My writing practice is undergirded by the ethic of representation and recovery, a response to the chaos of the everyday mayhem where where things seems just about ‘normal’. Writing ethnographic archives is the core of my written word artistic practice. Long term projects are painstakingly hard, takes a lot of time, yet the series of conversations with Autowallahs and Cabbies are a glimpse in to urban life, entrepreneurship, tech innovation and the view from below. It is a chronicle of agency more than any other tangential impulse.
I have been writing this peculiar series with conversations with Autowallahs and Cabbies for a decade now across multiple cities. Whenever I feel fleeting, and desperately need a reality check (read a rap on the knuckles) I speak to self made people. I reach out to Autowallahs are an erudite bunch of people who know the value of every rupee they earn. In the course of my year long independent ethnographic research project with the digital subaltern, I have been understanding how Autowallahs talk back to the tech behemoths through the ‘Weapons of the Weak’ method channelising James C Scott’s ethic. My research interlocutor ‘S’, is a self made micro entrepreneur running multiple revenue streams via his auto business. He is in his early thirties, originally from Pandharpur in Maharashtra, moved to Pune in 2002 after college where he studied history. He joined the warehouse division of automotive gear manufacturer as a manual helper rising to the head of the warehouse in 15 years, a salary jump from 1800 rupees to 17000 rupees apart from benefits. He had a team of six staff which included fresh MBAs who were clueless.
He lost his job as the manufacturer moved to the north and ‘S’ wanted to live in Pune with his family.
He moved to the auto business a year and a half back spending about 2 lakh 40 thousand rupees including the auto permit. He had a hard time during the lockdown however he diversified to last mile delivery of parcels for local hardware shops. He tied up with hotels for drops to the airport/railway station. He has totally moved offline, deleting Uber and OLA, keeping Watsapp for sharing Google map locations.
We were having a chat today outside a veterinarians clinic, where he narrated his work philosophy. He considers work sacred, and utilises his avant grade communication skills to build relationships and repeat business. He earns about 1500-2000 rupees per work day, excluding fuel. Years of managerial experience have given him a business which experienced Autowallahs have not achieved after years. He had invested in a car which he had to sell as he was not able to manage both an Auto and Car.
‘S’ tells me that he hates paying rent as his previous employer paid his rent, and lives in the same urban village as me. He tells me that people are working 12 hour shifts at 7 thousand rupees in the clinic that we visited today. This objectivity is stunning as it shatters me in to clarity, and helps me to check my enormous privilege as a writer. Drive creates waves, and there is so much I learn every time I speak to an independent transport entrepreneur, the gig economy veteran called the Autowallah.
I have always been kiasu, paranoid to fail and a determined vitae building machine since my high school days. The elusive fear of success, drives me to think that I am worthless and link my sense of self worth to what I do. 2020 has given me a new lens of worth that I can be worthy as I can create projects and initiatives digitally on my own with the help of kind souls who share a common vision.
One does not have to be necessarily affiliated with a brand to create value. One can be a brand themselves in this remote era. The gig economy has created an economy of contractors and a different mindset is needed to succeed. My journey has been turbulent this year but the clarity can be very peaceful.
Aatma Nirbhar or self reliance , is a frame of mind rather than a political slogan.
Day Two of the Global Migration and Development Forum 2021 Dubai Indian Strategic Stakeholder Consultations with speakers such as Prof Ginu Zach and Mehru ji along with representatives from IOM, ILO, Non Profits such as India Migration Now and Community Representatives such as Oman. Glad to join in.
Amazing work by CIMS Kerala Team Parvathy Devi , Rafeek ji and Akhil.
There were important threads regarding migration especially data paucity, subversion of rules by workers such as under reporting of age by domestic workers, the weak nature of bilateral MoUs with destination countries.
I really liked what Mehru ji, a senior migrant rights activist from Bahrain said regarding migrant workers, when a migrant worker goes to the Gulf, the expectations of the family financially goes with him.
The ATM Mentality of the families are critical in the paucity of bargaining prowess of the worker. The migration debt shackles the worker as well.
Migration academics, ground level community worker in the diaspora (can the Khaleej be called that ?) and businesses have to work closely with the state moving beyond the white paper, which no one reads.
Coaching senior technical professionals in their writing journeys is often tied to their inherent biases and opening their black box of thinking more than the ‘act’ of writing itself.
Engineers and architects are obsessed with the input-output process and the are keen to decode the art, by reverse engineering. As an engineer with a masters degree, I am acutely aware of these heuristics. But writing is an expression of the self, an act of creation. The grammar book does not teach you effective writing. #writing #growthmindset
This is what labor action and labor laws do. Well done, the Indian Worker.
For all the sanctimonious commentators who were anti labor and uploading the employers. Rioting is really the last option for the hungry worker.