The exploitative Indian

“Shyam Singh”, yells Mrs. A. “Shyam Singh, where are you?”.

Mrs. A is one of the residents of our building/housing society. She has run out of fresh coriander leaves and needs Shyam Singh to go to the nearby vegetable market and get some for her. But Shyam Singh is not there; he has been sent by Mr. B, another building resident, to get a pack of cigarettes. By the time Shyam Singh gets back, Mrs. M (yet another building resident) is calling also out for him; she needs him to go and get her a dozen eggs. He takes both the “orders” and proceeds to the nearby shops once again.

Let me introduce Shyam Singh here. He is the 48-year old watchman of our society and who has been working for the society and its residents from August 2001. I must also add here that he is our only watchman with duty hours from 9 am to 7 pm every day, with no weekly holidays (if he needs a day off, it is his responsibility to arrange for a replacement). During his working hours, Shyam Singh is at the gate, watching over the building and its residents, manning the gate for the residents’ vehicles, keeping out salespersons, allowing the courier and other delivery guys into the building, etc. As watchman of our housing society, it is also Shyam Singh’s responsibility to carry out any bank-related work of the society, as well pay the society’s electricity or water bills at the concerned offices.

At least this is what he is supposed to do. Unfortunately, Shyam Singh is unable to carry out these duties as he is also the unpaid 24X7 errand boy man-cum-help-cum-aid for the residents of our building. He is forever going to the market to buy something or the other for them or helping them lug huge shopping bags to their flats or supervising the children of our building at play, or match-making domestic helps to the residents.

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