Wednesday, November 21, 2012
India # 38 Stopping by the Road on a Dusty Afternoon.
If India has 1.2 billion people there must be—what?—a million on the 150 miles between Agra and Delhi? I’ve been told this will be a three hour trip. The driver says five. It takes seven. It does end in a true freeway which passes through a new city called Oxame that goes on for miles flanked by buildings bearing the name of the giant companies of the world and leading up to the gleaming Dellhi Airport. It is a stupendous contrast between old an new India.
After about four hours of this my driver, Momoah, pulls in for lunch at a place that consists of a concrete pad, a small kitchen, an awning and a whole bunch of chairs where we are the only customers. How about dal and some mixed vegetables with buttered nan, Mamoah asks? Since the menu is in Hindi this will do just fine. And fine it is, indeed delicious, including lots of fresh cucumber, tomatoes and pepper, followed by a spicy tea.
Service in northern India is still provided almost entirely by men, including those who clean your hotel room. When Pope John Paul XXIII was once asked how many people worked at the Vatican he replied, “About half.” That would be a high estimate in Indian shops and restaurant. It made me wonder if national labor law requiring a certain number of employees was responsible. Some proportion of rural Indians are now guaranteed “work” for 100 hours a month—which the construction industry has blamed for its labor shortage. It is a program riff with corruption, says a recent newspaper story. In one state, only 40 percent of the reported jobs are actually worked. The rest would be phantom jobs, the income going to a political boss. However in other states--which require that the number of jobs and where they are allocated be publically posted--schools, bridges, etc. are being built. I do not know if this program might include subsidized employment in private businesses such as this restaurant.
In any event, I thought you should get a look at the five people who were working at our lunch stop: The first picture above is of the cook. Then the man who totes up the bill,two servers and the cleanup guy.