Monday, April 23, 2012

The story of Vishwanath, the fitter


He had had five kids. Like any illiterate merry indian on the go. He had lost three though leaving him with two. How a man can lose three kids and how a man can take losing three kids I do not know. So do not ask me that. He used to work well or so I thought. He pretty much managed everything I asked of him and hence I believed that he was a man of work and a man of his word. For not once had he told me yes sir I will do it and no been able to do it. Whether it be required for him to stay extra hours till four in the morning, he nearly always did it. His wife lived in his village somewhere in Bihar with their two kids. He never talked about her. Or maybe I never asked. Every day at exact seven thirty though he called her to ask her wellbeing. How I know? He used my phone. I used to love watching him from a distance as he smiled at the sound of her voice and probably to the laughter of the kids. As he would hand the phone to me, he would nearly always say, sa’ab aapka phone mast hai sa’ab. I used to merely grin it off reassuring him that everything about me is and will always be the best. Pity is, he believed it. And so did I. Till yesterday.
 Yesterday, vishwanath had become too expensive and too cocky to be kept. Now once again I find myself lost as to how he, the old man who used to jump around on seeing me saying hello sir in that trademark happy tone had become cocky. I had been in the night shift for a week. And being in the night shift basically meant being a watchman. But that’s a different story. So yesterday, his true boss the maintenance expert who I had worked with and admired a million times at least, for his knowledge and experience came up to me and said, don’t give him work. I feel now that I should have questioned his judgment and I realize now that he had been trying to justify the sack to me all day before getting our boss, the big boss to do it. The thing about the corporate world is, everyone has a boss. Some people have good bosses as do i. some have bad ones. I tend to think that Vishwanath had a bad boss.  Yes he fouled mouth him once. No, not the desi classless slangs but a basic rebellion to an idea which I know now for fact was misconstrued as rebellion to the boss himself.  Hence yesterday he was let go.
It was justified. He had been dragged for years. Ten years ago the same maintenance man had picked him up from civil grounds. If what he’s told me was right,  he was a helper who helped mix cement and water then place it where required. No no not the entire deal, he was just labour. And boss had made a fitter out of him. To all those unaware, a fitter is a person who deals with machines. Whether it be welding, gas cutting or basic alignment of pumps and motors, a fitter does it. He is to a machine what a mechanic is to a car. He would somehow, anyhow using hooks and crooks manage to the get the darn machine up and running again. It is true that we engineers tell him what to do, but my co-lot are actually very very new (read amateurs) as am I and we aren’t always sure what to tell him. So most of us desert him after giving the order. Somehow I could never do that. I would always watch him at work.
First opening nuts then taking out the body cover then the bearings the body and finally the shaft itself. It gives you a rough idea of how every machines is basically a stick that moves. And that all the huge huge things that you see are basic coverings only to hold it while it moves. Basic fact of life: the most important thing, is the one you will rarely see, the one that would rarely ever go wrong. The shaft only rotates. What could go wrong with it?
So back to Vishwanath. As he was sacked he was strong. His head was still high. And when he returned his tools, he was still laughing and joking with his labour. As I saw him I noticed how his white hair had started showing. By evening he had changed from his normal dirty green shirt and khaki pants to a cleaner set. As I passed him as he walked towards the gate, he smiled.
He stopped me I still do not know why. I do not know on what pretext he said the following words and I do not know whether to believe them. This is the corporate world after all.
Sa’ab aapse saath kaam karke acha laga.
Sabke saath lagta hai.
Haan sa’ab lagta to hai. Par aapke saath aura cha lagta hai.
Kyun be?
Aap insaan ki tarah rakhta hai sa’ab.
Arun(the maintence man), bhi rakhta tha sa’ab par idhar aake rula diya.
Mujhe to usne bataya tha ki tumhari ladai hogayi.
Haan sa;ab galat kaam karwayega to ladenge hi na.
Nahin lad sakte vishwanath. Ek cheez yaad rakh ek kahanwat hai hindi main, par tu samjhega zaroor.
Boss is always right.
Haan
Samjha?
Ji sa’ab.
Woh joh karwaye, karde. Mujhe bhi pata hai aur tujhe bhi ki aadhi baar who galat kaam karwaata hai. Tu bas kar. Kyunki tera kaam hai karna, jis din tune kuch aur bola yahi hoga jo aaj hua. Main chahkar bhi kuch kar nahin sakta tha aaj.
Haan sa’ab bataya mujhe bade sa’ab ne ki sirf aap nikaalne ko mana kar rahe the.
Usne nahin bataya. Kisi aur ne bataya.
He laughed. I handed him my phone and said,
Ek baar biwi se baat karle, shyam ko nahin kar payega na.
He refused.
Nahin sa’ab aapke jab kaam karunga tak phone mangoonga. Aaj nahin.
Dekh le.
kayde ka paka hoon sa'ab. 
dekh le biwi chidegi. 
nahin sa'ab. jaanti hai.
Phir milenge kabhi.
Paka saab, is line main to milna chalta hi rehta hai.
And that was the last of him. He had worked for ten years under the same man and now the same man had kicked him out. Oh yes he was justified. And yes I had made no attempt to stop him. After all he was the one we had to coordinate with, not the tiny people. And that is why, in this world the tiny people will always keep getting kicked. I could blame the system. But I would rather blame the people. Its humanity that has died not democracy.