Shankar , a great Bengali writer in his novel SIMABADHHA said that for the unemployed in Kolkata, in the seventies, there were two ‘ Man’, one was Pitman, the other was Hahnemann. Typing schools in every locality in those days, would teach unemployed men Pitman’s stenography for earning them a few hundred rupees monthly, but would mostly end up being mere typists because of their insufficient knowledge of English and lack of personality skill. Mostly, people from south India would be preferred for these stenographers’ jobs because of their better working English, hard work and self-discipline. Yet typing/ stenography schools would be full of unemployed Bengali youth, and some of the really bright ones only made way to become real stenographers .
The next ‘Man’ was Hahnemann. Having abandoned from every other field, and having no other option, the unemployed would buy Bengali homeopathic books from college street shops, would read a little bit of those at home understanding yet less, and then opened his dispensary in a street corner, equipped with a few chairs, a small tea- table and certainly a signboard. These ‘doctors’ would have a modest income as ninety percent of human diseases are of nominal nature, and heal on its own as those are cured by human immunity system itself, for here, no medicine was required for the cure. As no serious patient would visit them, their inefficiency would never be seriously challenged and exposed. Here I am strictly not speaking of those qualified Homeopathic doctors passing from recognized reputed colleges who were really doing a great job.
I am not much of a wanderer, or hard-wired traveller making constant tally of tourist places visited—because that nature of tour is more of a hard task, rather than an enjoyable travelling. I do this as it comes my way. Generally, I stay in the outskirts of Mumbai city, and periodically come to Kolkata– my home town, to live for a month or so. During last six years, when I tire in Kolkata I go to Mumbai, when I tire in Mumbai I come to stay in Kolkata meeting my old friends, and visiting places I grew up. Never I over do things. I enjoy the change of places and seasons. In Mumbai four months of rain is pleasant, in Kolkata, in December, winter is pleasant.
Now I am in Kolkata and noted some changes which are quite stark. Huge unemployment exists here, youths are making makeshift arrangement for their survival. The saviour of the unemployed now unlike in seventies, is e-auto driving, televaja and roti making. The loss due to severe unemployment does not bite them much because bengalees are generally happy go lucky people, culturally tuned to talk football, cricket, music, art films and enjoy life even in the midst of severe poverty. But my issue here is unemployment.
Old people who does not have any other means of livelihood, making rotis for sale is the practice of many days, and I find this practice quite acceptable, and should be left alone for this group of old people. While idle women of households keep themselves busy in watching DIDI NUMBER ONE, SUDIPA’S RANNA-GHAR and the like, having no time for the kitchen, these wayside roti makers make rotis for those idle women suffering constantly from pain in the neck and the back, and in the process, those old needy roti makers earning a few bucks is good enough. I am happy as by this, some old people without any other means of earning, can earn some money. But problem is this that young people in their 20s/30s, in their hordes, also started taking to this roti making, this points to existence of severe incurable unemployment.
Other means of earning a living for the young unemployed is toto driving. Environmentally Totos are OK as those are run by un-polluting battery, this is better than existing auto-rickshaws. But too many totos, almost forming a conveyor belt are on the street, making it impossible to walk in the too narrow lanes, by-lanes and streets. Obviously, supply of totos on the street are much more than the actual demand, a crude way to hide unemployment. Manual rickshaw puller who are voiceless, confused and fearful, in this changing trend, are going slowly out of business. Future looks to be bleak for this vulnerable class.
Other common means of livelihood is ubiquitous telebhaja shops frying and selling –chops, beguni, phuluri and the like. These wayside telebhaja shops are by no means new, they were always existing, but what is new and attracts comment here is that those shops have multiplied many folds. The young unemployed made it a serious profession for their livelihood—perhaps they have taken seriously Didi’s only prescription for solving unemployment. I would not be surprised if tomorrow she ordains to do away with the railways , and introduce e-auto/toto in replacement, because in her estimation, it would create more employment !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! my fear is not baseless, for, buses from certain routes have already been withdrawn, simply because totos are taking away their passengers, a march backwards!!!!!!!!!
It’s a matter of serious concern. The youth is the future of any society, if their abundant energy and creativity is not used in a fruitful and developmental way, and are compelled to live like an old people, making profession out of roti making and telebhaja shop, then the future is definitely bleak. Would Singur have made a difference??—Es curioso el camino de la política, realmente !!!!!!!!