I live in a middle class co-operative group housing society in dwarka, a suburb in Delhi. It has 120 flats. To most members the original cost of the flat was close to eight lakhs in 1997. Today after 14 years, it fetches more than 65 lakh rupees. Most of the residents are delighted to discover that they are multi millionaires.
Most of the owners happen to be in services. A majority of them are government employees and the rest are in private sector. A small fraction is self-employed.
Gradually, people are retiring, from services. One of my neighbours has retired from government service. He receives a monthly pension of 18,000 rupees. He does not have additional source of income. He is single. The money is more than sufficient to run his household expenses. He is a contented man.
The washer man of the colony is Babulal. He has migrated from Rajasthan. He lives three kilometers away at Palam. It was once a village. He owns a house on a fifty square meter plot at Palam. Babulal comes each day on a bicycle, and irons clothes in an open car parking space, in the colony. Babulal’s wife irons clothes at Palam village.
On an average Babulal irons close to 150 clothes a day and charges 1.50 rupees per cloth. He thus makes 300 rupees in a day. His wife also makes 300 rupees a day. Both of them together make 600 a day or 15000 a month. Only expense is the coal, which is roughly 1500. Thus take home is 13500.
The washer man has a monthly income, close to our retired friend.
One late evening, while I was taking a stroll in the colony, the Watchman enquired about my daughter and asked, “ I do not see her these days?”
I said she is studying engineering near Mangalore in Karnataka.
“Is it Manipal?’
I was surprised.
What subject is she studying?
She is studying a subject that is a branch of Electrical.
Is it Instrumentation?
I was amazed at his knowledge. How do you know so much about engineering?
In fact my second son is studying engineering in Delhi.
How much fees do you pay per year?
It is close to 80,000.00 Rupees.
I could not believe. I thought this happens only in Bollywood. Even in my wildest dream, I could not have imagined that a Security Guard of my colony, who earns 4500.00 rupees a month, can afford high tuition fees of an Engineering College.
Literally for the past three years I hardly have any savings. I find it difficult to afford the tuition fees for my daughter.
“How do you manage?” I asked
“My son takes tuition in the evening. He earns 2,500.00 rupees a month. My eldest son is in police. He contributes 3,000.00 a month…… I have a shop that fetches a monthly rent of 2500. I contribute close to 1000.00 a month from my remuneration. We are somehow able to manage.”
We have a twenty-five year resident in the colony that tried but could not get admission in a good engineering college. He is now working in a call centre.
The watchman’s son in due course of time will be economically better off than the some of the children of the residents.
The vegetable seller, who is self-employed, like me, sets up a shop, each evening. He must be earning more than 7500 a month. One evening after I bought the vegetables, I asked him to weigh it. He said he is not charging any of his regular customers this evening. His daughter has completed her four-year Chartered Accountancy papers in one go.
I was surprised. When I look at the residents, there is one student who have taken six years and is yet to complete his Chartered Accountancy.
25th March 2008
Our daughter has completed her Engineering and employed at Tata Consultancy Services, a prestigious IT Company. Her salary is 24,000 rupees, whereas the vegetable seller’s daughter is earning 35,000 rupees, earning close to one and a half times.
When she misses the company bus, she takes a public transport bus run by DTC (Delhi Transport Corporation). The salary of a permanent driver with more than three years of experience, will earn more than a software engineer. One day, while traveling in a DTC bus, a passenger sitting next to me, mentioned that he works as a peon, for a public sector company, ONGC ( Oil & Natural Gas Commission) earning a salary of more than 80,000 rupees. That is three times that of a Software Engineer. I said to the co-passenger, “If there is a vacancy of peon, at ONGC, do let me know”.
My close friend, the retired officer had a heart attack, last year. He was hospitalized for a week. He did not feel the financial pinch. All the cost was borne by the government. His pension has been increased by 70%, courtesy Sixth Pay Commission. His pension is now close to 30,000 rupees.
Babulal also had a heart attack three months back. He was treated and he has recovered. It made him poorer by 2,50,000 rupees. The residents voluntarily contributed 50,000 rupees. He borrowed 2,00,000 rupees, interest free, from one of the relatives who is a serving government servant, in the income tax department. Babulal is under debt. Whatever money he saves, goes into debt servicing.
His wife, who is 42 years of age, is not keeping good heath. She has discontinued ironing at Palam. Second source of income has dried up.
Their second son, a student, helps his father. Both of them irons 200 clothes day. He has increased the rate to 2 Rupees per cloth.
I had visualized that in one generation, Babulal’s family, will catch up with one of the residents. However with the heart attack, he has lost the race.
But I have not lost hope. The new emerging middle class, often semi literate, through their hard work and entrepreneurship, will sure catch up with the typical English educated and employee mindset.
12th March 2011