Hauling the boat to shore by hand
Despite its reputation as an emerging economic superpower, there are many signs that India remains in the old millennium. And this is not necessarily a bad thing. How do you keep 1.2 billion people gainfully employed?
Those of us from Western countries have watched the dizzying advances in every industry. Yes, we can make things quicker, cheaper and faster but at what expense. And what about quality? Countries like China are one step ahead of us when it comes to inexpensive, mass produced items.
Because of global competition and thirst for profitability, every company is forced to find efficiencies and in many cases it comes at a cost in the labor market. While not wanting to single out any one industry, we need to look no further than the forestry industry in Canada to see how mechanization has put many people out of work. A job that may have taken weeks by a small crew of men can now be done in hours with a single operator using sophisticated equipment.
India does things the old fashioned way in many of the towns and villages. Every day while walking, I watch the progress of several construction projects. These are incredible labor intensive operations. All of the work to prepare the foundation is done manually. Picks and shovels are still used to prepare the footings. The cement is mixed by hand and transported, bucketful by bucketful to be poured. Very often the wet cement is put in shallow steel containers and the women carry these on their heads.
The scaffolding is comprised of long wooden poles strapped together with natural raw material. All of this work is carried out in blistering heat. I saw one man carry a 50 kg bag of dry cement up two flights of stairs. It is mind boggling. And a few days ago, here at the convent, four sinewy men moved an old generator that must have weighed a ton. They did it the old fashioned way, slipping steel rollers underneath and moving it a few feet at a time before taking the back roller out and bringing it to the front. It was 36 degrees with high humidity at the time. They moved it a quarter of a mile away.
The fishermen are also amazing to watch. There always seems to be a hefty swell on the Indian Ocean and the crews on the boats are standing the whole time they are on the water in vessels open to the elements. When they get the boats to shore, it usually takes about 8-10 men to haul them out and up on the sandbar, once again using a roller technique to move the boat a few feet at a time.
Ditto for farming. Very labor intensive.
There are many, many examples where a job at home done by one person is done by several people here. A few weeks ago, I found a bakery that makes great stuff and it’s very cheap… a deadly combination for someone with a sweet tooth! There are two people behind the counter. The first person waits on you and the second person packages your goodies. On the other side of the counter, there are two more people. One guy writes the amount of the purchase on a tiny slip of paper. The other guy records the amount in a journal. You don’t get your purchase until you pay the man at the front of the store. He also records the purchase in a journal.
The same thing happens in restaurants. It is not uncommon, even in the smallest of eating establishments, to have 3-5 people waiting on your table. They can’t do enough for you even though it seems like a bit of overkill… until you realize that this is just the way they do things.
And as I mentioned in a story last week, Pothy’s department store must have 200 employees. I’m not exaggerating. There is a sales clerk every 30 feet or so.
Maybe this is why there`s no big rush to have everything modernized. If things became mechanized in India quickly, it could cause massive unemployment. So, while it looks a bit archaic, everything seems to work and the craftsmanship is second to none.
While I love the food and the weather, the best thing about India is its people.
Have a great day.