Saturday, May 26, 2007

1. Ram Singh's Story

It was a Sunny Day in October in Mumbai. The Monsoons had just got over. They had been quite intense. They very getting more and more intense every year. This year was certainly no exception.

Ram Singh had a tough day. He worked as a porter in the Mumbai Railway station. He had always been a porter. His dad was a porter, so was his grand-dad, his great-grand-dad... ad . nauseam. So was his mother, his grandmother, his great-grandmother....

When he had started porting, he was just one in a sea of thousands of porters. But gradually the number of porters started to dwindle. People started using trolleys instead. Until finally, he realized, that there were no porters in the railway station but him.

Ram Singh was not an adventurous man by nature. Had he been more adventurous, he would have quit porting long ago. But he stuck on. Until he realized that this was not working anymore. He quit his job as a porter and he started to walk home.

Life is quite intriguing. Things happen, often, at the right place and time - almost as if by design. An a "thing" did happen to Ram Singh. Just as he was walking "home" (he lived alone in a hut in a back alley in the outskirts of Mumbai), he ran into Mr. Patel. Mr Patel was a grocer and he needed someone to stock his shop. Someone muscular. Ram Singh took the job immediately. The money was much better. He would earn five times what he would have earned as a porter.

The day was mentally tiring for Ram Singh. But it was a day which changed his life for the better. A day which, incidentally, was a significant milestone for Humanity in general.

Ram Singh woke up early next morning and got ready to go to work. He stumbled out from under the thatched roof in a shirt that he had procured from a landfill - and trousers that he had purchased in a moment of fancy a couple of months ago using a week's pay.

He opened his front door with the intent of walking out. But he could not. His path was blocked by a pretty woman wearing a business suit (with a mini - skirt) with a generous amount of orange lip-stick applied on her lip. She was holding a mic in her hand and there was a camera man at 45 degrees to him zooming into his face. And she then proceeded to ask him a question in perfect Hindi: "So, how does your new life feel?".

She was not the only one. There were at least twenty-five reporters awaiting this moment desperately. Of the twenty-five, eight were International. There was a reporter from BBC, one from CNN, one from Fox and another from a Russian Channel - not to mention a French, a Chinese and an Indonesian reporter.

To say that Ram Singh was taken aback would be stating a massively down-played fact. To say that Ram Singh stuttered, stammered, shivered, trembled and panicked would still be down-playing it a bit too. In reality, Ram Singh was mortified, but he did manage to vomit the following words (in bad Hindi) "What's the big deal?".

It was actually a really big deal. Ram Singh did not know that it was a big deal because he was an ignorant fool. Ram Singh was the last "extremely poor" man in India. His recent transition up the social ladder to "lower middle class" from "extreme poverty" was something for society to be proud of. India officially was no longer a poor country.

There were no "poor" countries in the world anymore. North Korea was prosperous and the Africans (whatever was left of them after the AIDS epidemics of the 2000s) were now more or less "middle class". Ram Singh, not only, until yesterday the only "extremely poor" man in India, but the only "extremely poor" man in the world. And hence the media circus.

A couple of cows then came up to him and the larger one said. "Sir, you are inspiration to us all. Even we, someday, hope to be as successful as your species.".

The year is 2069. And yes, cows can talk in 2069. This is certainly not Ram Singh's story. Neither is it the cows' story. But it is a story that begs to be told, nevertheless.

No comments: