Apr 18, 2011

Of lesser gods..

He is like any of us.

Like you and I, he has a family, who cares for him, loves him and looks up to him. Respects him for the job that he does.
He faces the same struggles that you and I face in today's economy. Yet, I've never seen him upset or heard him complain. Lives far away from his family who yearns to see him once every 6 months.

Raju works hard for his meager salary of Rs 3000 (about $67). Meets all his food and shelter expenses and is still able to send Rs 2000 ($45) back home to his family. Enough to meet all the expenses and more.

But he is not any of us. He is one among the army of housekeeping personnel who silently yet unfailingly strive to make your life at work so much more comfortable.

Cleaning, mopping, dusting, serving they make sure your workstation is clean and spotless even before you wake up. Working insane hours of the night, I've seen them tirelessly toil almost like robots coming out of the woodwork to clean and pick up trash and exit the floor just as silently as they come.

Yet we snarl at them if they forget to clean the stinky toilets or have forgotten to pick that piece of trash that we left.

As a nation, most of us are highly impatient towards people that are perceived disadvantaged. Perhaps, because we've lived charmed lives.
While some of the more privileged among us aspire to buy the latest car or that opulent apartment, many like Raju are happy if they are able to meet all their expenses this month and have a few hundred rupees for next month's mela.

While many of us have a lot of 'job security' (or the misplaced feeling of one) and the certain assurance that we'll get our pay like clockwork, folks like Raju have a silent yet looming threat of unemployment hanging over their heads. Maybe they'll get their pay. Maybe they'll not.

Most of us would have never had (and probably will never have) to struggle for our food. But for the millions of people like Raju, they are just one paycheck away from starvation.


As a person, who did struggle for a square meal myself, I've never forgotten my roots or my milestones. Recalling those days, I'd ration a single banana to last me for 2 days, taking a bite and then carefully wrapping the skin around so that it remains fresh until dinner, I've used community toilets and worse.

I've come a long way since, but I still remember those days like it was last week.
When I see a person struggling, I see myself in them. I talk to them, as I would've wanted someone to talk to me when I was struggling. I encourage them and show them how I've grown. Amidst challenges.

I've seen people who've started out at the lowest rank, climb up the ladder only to make the lives of those below him/her much harder. The story of the Indian Crabs come to my mind.
If talking down to waiters is considered rude, how can we condone our general attitude of disregard to those to make sure our toilets are clean, tables spic and span and dustbins cleared?

Butchering a more popular adage, the lives of our housekeeping army make me believe 'With much money, comes much misery'.
They don't need your money or your leftover food. They don't need your sympathy.

But, its time we said 'Thank you, Sir/Madam' to the next housekeeping staff you meet. Let them know that you appreciate the work they do, that they are not invisible any more.
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