Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Odd Jobs !

Times Review lists out 10 of the strangest jobs in India.

1. JOB: Railway Pointsman

MEANS? The Pointsman, who is sometimes a woman, stands with a metal ball attached to a cane ring and waits by the tracks for the engine driver to collect it at high speed.

Passing the buck is a government servant's affliction. But this one actually saves lives. Around the time when Nasa decided that it will freeze its shuttle programme because it was not secure enough, Rajani Sharad Awad stood close to the tracks near Saswad Road railway station upholding a cane ring and an old security tradition.

An express train, too self-important to stop at a small station like Saswad, rushes towards her furiously. As a gust of tumultuous wind blows at her cringing face, the engine driver's assistant leans out, shoves his hand into the cane ring and collects it from her hand. What he wants is not the ring but a leather pouch attached to it. The pouch contains a steel ball, also called a ‘token’.

At the next station, the driver gives the ball to a pointsman who then drops it into an ancient equipment usually, the Neale's Ball Token Instrument, a method of controlling traffic on a single line system.

Rajani’s job involves precision timing and a steady posture barely a feet away from the railway track as the train passes at speeds more than 90 kmph.

“Initially I would feel hesitant about standing close to a passing train but I had no choice,” she says. She landed the job on compassionate grounds after husband Sharad, a railway gangman, died in an accident.

Railway Pointsperson

2. JOB: Filmmaker, Malegaon

MEANS? Watch films. Make Malegaon's own version (like Malegaon Ki Lagaan or Malegaon Ka Dinosaur ) for about Rs 50,000 after casting Malegaon's stars like Malegaon Ka Amitabh. Earn fame in Malegaon.

Must be the spherical property of Earth. Three hundred kilometers down a long road from Mumbai, you feel you have arrived in the melancholic aspirations of filmmaking, even glamour of some sorts.

In a small town called Malegaon, where girls are always filling water and boys with silky hair are planning their next movie.

They are usually wielders, or daily wage earners in dark powerlooms or those grave artistic unemployed like twenty-nine year old Farogh Jafri.

He has worked hard on Malegaon Ki Lagaan , one of the many spoofs of Hindi films that mysteriously do exceedingly well in this town. Malegaon Ke Sholay ran for several weeks after the classical character Gabbar Singh became Rubber Singh and Basanti became Basmati.

These films are usually made within a budget of Rs 50,000 though there are ambitious plans to spend over a lakh on future projects like Malegaon Ka Mughal-e-Azam and an ambitious spoof on the Jurassic Park called Malegaon Ka Dinasaur.

Since funds are their biggest problem, they cannot afford cranes and trolleys. Instead they tie the cameraman to one end of a bullock cart and ask ‘the crew’ to pull the other end down or up. Camera is usually panned by placing it on top of a bicycle's backseat.

malegaon ka filmmaker

3. JOB: Being A Langoor

MEANS? Be a langoor. Scare monkeys away. Make Rs 5,000 every month.

People in Mumbai will readily believe that there are way too many monkeys in Delhi. Most of them are actually not people we know. The monkey menace in Delhi has given an absurd employment for langoors who earn up to Rs 5,000 each per month for chasing monkeys away. Monkeys in Delhi are known to wreck havoc.

“Once the window of my room was mistakenly not latched and next day it was hell inside. All files were torn, telephones disconnected and some torn files were found outside the veranda,” says a senior health ministry official in Nirman Bhawan.

Cars parked outside these high-security places are found dented. Seat covers and anything kept inside the car are damaged. Seat covers of two-wheelers are regularly scratched.

Ajay who owns a trained langoor called Jhumru has a regular entry pass to Nirman Bhawan, a government building besieged by monkeys.

The mere sight of Jhumru scares away the monkeys and the place is considered much safer now. “Since the langoor business is picking up in the Capital, we are hopeful that our next generation would also be in this profession,” Ajay says.

4. JOB: Skull Breaker
MEANS? Be a sweeper in an Ahmedabad morgue, watch classy doctors feel repulsed by bodies, break skulls for them (of the dead alone), learn more about human morphology.

Dhanjibhai Parmar, 44, is an illiterate class-four sweeper who has never been to a school. He is known as an almost surgeon.

