed a shuttle break. You know Sir, so many poor people lost their rozi roti because of this blasted notebandi. My brother worked in the Moradabad brass industry. His owner could not pay him. Now he drives an auto in Delhi. Black money is bad. But one who was a Seth was also able to keep more people to do his job. The poor man atleast got money. Now because the Seth is low on cash, his workers are gone. Now, these poor people are jobless. And the prices are going up too. I went to Santragachi station the other day. A year back the platform ticket price was Rs 40. Now it’s Rs 50 plus GST. That’s Rs 59. How will a man like me manage? I earn around Rs 16000 on good months. Even I find it difficult to survive on that money. How will educated people like yourself suffice with job packages of Rs 20000 a month! Especially in cities like Delhi and Mumbai. You will not even recover the amount you have spent on your education in 10 years!”
K cringed. He had not taken up a job in publishing, thinking he would give himself time for Government exams. He had freelanced before. But desk jobs without much moving about did not appeal to him. Growth was slow. School books were the prize of the industry. He could have done it. Damn! His life now was the Battle of Haldighati. Uncertainty is such a darling. Anybody could have won. Sometimes the decisions are subjective.
“If you do not know where you’re coming from, how will you know where you’re going”, smiled Shashi Tharoor.
Yeah, we are an uncertain lot.
“Even Dr Kalam did not make it through the SSB. But he did go on to become the President of India. That’s the supreme commander of the Defence forces.”
Yes, hope keeps us going.
“You know Sir I have decided. Three months later I shall go to the Middle East. I shall drive a trailer there. 18 chakka. I shall get Rs 35000 a month, plus overtime, plus tip. A total of Rs 60000 maybe. I will save up. The day my punji has Rs 10 lakh savings I shall come back to my ancestral village. I have a small plot of land there. I will invest Rs 5 lakh in opening a small business. Chal jaega mera. It’s tough. But I will consider my time in the Middle East as if I am going to jail for 5 years, away from the family. The situation here is very bad Sir. For us taxi drivers, the police keep waiting to fine us. If a private car stops 2 feet ahead of the line in front of a traffic signal it is pardonable. But we are easy pickings no? So I have made my decision. 3 months, and I am leaving.”
“Hey I was wondering whether you could help me out with some Jstor articles? I am working in the Andamans now. It’s a small newspaper company. Actually it’s just me and the owner. Pays Rs 10000, but I have access to the ASI library here. Ph.D in the US has a round robin system. So I will be applying this year. Right now I’m working on gathering information on the Sentinelese. Kaafi sahi hai. In the US, Ph.D is completely funded. Plus you get stipend. So for 7 years you can at least be at peace ki there is some certainty. Plus you easily save $1500 a month from my experience. So the money is fine too. Tu apply kar sakta hai waise. Tera toh GRE bhi hai.” said K’s friend.
“That is true”, thought K.
“We’ve reached the destination Sir”, said the driver.
“You know bhaiya, even I might consider going away from the country for a few years if nothing works out. I am thinking of the US for higher studies.” said K as he got out of the Uber.
“I wish this was Ram Rajya Sir. Only then things would have been alright.”
K only hoped it was Gandhi’s version that the driver had in mind. Uncertainty is such a pain!
Read Bhaswar's satire on Indian media's bovinity here.