Thursday, June 19, 2008

Being human

Smile all overA few weeks back my colleague and I had a very interesting conversation.

They regularly visited one of their friends restaurants. Since they spend quite some time there, they tend to chat up the waiters occasionally. One day they decided to talk to him about his life in spattering English.

He had come from Bangladesh where his father who works as a supervisor earns 3000 bangladesh rupees. He has a younger brother and sister as well. Mom is typically a housewife. He used to work in mechanic shed and only finished high school. He had to opt out of school to feed their family and support his younger brothers education. That’s when he came to Malaysia. He earn’s slightly more than the usual waiter RM 800 – the rest normally earn around RM 600. But this isn’t his only job after his 12 hour shift he goes home sleeps for a few hours and then heads to a pub nearby to do some chores and gets paid around RM 200 per month.

His story doesn’t end there; he lives with 30 ppl in a two room house and pays RM 200 per month to sleep there. My friends were shocked to hear that but he happily exclaimed he has it better the house below has 50 people staying in it. He manages his total expenses to RM 500 per month and sends the rest back home.

Is it worth it? He says yes – I was earning only 600 rupees there where else he can now send so much more home.

You think his brother will fare better? I’m not so sure coz I’ve met labourers and waiters with degrees before and yes life wasn’t rosy for them either.

In my previous job every year we hosted an exhibition for a duration of 10 days. The last day would be the dismantling day and no matter what your position was in the company, you were assigned to sit at one of the gates to supervise that particular floors moving and ensure no goods are stolen.

Construction acrobaticsSo you end up sitting there and arguing with contractors and their workers on their passes and time limit. The tension only lasts for a while coz after a while we become friends. I remember one time these Indonesian guys were taking ages to dismantle their booth, so I got stuck there longer than usual and lunch time came and their food arrived. Minutes later a packet of ice milo is sent to me, courtesy of the group and their bosses coz they knew my food hadn’t arrived. I was touched coz they didn’t have to.

Do you really think they want to work as labourers and waiters? Jobs local Malaysians shun coz its minimum waged.

Do you think they want to share a house with 30 people or a makeshift room with 20 people where your only option of a shower is outside at the construction area in public?

Would you do their job? Don’t give me the smart ass answer that they didn’t study, like I said most probably have paper qualifications. Why can’t we learn to be humane to them? Why do we have to turn our noses at them?

I wrote this a long time back watching a similar situation – it’s food for thought.

SearchingWe are in many ways lucky. We live in a nation that has a somewhat balanced economic and a stable political scene. At times the market does tremble and memories of the economic downfall resurface but even then most of us managed to enter the job market and today hold successful jobs. Very few of us realize the importance of a stable economy and political scene. Any ripple in the thin glass surface and we could be in the same shoes of foreigners that we often shun. I’m no saint to claim I’m not wary of them but I do try to remain as humane as possible with the few I meet on a daily basis.

Little do we realize that as much as they need the money, we need them as we lack the labour force to support our industries. The only thing that separates most of us with them is the profile of our countries. If situations were reversed, where do you think the bulk of us will land?

I will always remain thankful for what we have. Lets hope it remains for our lives to go on as it is.


tinytapir said...

wow. someone is really making a lot of money off those workers - 30 workers at $200 each = $6,000 - it costs what $1,200 to rent a 2 bedroom condo?

germinal dreamer said...

beautiful post! Society has been major influence in all of us. It has so much to say in our lives, I at times question if its doing any good to us. To heed to such words it has to say, to me is like catering to external forces that tends to transform u into someone who isn't actually u. Just try this. Question every thing you do with a why? and most of the times, as you question deeper and recursively, you will be doing it for th emost part for something thats got nothing to do with you. I hope I made some sense atleast. But yeah listening to ppl and their stories is food for thought. I admire the fact ppl like you do respect ppl from all strata of life. Not many do. so much for compassionate homo sapiens!

visithra said...

tinytapir : apparently prices vary on where u sleep - in the room or the hall

yes they are being exploited - by their own people and locals -

germinal : thanks - it doesn't take long to stop once in a while and listen to somone - believe me it feeds ur soul too

praveen said...

Since we're in this topic, did you know how the uniformed force exploit this people. I heard once from a very reliable source that these fellas come and grab monthly "coffee money" out of these fellas and each personnel has an own area they conquer. No prizes for guessing what happens if they refuse to pay up .

< naga > said...

"If situations were reversed, where do you think the bulk of us will land? "

You know something, I know exactly how those guys feel. And I guess its ok for me to reveal a bit about myself on the net, not that I am running for PM post or anything.

Anyway I am currently studying in Australia, but as soon as I say this people tend to generalise that my family is well-to-do and sorts, but no we are not. Most international students (including myself) take part-time jobs up to the maximum allowed 20 hours a week, but some of us do work longer than that.

And you know the jobs we do, sigh, cleaning, dishwashing, waitering, warehouse etc etc all the dirty jobs lol. But yea if we are lucky we then get check-out cum cashier jobs.

After a while you will start to appreciate the small things, such as putting the rubbish *into* the bin, coz knowing that us cleaners fret over rubbishes outside the bin most of the time.

But yea, though the money is good, sometimes it just gets bad. Waitering or cleaning toilets during Christmas/New Year time is best avoided. ;)

Scorpion said...

This is what is happening to the people if the government is corrupt, dictatorial, autocratic, discriminative and mismanages the nation's wealth.

Malaysians looking for greener pasture in a foreign land to feed their loved ones, is not too far away, it's a matter of 2-3 decades or shorter.

visithra said...

praveen : yep i know - and theres 2 versions of extortion - for the legal and illegal workers - yes the legal ones have to face similar problems

naga : don't worry even if u ran as the pm - this shouldn't effect - it may actually bring u more votes ;p

yes im well aware of what students overseas do to make ends meet- which explains why some of them look at things differently - while others practise the grass is always greener on the other side mentality