|Picture courtesy: Google|
Technically speaking, I survive just above poverty line by a very thin line. But befitting to the small and humble income I draw from my job, I take my own liberty of considering myself in the most sought after middle class. Everybody who followed me thus far knows well that this is not my first affirmation, but here I am, still considering myself nothing less and nothing more, but middle class man only.
I don’t know why, but the idea of middle class appears very eye-catching to me. Having survived the harsh realities of life below poverty line for so many years, the feeling of having come thus far in itself gives me a delight like no other.
But sadly, the ground realities of life in middle class are fast changing. With the wind of globalization and market integration sweeping across the globe, the rosier sides of middle class comfort are fast fading away.
To give you micro perspectives of this account, just look at me. You will understand it all. Firstly I am a son and I have my aging parents who often falls sick and nags like a child. They demand lot of medical, emotional and economic wellbeing and care. And as a son, I have my filial obligation to serve them with all love, care, trust and dignity. Apart from that, I am brother and I have 9 siblings whose welfare, I have to bother most of the time.
Secondly, I have a wife, (meaning I am a very responsible son-in-law) who equally has her aging parents and grandparents. If not more, they too deserve treatment with all possible affection.
Thirdly, I am a very responsible father. Apart from the traditional business of attending to parents’ needs and aspiration with that of my office and society at large, I have a more business in hand to look after. With my kinds fast growing, I have a far deeper obligation to meet. The obligations include providing them quality food (balanced diet) quality education, quality cloths and quality living apartment. Since I have a wife who is equally working like me, I have to also find a quality maid who is legally eligible to work as one in helping me out.
But then, these are all easier said than done stuffs. And as an average middle class man (as I have proclaimed it) it’s all a real steep and sleeper climb. With income remaining constant and inflation rising ever higher over a period of time, making ends meet and livelihood are even becoming more and more desperate. Those things when combined with the current laws, policies, rules and regulations, things are even becoming tougher.
I am not an economist and therefore I cannot comment on how we combat the inflation. But being common man, I am competent about how we fight other odds that we are today confronted with. To do that we only need a slight help from our policy makers.
My wife and I are from a farming family alike. And given a chance we would like to also work in the field to supplement our monthly pay. This doesn’t mean that we are intending to create a conflict of interest here. The reason why I say this is because, with the ever declining work force in our villages, our ancestral lands either risk being left fallow or engulfed by the ever booming construction industry. It’s a peak paddy plantation period and I am running from pillar to post to find someone who can work in our field. I am not only willing to serve 5 meals in a day but also willing to pay an extra handsome sum of Nu. 50 above the normal rate. To my dismay, nobody sees my offer as an advantage. So to address this issue, why can’t we have few days as plantation holiday and harvesting holiday depending upon the needs of different local communities?
Thanks to the farsighted vision of our benevolent kings, my kids can enjoy free education so long as they are happy with it. But meeting the quality of cloths for my family is as tricky as it is finding an apartment worthy of my middle class status. Going by today’s definition, apartments are as scarce as the day laborers. One would be considered lucky, if found one, but for half the months pay (or even more). The interesting and painful trick we never understand is that, unlike in other countries, Bhutanese middle class people are house seekers and not house owners! As a matter of fact, middle class people are the one who actually pay for all the construction loan and interest thereof. What have our policy done (till date) to protect us? tenancy Act is as silence as whatever.
Now the last thing I need is a maid. But my definition of maid is something different. I am not looking for someone who can do laundry like washing machine and clean kitchen utensils like dish washing machine, but rather someone who can play and eat with my kids, when I and my wife are gone to serve our tsa-wa-sum. But sadly we have a trouble finding one because there are so many human right activists who are watching us closely.
It is very commendable job they are doing and I applaud them for their initiatives. But it’s also equally frustrating when we have to see our maids leave, whom we have not only regarded as our family member but have also committed our 8%-9% of our month’s pay for them. Their unrelenting campaign to apparently save those maids is nothing but a big joke. Now tell me what other opportunities do we (the middle class) have to raise our kids, while we are also serving our nation like the any other people? It is all the more surprising, that some people have not only maids for themselves, but some have even maids to look after their dogs!
With few predicaments still untouched, I would like to stop here by wishing all those self proclaimed middle class people, the good luck and happier days in times to come. I would also like to reaffirm that despite all those odds before us, we still the most powerful player in our society.