Thursday, April 21, 2011


Everybody wants a job.

"Jo, there's a woman at the gate. Says she knows you. She looks like a job-seeker. What do you want me to do?"

That's my husband speaking and I am in luck because I wasn't the one who opened the door this time.

"Ask her to give a biodata. Tell her to submit it in the office." I say this casually, over my shoulder, because it's Saturday and I am busy and I don't have time to deal with yet another person with no qualifications, no education and no skills who still expects me to give her a job.

This is a situation I know by heart. If I go out to the gate, the woman will tell me how desperate she is for a job, how her husband is dead or a drunkard, how she is a widow or a single mom, how she has three chote-chote bacchae to raise on her own (she will make a hand-cupping gesture to indicate just how tiny the children are) and how many hopes she has pinned on me (though we have never met before this moment).

This woman has no concept of the right person for the job, no idea of there being more to getting a job than desperate need and no thought that I might have more going on than her pathetic situation. This woman is desperate. She needs a job and in her universe, I have jobs in my pocket, just waiting to be handed out.

I feel this same exact way about funding agencies, and I know where she is coming from, but I still don't have a job for her.

So I fob her off with the biodata line. I hope it will be enough to stop her in her tracks (Just what IS a biodata? Where does one get one made? What should it contain?) while I go on with my day. Those men and women who appear at my gate and who accost me on my way to work and who want me to hire them or their children or their wives or their brother's daughter - they can almost all be diverted and defused with a request for a biodata.

Almost all. Today, Vimla Kaintura arrived with hers. By biodata standards, it wasn't up to much. Folded six times and placed in an envelope far bigger than required, it had all the markings of having been prepared by someone who had been paid for the service. There were misspellings and grammatical errors (Martial Status: Married), but overall, I was impressed.

It was neat, it was typed, and it showed effort and resolve.

It is so easy to dismiss people who don't have the background and the skills we are looking for. It is so easy to insist on a degree or a diploma, to demand experience and job application savvy.  And in so doing, we need to understand that we are rejecting some of the finest, most reliable people on God's green earth.

At the Latika Roy Foundation, the most skilled people - the ones with the gorgeous resumes and the flawless qualifications - come and go and come and go. They are on their well-planned career paths and God Bless Them. I sincerely wish them well.

But the Vimla Kainturas of this world are here for the long haul. They will be with us to the end of time and their skills and gifts are no less real and no less valuable. I wish it were possible to hire them all. It isn't. And so we continue to make it easier on ourselves by making it more difficult for them. While they, paradoxically, make it more difficult for themselves by trying to conform to our ridiculous weeding-out techniques.

It's a wicked and insane world; one in which the people who are the most important, the ones without whom everything we love and want would come to a screeching halt, are somehow made to feel superfluous and irrelevant because their biodatas aren't quite up to the mark.

So I put this out to the universe, in the hope that we may remember what is real and what is imaginary. That we might keep in mind that being able to cook a meal or wash clothes will always trump being able to operate a computer or produce a resume. Always. We eat food and we wear clothes. Everyday.

Resumes? Dust in the wind.


ana @ i made it so said...

hi jo... see this thing i'm doing? fingers hovering over my keyboard, not quite ready to type? that's me, thinking about your words again, not sure what i can add really. it happens often after reading your posts, you give us lots to ponder.

i can, however, easily comment on the beautiful and colourful photo that started off your post. you capture people beautifully. i want to know the story behind every single one!

Jo Chopra McGowan said...

ana, I treasure your comments.

btw, I have loved your egg posts. I am just in such a state of despair about the Church that I haven't felt like commenting on anything to do with Easter. Ridiculous, I know.

Rahul Banerjee said...

the bio data part is only a manifestation of a deeper problem. the devaluation of the dignity of labour and the excessive valuation of unproductive and dangerous work like that of speculation on the stock, bond, commodity and currency markets. as long as those doing the really necessary work of producing food and keeping the environment clean are socially and economically the lowest regarded and those who are destroying nature for there own private profit are the most highly regarded there is no hope for the human race. we are heading for doom!

Jo Chopra McGowan said...

Rahul, you are so right. It amazes me how little we regard the people without whom nothing would function. From the amounts we are willing to pay them for their work (why do we always feel compelled to bargain with the sabzi walla but never at McDonald's?) to the near-contempt in our manners to them when we meet (how many chai-wallas get introduced in the office when visitors come to call?) - it's appalling.

And then, as you say, we glorify the ones who are helping to destroy the planet and everything we hold dear . . .

Peter Phun said...

Hi Jo,
I enjoyed this tale. The sincerity of it, the truth of how those with more schooling et cetera will move on but not so with those of less opportunity for school.

Fortunately for most of us, we are all capable of learning and becoming more than just what a piece of paper from a university tells our employer.

Your wise words remind me of how fortunate I am to be your cyber friend.

Peter Phun said...

Oh Jo,
I can't believe I forgot to add this:

Excellent portrait of Vimla Kainturas. Nice framing and I love that you choose to do a horizontal also leaving the wall above and to the left.


Jo Chopra McGowan said...

Oh Peter, I can't believe I only saw this comment NOW - one week later!!!

Thanks so much. I feel so lucky to have met you and so grateful for all your advice and good will.