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Saturday, May 05, 2012

anger at the bottom of the pyramid!

the term 'anger at the bottom of the pyramid' first occurred to me when i saw this man, who was not the most efficient of bearers, attending to tables in a fruit shop in madurai. i had gone there one afternoon with Annachchi for our customary fruit juice and salad as working lunch. this man didn't serve what we wanted cleanly, then, when we pointed out, he was not happy either. he slammed something on the table elsewhere, mumbled a lot and served us.

i realized it was not us he was angry with, it was everything. he must have come from one of the hundreds of villages that supply madurai town with its 'service providers', the waiters in small roadside restaurants, the taxi drivers, the tourist guides, the security men, the ATM guards, the autorickshaw drivers, the sales boys and girls in the shops that sell a thousand things...people who otherwise will be doing agriculture, manufacturing, even higher studies and dreaming of better careers...all sucked into the short term allurement of quick money as daily wage in catering to a urban service sector that doesn't treat them as human beings, but, dispensable hands and legs, minimal mind usage of doling out same things day after boring day in crammed space, often standing on their feet for over 12 - 16 hours...another women waiter in a better hotel in madurai once told me that she was the only one who could stand after 9 p.m. as most others were tired and had to rest...a security man - a growing tribe of new professionals who are neither equipped nor comprehend what they are to secure or how - in a swanky hospital in chennai told me last year that he had been in duty for over 2 days as there was too much absence during festival time and his supervisor didn't permit him to go home at all!

many of these are running away from their middle class village life to become urban slum living poor. some still carry the pride of the village self-reliant farming background, many are removed at least one generation from the same, but, still carry caste and other identities that give them some residual pride of being of worth somewhere to someone. most know that in the urban milieu they don't matter, that they are dispensable, this builds the anger, the helplessness makes it frustrating. and the anger is just below the surface, palpable, ready to burst at times into the surface.

'bottom of the pyramid' i see has been more recently revised as 'base of pyramid'. to me this sanctifies, pyramid. the economic system that is portrayed as pyramid justifies the Ambani house, but, not the inhuman way in which the 'base' is treated.

to be poor is not to matter, is the message that many of those who work at the 'base of the urban job cycle' get as a message. we romaniticize this through our celebration of 'hard work leads to success' kind of motivation talks, conveniently leaving out that 'hard work' only ensures success to about 1% and the remaining 99 continue in their state despite any amount of hard working..we don't say these things, leaving those who don't make it feel inadequate and useless.

then comes the bigger disaster to them, a new engagement that treats them as 'consumers at the bottom of the pyramid', as someone who has to dole out so much more for the sachets of products that the more affording consumer buys at better prices...this is criminal.

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