Worker ants, multi-tasking and my broken TV

Arshid Malik
Ha! Ha! I had the laugh of my life when I found out that none of us, in the family, could find a technician who could repair our old colour television, which in due course of time would have the laugh of its life when it would find itself eventually at peace with no one to fiddle with its buttons – a pathological condition referred to as channel surfing. Practically, all the people we knew who could repair an old Sony CTV were no more willing to work on an old colour television, which had virtually blown up, for “nickels and dimes”. The truth is that they were not willing to work at all on any thing, technically. Same was the fate of an electric iron I had purchased around two years back. This piece of machine was not outdated, so to say, like our old colour telly but all the same had no takers. These twin lapses at sustaining technology and life in general left me bemused and concerned at the same time. Bemused, owing to the fact that no one was willing to do “petty” work anymore and concerned because I would have to buy a new electric iron and, I do not know how to say this, a new colour television.
By all means, we Kashmiris are not willing to do the “petty” work anymore and my using the very word “petty” instead of “menial” drives home the fact that I am a part of this catastrophic social subterfuge. As far as my contemporary comprehension of the word “petty” or for that matter “menial” stands, I think it now even includes certain natural and elementary fields such as farming. Yes, we are no longer interested in farming as a profession, I can tell. Almost every family that used to practice farming is calling it a day and sending its wards to steward career-ships, knocking off the age old kinship with nature. Same is the case with every other profession that we consider menial. Does that, somehow, mean that all the people in the Valley have grown so affluent that no one is left to man the lower decks now? If that is true, I am forced to ask, how on earth?
As of now, it is still possible to find a Kashmiri mason, carpenter, painter and the like. I presume this is the last we are going to see of these gentlemen. Their sons and daughters are busy studying hard for the government jobs, which of course is a very good thing, but then the question lingers – who will man the lower decks, ahead in time. Do we need to worry? Form what is happening around us, I presume we should not!!!
An alien breed of “chore doers” has taken over the scene for now. So, the “odd job doers” are no longer native, but from outside, to be precise, from every corner of India. Like worker ants, they work their way into the Valley and not even a single one is left jobless. Ah! We suddenly have jobs for everybody but for ourselves. Perhaps now I could get my broken TV and iron repaired, for I must confess that these outsiders are jacks of all trades. Each one of them knows almost everything about nearly everything. The non-local mason you might happen to hire will do the plumbing, the carpentry stuff, the painting and then one day you will find him working as a chef on some dhaba. Talk about multitasking, man.    
As a kid, I used to read Archie’s comics and based on my knowledge of Archie’s world, which pretty much comprised of all that I liked about the outside world, I informed my father, one fine morning, that I wanted to kick start “my fortunes” as a newspaper boy. I received a well-meaning slap on the left cheek for my misled beliefs. Back then, I was angry and confused, but today I understand. I understand why we have been replaced by worker ants. Furthermore, I don’t know why I developed a slipped-disc syndrome when I was too young for it – I was only 28. Perhaps, I have discovered the underlying cause for an aliment that haunts almost every other Kashmiris.

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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