Sometimes I Do Not Understand India

In Delhi in 1996 to make a long distance phone call, you’d either have to be very rich or use one of the private maintained phone booths. Basically you’d walk to the booth, give the head honcho the number you want to reach and then sit and wait for your turn because, invariably, there were quite a few people waiting to make a call.

The one I used to frequent was a small room that had opened right next to my apartment. The phone was in a small make shift booth in one of the corners of the room. It was a glass booth with curtains to give the caller perceived privacy. Perceived? Because people in the room could clearly hear the entire conversation of the person in the booth even though no one could see in the booth.

So one evening I went to the booth to call my folks for my weekly call and gave the number and waited for my turn amongst 5-6 other people. I knew it would take time so I had taken a book along which proceeded to read. Inside the booth was a woman who, maybe because of a bad connection, was talking fairly loudly. So, even if you did not want to hear her conversation, you had no choice.

And this is how the conversation was going :

“Yes mum. Life is really hard here working all the time.”


“Yes mum he helps out as much as he can but his work sometimes takes him away for a few days and then it becomes very hard to handle the kids and my work”


“Yeah. That’s why I am calling. Please send me some body who will help out with the house.”

Here in North America such help is very expensive but in India, personal help is within the budgets of everyone. Even I as a student had a maid help me (and my flat mates) with cleaning and cooking everyday. Anyway, on with the conversation :

The woman says “can you please send someone from (ed : I forget what city she says here but I remember thinking, boy that’s far off) as soon as you can? But can you make sure that he is not more than 15 years old”

At this point, my head went up. I was mildly shocked. How can she ask her mom to separate a kid from his parents to look after her kids??? And then she said something that made everyone in the room look up from their magazines and books with shock.

“Please make sure that he is not into studying or learning. Or that he is looking into coming to Delhi and think I would be responsible for his well being.  I don’t want to have to deal with that crap.”

She continued with this line of conversation for a good minute or so and the whole time we were all looking at each other in shock and I know what everyone was thinking. Here is an educated woman talking about getting help for her kids from another kid and she wants this help not to be inquisitive or have a education-oriented mind. She just wants a servant. Someone at her beck and call.

And that’s what I hate about India. This subjugation of a population because they are of a different social strata. Of a different caste. Of a different region. This is very common in India and is prevalent among the so called educated class as well. India will forever be mired is bickering amongst it’s population as long as such attitudes exist.

What brought about this rant from me? This :

Sunil and Arvind Parmar, owners of a tea stall in Surendranagar, Gujarat, break
for lunch while their servant Mangal, an 11-year-old Dalit boy is made to sit under the table.


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