The big problem with us urban people is that we only believe in the things we see, not minding that there’s only little that we see. Whenever there’s a nicely presented video for a social cause we would all go, click like or even post a comment to show our support for it, similarly when buying a refrigerator we would try to buy one with the highest eco-friendly ratings – we all try to do good but there’s only so little we can do. That’s wrong, there’s a lot to do but only if we start seeing more.
I had been to Chennai for an event on September with the plan to come back to Bangalore on Sunday. I was staying at my friend Ankit’s place in Guduwanchery, a small place near Tambaram. It was 10 am when the redbus app indicated that I had a bus to catch soon, startled by this I started investigating – I had booked a bus for 12:50 at midnight. Then I realized that the process of booking was so fast that I did a mistake between AM and PM. Damn, the bus stop I had asked for was T.Nagar which is somewhat far away. I tried calling the bus service (SRS Travels) and redbus as well but unfortunately nobody had enough time to respond so I decided to save my 500 bucks and take that bus. I hurried to the Tambaram railway station.
I had been to the railway stations in Chennai many times but I thought of double checking myself (given my bus timing mistake :P) so while I was in the queue I asked the guy standing ahead of me in broken English if it was the right queue for Mambalam tickets. He replied yes and also started explaining in Hindi+english. I was happy that the guy knew hindi so I started talking in Hindi and he said he was going in similar direction and would tell me when Mambalam came, I was delighted. Soon we took the train and we both sat opposite each other, he also had his wife (I suppose) with him. As we talked further, I asked him where he was from. “Assam”, “Oh my! even I am from Assam, this is cool” so I talked further with him asking him what he did, how long he has been in Chennai and if he visited Assam. Apparently the guy is a construction worker, I became more conscious given the company we were trying to form. I told him about http://www.honestcollars.com and how we are trying to help the city dwellers and the workers connect to each other without any middleman, even he was excited about the stuff (no matter he didn’t get much of it but he trusted me given I was from the same place as him – that always happens right.). I continued talking to him and asked him how his work was and he replied. Let me try to rephrase that in English:
Worker: “Its okay.”
Me: “So how do you find work?”
Worker: “The thekedar (or whatever term he used, I don’t have good memory) assigns us work, and for a year or two we do that.”
Me: “So who pays you then? The thekedar himself? or does he take a cut from you?”
Worker: “Yes, he pays us.”
Me: “So how has it been?”
Worker: “Not that good really, sometimes they turn out to be frauds. I have been working here for 8 years, sometimes they assign us some work for a month or so and when we ask for money he says he will give it next month. Next month or so, he disappears when he owes a few lakhs to everybody.”
Me: “Really such things happen :(, Anyways, can I have your number so that I may call you sometime I am here in Chennai for business for my startup.”
Worker: “Sure, please give your number as well.”
And that was all, the man looked pretty decent and honest and yet he had been cheated with nowhere to ask for help. His stop came and he got down, reminding me that the next stop was Mambalam.