Noticing the Working Class

There are always times when we are dissatisfied with life, when we feel that it has been selectively unfair to us. In such cases we look at other people whose life is apparently much better, and envy them, because the grass is always greener on the other side. However, have we ever stopped to think of those who are not as privileged as we are? Those who form such an important part of our day-to-day lives, but are hardly ever noticed. I am talking about those people, who are neither rich, nor poor, and form the bulk of any urban working class. I am talking about the Unseen.

Your newspaper vendor, your milkman, your vegetable seller, your maid, your driver and your watchman, are all a part of the Unseen. They are always doing their job, but are seldom noticed. We take their presence for granted and only realise something is out of place, when their clockwork-like routine is broken. Such is our ignorance, that often we do not even know their names and just call them, if need be, by their profession. I am going to relate an incident that occurred a few days ago which made me think along the above lines, and realise that all our woes and problems are similar with almost no difference between the Unseen and us.

I was sitting in a chair at the airport, waiting for my flight to arrive. It was early morning and the world outside was yet to wake up. As I watched the throng of people rushing to board their flights, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man operating a cleaning machine – the one that looks like a golf cart, sprays the floor with liquid and mops it up immediately. The person stood on the other side of the check-in counter and a wall of glass separated us. As he got closer, I noticed that his driving was a little erratic and sometimes he would almost get in the way of hurrying passengers.  The passengers would scream profanities at him before continuing on their previous course. At first, I thought he was doing it on purpose, or that maybe he was just too sleepy to be doing his job properly. But as the vehicle passed me, I noticed that his hands were bent in an unnatural way, and it was then I realised that he probably had arthritis. That was why he could not steer properly, although he must have been trying to.

This got me thinking as to why he was allowed to continue at this job, when he could not manage it because of his condition. Curiosity got the better of me, and I called up the airport management number displayed on one of the television screens. When I asked them about the person who was operating the cleaning machine, the man on the other side had no idea who I was talking about and very politely told me that it was none of his business to know about the health of all the employees on the premises.

I saw that nobody cared about that person – no one took notice of him and even if they did, it was only for a brief moment because their routine had been disrupted. Nobody noticed why he could not drive correctly – in fact, I don’t think anyone even stopped to think about it. Now take the same situation and put it in the context of those who do not go unnoticed. A plethora of advice would immediately pour in and treatment for the condition would be found. The circle of people who are influenced by the person in his day-to-day life would come together to try and find a solution, while making him feel better and giving him hope, that all is not lost.

The question to be addressed here is – when the same thing is happening to a person of the lower working class, whom we so conveniently ignore, why do we not try to do the things stated above? Apart from his family, his small circle of friends and relatives, none of the people he works for even take notice. All of us are created equal and when life kicks us down, we seek support from all possible sources. So, shouldn’t the same apply to those who work for us? Should they not receive the benefits of sympathy and hope?

This attitude of indifference is what needs to be changed among the privileged folk. Having a friendly talk once in awhile with your watchman will not affect your life in any negative way. Rather, it would make all those belonging to the Unseen feel more involved. They will no longer feel isolated and though they will not consider themselves on the same pedestal as you, they will respect you. This respect goes a long way in building a healthy environment around workplaces and homes alike. When there is a feeling of mutual trust and the lower working class sees the light that hope casts in their lives, society as a whole can progress, for as Ron Suskind once said,  “The substance of faith is a hope in the unseen”, and faith can go a long way in building a civilisation.

– Harsha Sista


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