In the postmortem (PM) room of the Civil Hospital, Ahmedabad, Dhanji can be seen deftly marking the skull of a dead body to be hammered open and then later neatly suturing the flap of the skin back.

Closing the body after the autopsy is complete is also one of Dhanji's strengths. “In the PM room, Dhanji is the real surgeon,” says one of the forensic medicine doctor.

Cutting open the dead, many of them already mutilated beyond recognition, is not an enviable task. That's where people like Dhanji come in though officially they are not expected to do the job.

Sometimes they squat on bodies, pick up parts and show them to the doctor. “When I was put in the PM department five years ago, I would throw up on the table,” the Dhanji says. Over the years, he admits to having come to terms with his job that fetches him Rs 4,000 a month. But he cannot work without gutkha and bidis to stay a little intoxicated.

5. JOB: Dog Shrink

MEANS? They are shrinks whom dogs consult.

Reading the mind of a human being is difficult enough, but Dr Shirin and Dr Junaid Merchant have been reading the minds of dogs for 10 years. They have communicated with over 800 dogs so far, and today charge between Rs 500 and Rs 800 per consultation. But how does a dog shrink work?

“Dogs have very definite body language. Most owners are not able to understand these signs. That is when the problem starts,” Dr Shirin explains.

When a dog licks his lips he could be asking you to stop petting it too much. An upright tail which is moving a little does not necessarily mean the animal is happy, if he tucks his tail between his legs, it means he is nervous.

The first three months of the animal’s stay with its owners are crucial. “A few hours of being chained or on a leash would damage the animal psychologically for life. That's when we are called in,” says Junaid.

6. JOB: Instant Marriage Pandit

MEANS? Find one Maithil brahmin boy and one Maithil brahmin girl in a fair. Take them to a Shiva temple and declare them man and wife.

In the months of June and July, Maithil brahmins gather in what’s popularly known as sabha gachhi at Saurath. The boys and girls come with their parents and more importantly, horoscopes.

The priests, reverently called panjikars, study the horoscopes, decide on the matches and get the suitable boys and girls married that very instant in a Shiva temple in the immediate proximity. Generations of Maithil brahmins have gone single to this fair and returned with company. Without the blessing of the panjikar, Maithil brahmins cannot get hitched.

“We issue a no-objection certificate on a palm leaf to permit matrimonial alliances,” says Shakti Nandan Jha, or Batukji, known as the man who traces family trees of Maithil brahmins. Batukji has himself arranged over 5,000 marriages since 1965. He earns a nominal Rs 51 to Rs 101 per alliance, and can make a decent Rs 5,000 in the marriage months.

7. JOB: Rat Catcher

MEANS? He makes a living killing rats. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation unleashes thirty-five killers every night.

Their job is to destroy rats, and are paid Rs 30 a night for their services.

They operate mainly in south Mumbai and sometimes up to Mahim. With the help of torch lights they scan drains for any movement and hunt with a steel hook-like instrument.

8. JOB: Coin Fishers

MEANS? Find holy river. Dive in and lie on the river bed. Grope for coins.

When no one is looking, some devotees of Ganga cheaply throw coins that are no longer in circulation. That's what the Mallah community has found out in the course of their work.

These descendants of King Nishad, who are spread across Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, apply oil on their bodies and slide down with the help of a rope to the river bed.

And they lie there. They control their breathe for one or two minutes, and while their eyes are closed, their hands search for coins. At times, apart from coins in circulation, they find idols and ornaments.

9. JOB: Ras Leela’s Radha & Krishna

MEANS? Be an unmarried adolescent boy. Get the privileged role of Radha and Krishna at the Raas Leela.

The Swaroopdharis are a community based in Brajbhoomi, Mathura. Traditional performers of the ‘Raas Leela’, they are invited from far-flung areas to do their shows.

Both the gender parts are played by male artistes. The Swaroopdharis are mainly young, unmarried boys who have mastered music and dance. After they are married, they are not allowed perform the roles of Radha and Krishna.

10 Cocunut Spinning Man
In the dry areas of Rajasthan, a man with an incense stick walks searching for water. Another man sits on a coconut and rotates himself with his feet.

It is believed that if the incense man reaches the right spot,the man on the coconut starts spinning faster. Then the spot is marked and dug.

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