the wonderful world of veena.

21 August 2012

how many guys does it take to...?

One of the most amusing - and also infuriating - things about buying anything in India is the sheer number of people working in stores. Anytime I would go to more. [the supermarket near the office], there would never be fewer than 10-12 people on staff. Of those 10-12 people, however, only about 3 would actually be doing any work. The rest would either be sitting around, trying subtly to flirt with workers of the opposite sex, or else following customers around offering their help when none was needed. At Polar Bear, there would sometimes be 6 guys working, and me the only customer in the building for half an hour. I got awesome service, but it kind of seemed like a waste of resources.

I saw this a few times in one of the supermarkets in Thamel in Kathmandu, but never quite on the scale I've seen in India. Until today, when it dawned on me what the equivalent is in Nepal: extra "conductors" / ticket collectors / bouncers on the buses.

In Kathmandu, if you take a mini-bus or a tuk-tuk around the city, you will have one driver, one person legitimately collecting money for tickets, and then anywhere up to 4 other young boys just hanging out and going for a joyride. They occasionally get out to speak to the police, tell people how to adjust so more people can be crammed in, or hand money back and forth between driver and legitimate collector, but for the most part, they are enjoying ditching school and pretending they're adults.

Today, during our various trips on boats and buses to reach one of the schools where Room to Read has just begun working, I noticed it again. In addition to the two guys operating the boats and the one guy in charge of collecting money from passengers, there were an extra 5 guys just there to add to the scenery. On the bus, it was more of the same: this time it was only three extras. That I noticed, anyway.

In India, I have always chalked it up to a population of 1.2 billion people in need of jobs and so try not to get too annoyed when they're following me around a store [I've come up with a great way to get the people at Health & Glow to leave me alone...let me know if you want in on the secre4]. I'm still working out what the situation is in Nepal, but I have a feeling it has a lot to do with lack of a proper government, substandard government schooling, and the fact that it's obviously more fun to spend the day gallivanting around town with your friends as opposed to in an overcrowded school learning how to memorize answers for an exam.

Regardless of what it is, it was amusing to me. But that could also be because I have been up and on the road since 6am.

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