I really don’t know what should be the appropriate title for this post, but maybe it will come along the way when I write.
Yesterday, I was having dinner in a slightly upscale Indian Restaurant located in Mass Ave, Boston. I was not alone, I had my friend sitting across the table from me and chomping on Goat Biryani. My dear friend was describing how his life had been in India. He had rented an apartment in Banglore (now called as Bengaluru) and had hosted parties (of all sorts) with his childhood friends. He described his sex escapades, his car rides, his money mis-handling capabilities and his love interests. He explained in real detail, about how his upbringing was privileged, being the only child of his parents. In my opinion, he lived like a royal in his own right, back in India.
However, when I had first met him, he was struggling to even find a job in United States. My dear friend after cold calling several local Indian Restaurants in Boston, found a job in an Indian Deli located in Faneuil Hall. His job was cleaning the vessels, advertising the deli, serving hot food to the customers where he was instructed to smile continuously, shifting heavy loads and standing for 8-12 hours straight. While doing his Masters in Computer Science, he would come back home late from work, his face occasionally burnt with the hot oozing oil/water, joints pains, headaches and lethargy. He would heave with a sigh, and would head again straight to work the next day for $7 an hour. Cash.
Similar story of S. When I had first met him, he would be awake till wee hours of the morning surfing on Craigslist so that he could find some odd jobs. I remember, he took a job for picking up a guy from nowhere. This guy, our client, had his license suspended because he was found driving under the influence of alcohol. The client wanted to attend his Alcohol Anonymous meeting some 20 miles up North and needed a designated driver. The directions were simple. Pick him up, drop him off to his AA meeting, pick him up again after 2 hours from his AA meeting and dropping him back to his home. When S told me that he took the job, I felt a little scared and begged him to take me along. On a Friday night, when the friends of his age were busy squandering their parents’ money in India, S was driving a recovering alcoholic in Boston. All for $80. Cash.
Coming back to my dear friend, who was still sitting across the table in the slightly upscale Indian restaurant, I felt a pang of relief. He is not working for the Deli anymore. He now works as a cashier for a dilapidated Indian store located in the suburb of Boston. His job responsibilities are many. Opening the store in the early hours of winter mornings, closing the store after his shift, selling lottery tickets to druggies and drunkards, maintaining the decorum of the almost empty store, shoveling snow and sometimes snow-turned-ice, and so on. To reach his workplace, my dear friend travels for 2 hours one way, in snow and in wind, in rain and in sunshine, in sadness and in happiness, so that he could earn some money. $8 an hour. Cash.
I look at my watch, and I see that its almost 10:30 PM. Talking to S would be such a bad idea now, due to the peak rush hour at his work. To give you some background, I suspect whether S has even lifted a finger back home in India. The younger son, S, was spoilt and mollycoddled since his birth. S was gifted a car in India when he turned 16, owned the best toys, lived in a super-posh locality in Mumbai and travelled in the best. Now, he is a proud co-contributor/crew member of an ice -cream shop in Arlington. His part time job is to deliver super expensive ice-creams 6 days a week, from 7:45 PM till 2 AM in the morning. S also goes to school and takes 5 classes. That is full load. To give you some perspective, you CANNOT take more than 5 classes or 15 credits. Sometimes he comes home wet from the rain and sick from the cold. Sometimes he comes home hungry because he went straight from class to work and did not get time to eat. Sometimes he gets home irritated because he did not get enough tips. S delivers at breakneck speeds to clients who can sometime put $0.50 tip on the bill. He calls me then all jacked up, exasperated with his annoyance and indulge. I feel defeated at times. I feel saddened and helpless when I cannot begin to imagine how he must be feeling. I feel pride for my beloved, but at the same time I feel that it is too much for him. It is too hard of a life for him, I think, my melodrama subsiding in wisps of silence.
We wrapped up our leftovers and my dear friend picked up our parcel. I looked at the young waiter who was serving us. She was in her early 20s and definitely an Indian who gave us a spectacular service. I tipped her by putting a crisp note, and walked off, thinking how lucky I have been.