I pass through a certain traffic signal every morning, but today there is a sense of disarray as motorists edge past each other, honking and scrambling to get past. I look out of my window to seek the reason for this madness.
|A tomato seller’s cart has overturned and tomatoes are everywhere. The hawker and a few passersby are picking up what they can in an attempt to save some of them. Though symbolic in the larger scheme of things, it is not a substantive gesture. His business for the day is over — all around loads of tomatoes lie crushed under the wheels of buses and cars. The way this man’s economics works is simple. There is a money lender who lends him money for just a day, at an interest rate of Rs 10 per Rs 100 lent. With the money, he wakes up at 4 am to go to the wholesale market to buy tomatoes. He returns, pushing his cart a good five miles, and by 7 am, he is ready to sell his merchandise, hoping that he will be able to sell most of it. With the day’s proceeds, he returns the money to the money lender and goes back to his routine the next day. He can’t break the chain even for a day.|
This is not the only time that destiny upsets his cart.This happens every year.
Once it rained heavily for three days and his unsold stock, rotted. Another time, a political rally snowballed into a confrontation between rival groups and the markets were shut. He is not alone in this game of extraneous factors that seize both his business, and his life. He sees it happening to the gol-gappa, peanut, and vada-pao hawkers, too. Away from all this, is the corporate world. Here we have some of the most educated people in the country. We wear well and drive to work in our fancy cars.
We do not have to push carts; our carts push us.We have our salary, perquisites, bonus, stock options, gratuity, pension, and medical insurance.Yet, we fret about risks and think about professional insecurity. We wonder what will happen if the company shifts offices? Or if the department closes down. What if you take maternity leave and the temporary substitute works better than you do? What will happen if the products of the company fail? The worst that could happen would still be lot less than the fate of a tomato seller.
Often, we exaggerate our risks and justify our professional concerns till we are trapped in a vicious downward spiral. Devoid of education, sophisticated reasoning and a financial safety net, the man with the cart is often able to deal with life better than many of us.
It’s time to look into the eyes of that man to ask him where he gets his simple stoicism from. In that, perhaps, lies our lost resilience.