The Poor and US


“The  poor will always be with you,” said Jesus.  About 2000 years ago.  Was he advocating a caste system?  I don’t think so, given his philosophy as far as that is clear enough from the unearthed documents about him. 

I think what Jesus meant was that the human systems will always ensure that there will be a poor class to do the kind of jobs that many of us won’t like to do.  There will always be certain sections that will be nurtured by the ruling classes for their own benefits.  For example, the society of Kerala nurtures mafia groups called “quotation gangs” which are meant to threaten or even kill the enemies of those who wield the power, economic power.  Economy determines the caste in Kerala.  How many of the quotation gang members are Christians who went to churches on Good Friday to bury Jesus and will go to the same churches tomorrow to resurrect him – well, I haven’t done a study on it yet.  Hope to do it some time.

What made me write this blog is not the quotation gangs of Kerala, however.  It’s a poor man, a poor rickshaw cyclist of Delhi.  I wanted to dispose of some old newspapers and a discarded washing machine from my home.  I stopped my scooter near the kabadiwallah (buyer of waste) nearest to my residence, as I was returning home after a deputed duty outside my school which is a fortressed country like the United States of America.   Kabadi buyers cannot enter my campus easily.  Even if they manage to enter (with VISA given by concerned authorities), they have to take written notes from each seller how much of what items they have sold before they can gain exit from the gate.  I live in a fortress, thank the myriad gods. 

“How much will you charge for bringing my waste here?” I asked the rickshaw cyclist.

“Rs100,” he said.

I agreed instantly.  Another rickshaw cyclist had charged the same amount for bringing a cooler home last year from half a kilometre more, and the cooler weighed much less than the waste I would be loading.

The rickshaw-wallah carried all my old newspapers (which weighed exactly 110 kg at the kabadiwallah’s) and my old washing machine from the first floor where my residence is and put it on his rickshaw without any groaning or grumbling. 

He also unloaded it all at the kabadiwallah’s.  As he was unloading it, his mobile phone started ringing.  He ignored it.  The kabadiwallah said, “Answer your phone, yaar.”

It was a call from someone else like me.  To take waste to the same kabadiwallah.  The rickshaw-wallah asked for the address.  I took out Rs110 (10% service charge added from my side, though the Govt of India has made service charge 12% or so in the latest budget) from my wallet and gave it to him.  That 10% was my way of saying thanks to him.  But he did not say ‘welcome.’  He did not even bother to look at me again.    He mounted his rickshaw and pedalled off.  

“The poor will always be with you,” I said to myself like a complacent religious person.

A friend of mine who lives in Ireland told me a few months back that his car had become too old to carry on.  He had to pay 1000 Euros to get rid of the car, which would be taken to the dumping lot.  Getting rid of waste is a problem in rich countries.  Even Ireland, which is predominantly Catholic, does not have enough poor people to BUY your waste.  Thank the myriad gods of India, we have so many poor people!

Gods do a lot of recycling, I think.  That’s why they multiply in India.  A few metres ahead of my kabadiwallah there was a place where people used to dump their unsalable waste.  Today, while searching for the kabadiwallah, I noticed that the erstwhile dumping ground today has been converted into a shrine for Valmikiji.  A plaster of Paris image of Valmiki is erected in that place with an enclosure built around it.  A bedstead is placed inside the enclosure.  Who is converting the wasteland into a shrine as well as home?  Who will later convert it into a commercial centre? 

What is the distance between Valmikiji (or any apparently religious outfit) and a commercial centre?

How many roles do religions play?

The ragpicking children who used to haunt the present Valmiki shrine which was once upon a time a dumping ground have vanished.  The poor will always find new haunting grounds.  May be in new forms.  As “quotation gangs”?  As mafia groups?  As militants?  As terrorists?

Or as people who will take away your waste for a princely sum and create mountains of waste somewhere far away from US?

India is still great – we know how to Reuse, Recycle… and what’s the third R of the Indian environmentalists for?


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13 Responses to The Poor and US

  1. Sir, delving off the philosophical plane, maybe the rickshaw wallah was simply a cool dude, who just didn’t care much.

  2. makpossible says:

    “Poor will always find a new haunting ground. As gangs or terrorists” rightly said sir.

    Poverty is one of the root causes for anti social elements. China is more populated than India, but the development & economy is uncomparable. What are we lacking?

    • matheikal says:

      I think dictatorship made the difference in China. I wouldn’t want dictatorship in India anyway.

      • makpossible says:

        Is it not for the good?

      • matheikal says:

        Really, makpossible, I can’t accept dictatorship. Maybe because I’m a dictator myself 🙂

        No, dictatorship is not good. One reason why I love India is the excellent democracy we have here. I know that criminals have perverted it. That’s a pity. But if you can eliminate those criminals (do make it possible, if you can) India is the best system. Where else can I get away expressing my views so freely? So openly? I would have been buried long ago in an Islamic country, for example. Even in China, I think.

        Fidel Castro was a benign dictator. I think I wouldn’t mind a dictator like him. But I still have reservations…

  3. Raghuram Ekambaram says:

    You need a grounding in the basic thermodynamic statement of Jesus. You need difference to make things non-static. The difference between the poor and the rich – the higher the better – is what makes for a dynamic society. Do you want a static society? I don’t think so. Let the poor just about survive so that the rich can truly live.

    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂


    • matheikal says:

      That’s quite a philosophy, Raghuram. And I ‘m sure you are right. At least the present systems make it appear so. Or perhaps it has always been so. While reading Ken Follett’s trilogy set in the medieval period, I gathered the impression that the capitalist system was endemic to the Western civilisation all through.

  4. Sir, actually I am thinking. Whether we should contemplate the state of our country or us. We are responsible for everything which is happening. Correct me if I am wrong…

  5. fredjeev says:

    the story reminds me of my granddad who used to say not to mention those famous 4 words… “thank you, sorry, excuse me and please” with him or anyone close to us as he very strongly felt that it would spoil the closeness between us… instead, he used to ask us to use them to keep “fools” at bay. Hahaha! now that makes the rickshawallah, like Jesus said, always be with you… nice write ji!

    • matheikal says:

      That was a very interesting lesson you learnt from your granddad, I should say. My own experiences with the supporting staff of my institution bears it out. They seem to think I’m a low-caste person because I thank them for their services! But I learnt this lesson from one Edward Corcoran, an Englishman, who was my teacher for two years. He used to thank everyone, even the students who brought a piece of chalk to him. I think he was right. I know he is right. I also know that our system is wrong. But I’m helpless in our systems.

      • fredjeev says:

        See… now you too can use my Granddad’s advice to keep fools at bay… hahaha!

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