The Telegraph
Wednesday , April 23 , 2014
CIMA Gallary

Decade Decoder: Did life change?

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

His sisters went to a Bengali-medium school and were dropouts but Jakir Hossain, a cashier in a bidi company, aspires to give a better life to his daughters, Farheen (14) and Ummah (13).

The son of a day labourer, Jakir sends his daughters to an English-medium school, around 14km from his Aurangabad home in Dhuliyan, which charges a monthly fee of Rs 1,900 for each student.

Aurangabad in Murshidabad is the bidi capital of Bengal, churning out at least 25 crore bidis daily and providing direct employment to at least 8 lakh people.

Jakir is one of the beneficiaries of the bidi trade, which runs on women who make bidis at home after getting the leaves and tobacco from supervisors, but he has other plans for his daughters.

“I want to be a doctor.... It’s my dream,” says Farheen, a Class VII student, in flawless English. Her sister, a class VI student, echoes her.

Jakir, who could not study beyond Class XII, is determined to do everything to fulfil his daughters’ dreams.

  • Name: Jakir Hossain, 48
  • Profession: Cashier in a bidi company
  • Place: Aurangabad, around 270km from Calcutta and 70km from Behrampore, the Murshidabad district headquarters
  • Education: Higher secondary
  • Family: Mother, wife (both homemakers) and two school-going daughters

Do you earn more or less, compared with 2004?

Much more. My earnings have gone up by at least five times in the last 10 years

Do you save more or less, compared with 2004?

I hardly knew what savings was a decade ago. Today, I save a decent amount. It is a necessity as I know that I have to save to finance the higher studies of my two daughters. (From pure economic logic, it can be said that Jakir saves more as savings propensity goes up with rise in income.)

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

The first thing is I didn’t have a pucca house 10 years ago. We used to live in a kaccha house, which didn’t have electricity. In my house, I have lights, fans, cooler and a colour television

Do you have any vehicle?

I ride a company-provided Bajaj Pulsar 180 (a motorbike), which I didn’t have in 2004

Do you go on family holidays?

Yes, we have been to Puri, Sikkim, the Sunderbans, Gujarat and Delhi in the past few years. Ten years ago, I didn't earn enough to go out on holidays with the family

Where do you do your shopping?

For grocery and other daily use items, we buy from local markets. But for dress and other items, we have been to markets in Calcutta

Do you shop through the year or during festivals?

The major shopping is done during Id. But we also keep buying clothes and other items through the year

Has there been any change in your food habit in the past decade?

Yes. We eat better quality rice and consume more meat and fish. We also buy fruits more often and have items like ice cream and sweets regularly these days

Have you got Aadhaar card?

Yes, all of us have got our Aadhaar cards but we haven’t had the chance to use it

What was the last movie you have seen and when?

First day first show of Salman Khan’s Ek Tha Tiger on August 15, 2012. All of us from office had gone to watch the movie

Which cellphone do you use and since when?

I have a Samsung Galaxy, which I bought around a year ago. In 2004, I had a basic Nokia handset. Though the cellphone has a lot of features, I use it either to talk or send and receive text messages

Do you have more or less pairs of clothes compared with 2004?

Not only me but all members of the family have more pairs of clothes. I must say that the quality of clothes now is much better

Do you feel cash-strapped towards the end of the month?

Not really. But at one time, say around 10 years ago, I often had to face cash crunch at the month-end

What has been the biggest change in your life since 2004?

Now I have a pucca home with electricity. It was my dream to own a pucca house. In villages, no one is homeless as everybody has a kaccha house. But staying in that house during the monsoon is a big problem. So, I wanted a pucca house. Though I couldn’t build it at one go, I am happy that I have a pucca roof over my head

What is your biggest regret in the last 10 years?

In our religion, one should not regret over what happened. But if you insist, I would say that the death of my seven-month-old son despite taking him to Bangalore for treatment was the saddest moment in the past 10 years. I have, however, moved on after the mourning period

Are you happier or sadder now? Why?

I am undoubtedly happier as my income has gone up. My daughters go to a good school and can interact in English. They can operate computers. I have a pucca house. God has been kind to me.