Monday, February 02, 2009

Are We Bengalis work averse - A small dialogue

Recently in my post related to Saraswati Pujo, I observed that we bengalis as a race are work-averse. In response Diptorup said ...

A point I take issue with is your broad categorization of Bengalis as “people who love to avoid work at all cost”. Not true.

This is the kind of generalist broadside we often here in bourgeoisie Bengali Society. Giving an Example – My father oft echoes similar sentiments (more colourfully usually) His perception is people become Hawkers because that is the easiest way of escape from hard work. “Kichu korte hobe na- jhuri neye boshe poro rasta te”. His prescription is to bulldoze them away so that we all have cleaner streets and can regale in our false sense of fulfillment of higher levels of comfort and civility. This is escapism at its best; I have a clean street in front of my home – so the whole city or the state or the country must also be clean. I can enjoy the fruits of consumerism so the whole country must also be sharing the same fruits. Exactly the same reasons so many of the high and mighty intelligentsia got peeved by those scheming Western Film makers who dare not show the bright side of India and can only show our “Slumdog Millionaires”.

Coming back to your point – Let’s go to Surat, the diamond-cutting capital of the world. Under semi-bonded labour conditions we would find the hardest working people, 90% of them are Bengali.

Let’s next wake up at pre-dawn and go and meet the farmer who is to till the land so that it produces three crops a year.

Next let’s take the first local back with women carrying farm produce from the suburb to our neighbourhood bazaar, which our “ma-mashi” can not do without but would fight to reduce the price by 50 paisa.

After that let’s go and meet the much-maligned street hawker. Who would work 14-15 hours shifts and bear the brunt of the street intersection pollution, pay half his income as bribes and protection money.

I can go on but I guess I would rest my case now.

Shubhrajit replied ...

Diptorup, I appreciate the time you spent in my blog, and your comments.
I agree with you regarding the fact that the class distinctions are diffused in Kolkata. Yes, that is the Kolkata spirit which may be missing in some other parts of India (Of course I have never stayed in any other cities in India to make a judgment, most of my understanding is from analysis of the hearsay from my friends, colleagues and wife.

I still stick to my point that we bengalis in general are work averse. I am not talking of the successful bengali people, who have migrated to rest of India, and the world. I personally have worked successfully for 3 years in Wall Street, and have come back, as I wanted to stay in my favorite city. And in my 9 year career I have seen many hard-working bengalis, but unfortunately that still does not represent the mass.

I am talking about the common bengali man. Just look at the shambles the civic facilities of Kolkata are in, the state of our public utilities. I have heard people saying that they prefer govt. jobs as you have to "work" in private sector. Look at the way laws and regulations are enforced (or un-enforced), the trade-unionism which stopped all progress in West Bengal not many years ago, the perception of bengalis in the eyes of the world, and of course behind every perception, there is a degree of truth!
Have you ever wondered why there are so many Bandhs in Kolkata, and why they are successful? If you observe, most bandhs are called on a Monday or Friday, to make it a long weekend?

Regarding your point of the hawkers: there has been a lot of attempt to rehabilitate these people in specially designed complexes, but the effort has been futile as they try to grab easy money by crouching on the streets, giving any hoot to the rules, and the inconvenience they are causing to others. They are strongly syndicated and revert to vandalism when there is a competitor. That is because they don't believe in competing fairly.
I don't want to comment about farming, but more than hard work, there are a lot of other factors involved, like allegiance to political parties, muscle power, et. al. ITC had a noble intention when they had their e-choupal project. They faced still resistances from the politically motivated people here, and did not venture out.
Women who carry farm fresh produce to sell in the markets where we haggle for 50 paisa ... that sounds very romantic. I don't think that represents realty. Vegetables are traded in the city by middlemen, who buy from the farmers and sell in the markets.

Don't get me wrong. I appreciate very much your concerns for the city and the people for the city. I am concerned in my own way, and I believe, if we take my observations, and criticisms constructively, and start working harder, all of us would benefit in the long run.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A State with the best culture in the world has gone to the dogs becoz of the work culture. The form of resistance they show for any change is commendabel. You wont see any where in the world so many deputation and representation to the Govt . They have taught to behave in a particular way. There is individual identity, collective identity is the key to their success and the success is to scuttle any development. Change of any kind is ruled out. Questioning everything is the prime activity. mass petition and mass signature is the way of life. All the times they are ill or having some problem at home. False sense of superiority and not seeing the other side of the coin and understanding the other options available has entered ito the veins. DIS ORGANISED SECTOR( NOT UN-ORGANISED) IS BOOMING. Where poverty is coronated. Aami khoob daridra , you can hear from a millionaire in WB. Closing ruuning and profit making PSU and private comapnies is their success. Stopppping and closing down TATAs is their moto.