Thursday, May 10, 2012

Selling Poverty

I was traveling on 08 May from Malda to Bolpur by the Malda - Bardhamman passenger train, after a visit to Raiganj. This train is usually not very crowded, and so I get ample space to continue to work on my laptop. As I completed working I gentleman in his mid-thirties who had joined me en route about a few stations before I shut down the laptop started the conversation in Bangla language.

Co-Passenger: Sir, Where are you traveling to?
Puthumai: I am going to Bolpur

Co-Passenger:Are you a doctor ?
Puthumai: No, I am not. I work in an NGO on polio and on disaster management.

Co-Passenger: Is it possible if you can find a job for a very poor young man? He deserves it. He is very poor.
Puthumai: Hmm...hmm. What does he know to do?

Co-Passenger: He is a very deserving person, and he is very poor. He needs a job very much....
Puthumai: But that is not a qualification for a job. Poverty is not a qualification for job. You tell me what that young man can do. Say for example, he can clean the house, he can maintain a garden. You don't tell me nor anyone that because someone is poor one must give a job. By the fact that some one gets to "do a job", one must be capable of doing what is on offer. So, tell always what one can do, and then say "also this person is poor, and so he also additionally needs the job."
There was a couple of minutes of silence. Then,

Co-Passenger: I am actually talking about myself.
Puthumai: What do you do?

Co-Passenger: I drive tractors. But I don't earn much on that.
Puthumai: Do you know to drive trucks....small or big?

Co-Passenger: Yeah, I do.
Puthumai: Great! So, now you have some potential. I know many drivers who shift to Andhrapradesh, Karnataka, Delhi, Punjab, Tamilnadu and Kerala as the drivers get paid much higher in those states. Why don't you try out something there.

Co-Passenger: I had once been to Kerala. The money was good. But I had problem with food and language.
Puthumai: What work were you doing in Kerala?

Co-Passenger: Mostly menial labor in construction sites and house repairs.
Puthumai: You did something that every other laborer does. You did not do something special that you are capable of....driving tractors and trucks for which salary is high, and there are very less people in those states who can do it. As for language and food, you could have shifted to some other high paying state where Hindi is spoken, and that you could have managed easily. Or, why don't you approach a bank to give you a loan to buy a tractor. That could bring in more money as you will be the owner of the tractor.

Co-Passenger: (another couple of minutes of silence) Thank you. My destination has arrived. I must get down. Thank you for the discussion.

After a minute the train stopped, and he got out of the train....then he looked at me, and walked away with a smile. I am not sure if I guided him right. But I know that selling poverty doe not work. Selling abilities does. Our poor must be taught to look at their abilities and not at the vacuums in life.

No comments: