Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Lakshmanan is a middle-aged ragpicker whom I met on the street one day a few months ago to hand over my segregated recyclable waste – plastics, papers, glass, metals, etc. Since then, he regularly comes home and rings the bell to pick up our inorganic waste (his resource!) at our doorstep. During one of his visits, I asked him about his home, family and stuff. What followed was a very interesting narration of his life story that lasted a good half hour!
Lakshmanan lives in Tambaram with his wife (who runs a Provisions Store) and two sons. The elder son is a Dental College student, and the younger one is in high school. Lakshmanan came to the city as a teenager because his father believed that the city had a more promising life waiting for him. He was sent to work in a hotel kitchen, though he actually did not know anything at all about cooking. When he messed up a sambar by adding stuff that didn’t belong in it, he was kicked out. He then joined a gang that was involved in black-ticket selling in cinemas and was in it for 7 years. One day, when he saw his gang leader being caught and beaten up by the police, he ran for his life and swore to lead a clean life. He then somehow became the manager of a marriage hall where he was asked to lie (by his co-workers) to his owner (to partake in some swindling I think!). When he refused to lie, they made sure he was sacked. After all this, Lakshmanan somehow got really attracted to ‘ragpicking’, which he has been doing for more than a decade now. “No bosses, no stress, no fixed hours. Outdoor work. I couldn’t ask for anything more!” he said with pride. I have never seen him without a smile on his face.
Lakshmanan makes around Rs.300 every day selling the waste he collects! He once told me that he found a nice video camera in working condition, which their family was enjoying. Another day, he told me about a 150 dollar bill that he found in a roadside dust bin. “Of what use is a dollar bill to you?” I asked. “Oh, I went home, had a bath and exchanged it for rupees in Thomas Cook.” he said. Now, that is one resourceful ragpicker, I thought!
One day, when I asked him “You work so hard all day out in the sun. Do your sons really value your work and treat you with respect?” he went on about all the silly pranks they play on each other, the humour in their house, which son was which parent’s pet and so on.
Well, this is how I get my recoverable waste reached to the recyclers, expand my world knowledge, connect with street people who otherwise seem like they all have the same boring story about 'how they ran away from home', and have interesting conversations building material for my blog! :)