30 April 2011

A job for everyone

I had made friends with the lady at the supermarket in charge of the fruit and vegetable aisle. One day I had pointed to a bunch of greens and asked: “Dhantu soppu?” She was thrilled I knew the word for dhantu soppu. But I have no clue what it is in English – it’s a type of leafy green vegetable. After that, each time I came in she would take me around the store, pointing at things and telling me their names in Kannada. Mango. Mavina hannu. Coconut. Tengina kaayi. Rice. Akki. Tomato. Tamato. She pointed to a magazine. Booku, she said. Alla! Pustaka! I replied and she laughed out loud.

But I haven’t seen her for months now. She must have changed jobs. I noticed that people seem to change jobs often. This is a sign of a healthy and flexible job market. The staff at the supermarket seem to change every week.

There definitely doesn’t seem to be a shortage of jobs. On the contrary, many shops and restaurants seem overstaffed. Are three waiters really needed to serve a table of two customers? One will serve the vegetarian dishes, another the non-veg, and yet another the bread and rice. If you lift a serving spoon to help yourself to more rice, the waiter will rush over and insist on serving you. I still find this hard to get used to!

The other day I was at my neighbourhood Health & Glow shop (similar to Shopper’s Drug Mart in Canada or Di in Belgium). It’s not very big, only one room, but I counted 10 employees. At least five friendly shop girls asked me if I needed help with anything. I’m now used to being followed around as I browse and closely observed (mostly out of curiosity rather than suspicion) though at the beginning this used to really irk me. In India I’ve had to learn to ignore.

There seems to be a job for everyone, just like under communism, because some jobs seem to be non-jobs. Some examples:

The security guard who stands at the exit of supermarkets with a hole-punch. He asks for your receipt and then punches a hole in it. But he doesn’t look very closely at the receipt or even inspect your bags. So what’s the point?

Then there’s the guy who works in the parking garage of shopping malls. His job is to press the button on the machine which spits out a ticket and then hand the ticket over to the driver.

There’s a lot of work for button pressers. There’s the elevator operator whose job is also to push on buttons. You tell him which floor and he’ll push the corresponding button. Then he’ll push on the button for the fan. If you protest he’ll gladly turn it off. When you arrive at your floor he’ll tell you you’ve arrived. Helpful but definitely not indispensable.

There’s even better… in the bathrooms of some hotels and shopping centres, there’s an employee who hands you a towel after you’ve washed your hands. From reports I’ve received from my husband this seems to be a lot more customary in the mens' than the ladies’.

In India you don’t have to fill your car’s tank at the service station, bag your groceries at the supermarket, or waste your energy opening doors, lifting serving spoons or pushing on buttons. There’s always someone to do it for you!


Shubha said...

So true and its really needs getting used for people who come from western countries,where we are so used to doing everything by ourselves.We are so spoiled here.
BTW,Dantu soppu is Amaranth in English:)

Samy Ben Rabah said...

The guy in the restroom waiting for you to finish relieving yourself so that he can handle you a towel after you've washed your hands is particularly stressfull. Without entering into details, it's a moment where you need to be fully concentrated, but if somebody is nearby waiting for you to finish, you become very self conscious and this can significantly interfere in the process.

Anonymous said...

Its funny how you pointed out the right kannada word for the book! Really nice to read your blog. Keep it up! BTW, I am a regular reader of it.

Unknown said...

You forgot the guy who stands outside the restaurant and points you to the available spaces lol. He works hard to make sure you don't leave without tipping him for that as well. I know personally I would never notice a wide open space if he wasn't there (obvious sarcasm lol).

Anu said...

My Brother-in-law - maintains that Kannada is very easy - just add "u" to everything - e.g. booku!!

Directions for autos?
Rightu and Leftu - what happened with that was the auto driver couldn't keep his face straightu after hearing American accented pseudo-kannada!!

Shankar said...

Good one, agree with most of the points. In 5 star hotels in India, someone even spreads a napkin on your lap when you sit down at a table.

In my neighbouring Health & Glow, there are closer to 20 puny female employees at any time.

K said...

I am not a native speaker of Kannada, but I think "anna" is usually used only for the boiled version that we eat. The word for Rice is "akki".

Also, I think "Illa, pustaka", should have been "alla, pustaka". IIRC, "illa" refers to absence and "alla" to negation.

To add to what Anu said, "maadi" is another very useful word. Stop maadi, turn maadi, clean maadi, sign maadi etc.

Enjoy maadi :-)


Isabel said...

Yes, you're right K. I'm still a beginner and speak more of a 'pigeon Kannada' but manage to make myself understood somehow!

Anonymous said...

Hi Isabel. I read many blogs. Really interesting. I am Indian now travelling outside for the first time. New country , understanding new culture is really fun.

Currently I am in Uganda in Africa.. for the first few days i found it difficult to identify faces. Because all looked same for me. Ugandans have very short curly hair and many maintain baldy head.

During my initial days I also found it difficult to understand body language. For example Ugandans say "yes" my moving their eyebrows upwords twice. In India same expression can mean "What" or "Why are you here" or "Hi How are you" or "Whats up".. Really interesting

I love reading your blogs. Glad that you are learning Kannada. I am from Karnataka too.

Many jobs in India have inner meaning. The guy who punches bills near the exit of super market is actually to make u stand in between the detectors which detects RFID. IF no security is there people would move fast and detector might fail to detect.

Lift. It is mandatory to assign a lift operator per lift as per Law. Else they won't get license. I got to know after reading license copy in the lift of my office.

Your blogs are very informative and positive. Thanks.

Shankar Shenoy