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Decade Decoder

Sailen Mukherjee’s mother left home with her son and daughter 20 years ago after a quarrel with her husband.

Putul Mukherjee put up at her father’s house and raised the children by selling paper bags she made in between household chores.

Despite being a good student, Sailen could not complete his BSc because of financial constraints and got his first job in 2002 as a salesman with a salary of Rs 1,500 a month.

A software engineering course he had pursued during his graduation days helped him get the job of a technician with a mobile service provider in 2007. He pays for the education of a cousin who lives with him.

Sailen’s wife of two years is a teacher in a private school. He married off his sister in 2011.

Name: Sailen Mukherjee
Age: 32
Place: Jamna village, 30km from Kharagpur town
Profession: Technician with a private mobile service provider. Also supplies fuel for generators of 35 mobile phone towers
Education: Higher-secondary. Holds a certificate for a software engineering course from a private institution
Family: Lives with his mother, wife and cousin

Do you earn more or less compared to 2004?

I earn at least 10 times higher. In 2004, I used to get a salary of Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000 as a salesman of cosmetics. Now, I bring home around Rs 30,000 as a technician with a mobile service provider

Do you save more or less?

I led a hand-to-mouth life a decade ago. Now, I save almost every month

What things does your house now have that it did not have in 2004?

We did not own a house in 2004. We built a house two years ago. I bought two cars, a 28-inch LCD television set, a refrigerator and an electric chimney for the kitchen

How did you travel then, how do you travel now?

I used to travel either by bus or by local train. Now I have a car. To travel long distance, I usually book an AC sleeper berth in an express train.

Do you own a car?Model? Did you own one in 2004?

I own two cars — a Tata Indigo CS and a Mahindra Scorpio. Besides, I have one pick-up van, which people hire.

Where do you buy your grocery from? Malls or the corner store? Were there any malls/stores like Spencers in 2004?

I buy my grocery from the local market. Sometimes I go to the Big Bazaar outlet in Kharagpur town, 30km away

Do you shop round the year or only before Puja, Diwali etc? Has this changed over the years?

Buying clothes is not confined to Pujas or Diwalis any more

Do you have an air-conditioner?

No. I plan to buy one soon

Do your children go to school?

We don’t have a child yet. My cousin stays with us. She studies in Class IX.

Is there a difference in the food you can afford now and what you could 10 years ago?

At one time, our staple food was rice and puffed rice. We had chicken curry once a month. But now, we eat chicken twice a week and mutton once every month

Do you have an Aadhaar card?

Have applied for one

Do you encounter corruption more or less?

No. The situation has hardly changed in the past 10 years

What was the last movie you saw and when?

I watched a Hindi film in a theatre seven years ago. I cannot recall the name. Now, we see films on DVD

When was the last time you ate outside with your family?

We had dinner at a fair on April 10. We sometimes visit restaurants in Balichak, Debra and Kharagpur

Do you have a cellphone? How old is it? Did you have one before you bought the current one?

I have two cellphones, one of which I bought six months ago. Besides, each member of my family owns a phone. I use my phone mainly to talk to colleagues, family members and friends

Do you go on holidays or pilgrimages?

All of us visited Visakhapatnam in December last year. I had been to Digha in January with my wife

Do you run out of money to buy food around the end of the month?

Thankfully, no.

Do you have more or less clothes compared to 2004?

We have more clothes

What is the biggest change in your life since 2004?

Definitely, my current job

What is your biggest regret in the past 10 years?

I have no regrets

Are you happier or sadder now? Why?

I am happier. I never expected to lead the life I am leading now.

Decade Decoder is an occasional election feature that seeks to bring out through a question-and-answer session whether lives have changed for the better or the worse in the past 10 years