Letters / Opinions — 29 May 2013

Sarjano writes about the duty of an intellectual to write the truth and to shake up people by writing the blatant truth.

There are two categories of workers that are highly exploited, lowly paid, and not considered or respected here in Goa, and I presume all over India.

I’m talking about waiters and policemen.


Let’s look at the fate of the first one, the waiter. Chiefly he is a person of male sex (because in India this is another of those jobs that seem to be inadequate for women), and often he has been studying at some hotel school, spending money and time for his education, his preparation, and his qualification.

When he finally gets a job after checking the ads page in The Herald for weeks, what does he get? A twelve-hours-a-day job, no day off, and a salary that ranges, in the very best case, between 2,000 and 3,000 rupees per month. And almost all of these guys accept the deal with an open smile! I would consider this fact unbelievable, if there were not ‘the tips’; the tips make it all, for the tips are the name of the game.

The plain truth is that any owner of a great restaurant can propose to a man, a qualified worker, to run here and there for twelve hours a day, 150 days in a row, for the amount of 2,000 rupees per month, and he can do it with the most brazen face, and the most phony paternal smile, because of the tips! And the guy ends up accepting the job, because of the tips.

I don’t know what it is, but in all this something stinks. Maybe you can help me to understand; let’s see:

  • Practically, in pure business terms, what is the employer doing?
  • Is he paying his workers with ‘black money’?
  • Is he paying his workers with the money from the tips?
  • Does he leave the obligation of paying his workers to the generosity of his customers?
  • And, do they agree on that? (I mean the customers!)

So many questions and not a single answer – or is there someone out there who can explain to me why this game stinks?

And now let’s have a look at the second category of exploited workers (via tips), so common in our tricky country, a situation that stinks much more than the fate reserved for waiters.

I’m talking finally about the most exploited of all, the most unfortunate, the most neglected, the most unappreciated, you can say the most hated – in fact, the most lonely and the most subjected to a silent and vicious apartheid.

The most indefensible.

That’s why I’m writing about it, because nobody ever takes a stand for these people, our policemen.

Who are these kids that everybody fears and wishes to keep at a distance? Remember that mainly they are young people in search of a decent job, something they can be proud of at home, and what do they get ?

A training that is not only superficial, casual, obsolete, antiquated, with all the bullying you can imagine, because these kids have to become ‘real men’ you know…and after all these long days of humiliation, sweat and boredom, with a great nostalgia for the village as only company, what kind of job do they get ?

Long, long duty, be it hot or be it raining, a meager salary, and no respect whatsoever…but there are the ‘tips’ in the policeman’s career too, called baksheesh here.

Can anyone be surprised then, when these poor fellows start taking bribes even from the vendors on the beaches? The salary is poor, and the temptations for the ‘tips’ are many, or at least can make the meager salary look fatter. And that’s how a miserable payment can become a sustainable option for those kids. Can you blame them? I’ll rather blame those, up there, who decide their salary.

And the duty of an intellectual…is, according to Italian philosopher and author Umberto Eco,

To spit on the plate where he eats!”

This means that an intellectual’s duty is to criticize even the institutions he himself is using, like his own TV program or the same magazine where he publishes his articles. I agree with him, hence I wish to take the freedom to criticize my own editor.

I write for local Goan paper, The Herald, and the editor wants to protect his readers. He is a perfect Mumbai-Gentleman, you know, and he is always very careful not to hurt anybody! He does a great job with all that, but you know me, sometimes I like to hit below the belt, particularly men’s balls; sometimes I like to provoke to the limit, and this guy cuts me short, to the point of editing my most provocative expressions.

That’s like wanting to cut the nails of the lion, my boss! He is trying to make me more ‘digestible’, I know, he doesn’t like me to have enemies! Why, I love that, and I want to be digestible only when I cook, certainly not when I write!

I show you an example, regarding two recent columns of mine:

I had revealed that in Pune I was writing a column under a female name, and from the beginning I was flooded by male letters, all obscene to various degrees; some truly disgusting. I had written that “after reading all these letters I felt literally and deeply ashamed to be a man!”

But, this line was edited, because it is a punch in the stomach, and yet it is what I felt and what I thought. And I wish to say it loudly!

Last week I wrote,

I cry, when I see people cooking with a cigarette dangling from their lips;
I cry when I see people touching money and touching food with the same hand;
I cry when I see people hitting an innocent ball of dough, just to vent out their anger and their frustration…”

Now, this is probably true of 95% of the people around, and my editor doesn’t like me to irritate all of them by simply reminding them that they are doing some stupid things.

But I do like to irritate people. And this is a democracy. And the simple duty of an intellectual is to irritate people, to shake their oxidized forma mentis, and to spit even on his own newspaper, if this freedom is not respected.

Forgive me, boss, but you can always answer, and our readers can do the same thing, and this is finally the beauty of democracy:

A continuous answer, a dialogue.
One day a kiss, one day a slap in the face.
One day a pat on the shoulder,
one day a kick to our conditioning.

Life is like this.
Freedom is like this.
Friendship is like this.
When there is love behind it.

Please, respect.

Yours faithfully,

(pain in the neck) Sarjano