The Telegraph
Sunday , May 11 , 2014
CIMA Gallary

Decade Decoder

Taxi driver Ravindra Basavraj never studied beyond Class X. But his biggest preoccupation these days is to find his wife, a postgraduate in Kannada language, a job at a college. His biggest fear is defaulting on paying equated monthly instalments for two Tata Indica cars he bought in 2012 to start his own cab service. In 2002, Basavraj had made the migrant journey from the dry lands of Gulbarga in northern Karnataka to Bangalore with Rs 100 in his pocket, borrowed from his elder brother, in search of a job. Any job. Now, he says he spends Rs 100 a day on cigarettes his only vice, he insists. He lives with his pregnant wife, brother and sister-in-law

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

Name: Ravindra Basavraj, 30
Originally from: Gulbarga in northeastern Karnataka, close to the state’s borders with Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh
Now lives in: Rajajinagar, Bangalore. But shuttles back and forth between the city and his village in Gulbarga where his parents still live.
Occupation: Taxi driver.
Education: Completed school till Class X. His wife
Indira is a postgraduate in Kannada

Why did you not study further?

I had a fight with my father, left the school and the village and came to Bangalore

What were you doing in 2004?

Lifting sacks of grain at a ration shop in Hosur on the Bangalore-Chennai highway

How much did you save then?

Forget saving, I constantly lived on loans from my brother who had moved to Bangalore two years before I did

Do you save now?

I save Rs 5,000 a month — after all my expenses and an EMI of Rs 10,000 I pay for my two cars. I want to save some more to expand my service and hire drivers. Right now, I’m the lone driver and get customers through word of mouth

How much do you earn in a month?

I usually earn between Rs 45,000 and Rs 50,000 a month after paying for fuel and car maintenance

What are your principal expenses?

The EMI for my cars. And yes, my only vice — cigarettes

Do you own a cellphone?

Yes, a Samsung Pocket phone

What do you use it for? Talking to my wife, brother and my parents back in Gulbarga. My brother and I gifted them a cellphone in 2010

Which was the last film you saw and when?

Jab Tak Hain Jaan in 2012. I am not a movie buff. But I love Shah Rukh Khan

Do you have a TV at home?

Yes. But it is mostly my wife who watches TV for serials

How has life changed for you over the past decade?

I had no savings and no clear job prospects in 2004. Then I started working as an auto-rickshaw driver in 2005, and eventually learned how to drive a car in 2006. One of the customers I drove told me to come and drive for his company — I joined him in 2008. In 2010, I joined a cab service and in 2012, bought my own cars — though I’m still paying for them.There’s no comparison between my life in 2004 and now.

It’s not just my life. Between 2006 and now, I’ve driven customers across Karnataka and occasionally into Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. Highways connected only top-tier cities then. Today, they’re smooth across these regions

What is the single biggest worry in your life?

Taking care of my wife as she is pregnant. And paying my EMIs on time. I’m often out of the city, and my wife forgets to hand over the cheque on my behalf. The bank fines me Rs 2,000 for late payments — and that eats into my savings

Has corruption gone down or up in your life?

Police in Bangalore are still corrupt. But overall, corruption has gone down, compared to 2004

Do you have more clothes or less compared to 2004?

I had just one pair of trousers and two old shirts in 2004. Now, I have 10 sets of clothes

What do you most look forward to?

Spending time with my wife, and with the child we are about to have

What do you dream for your child?

I want to educate my child

How far will you educate your child?

I want my child to become like one of the executives I drive everyday. That will need college education, and I am saving to support that education — engineering, or an MBA perhaps

Do you run out of money for food towards the end of the month?

No. Not for several years now

Your biggest regret over the past 10 years?

Not studying beyond Class X. I look at the way people respect my wife and her educational qualifications. I wish I had that

Has life improved or worsened over the past 10 years?

Khalid Jamil

As I said, I’m much more satisfied with my life now Khalid Jamil is a victim of one of the biggest problems plaguing the country: price rise. The resident of one of the more impoverished localities in Calcutta, Khalid did well in studies and he is one of the few graduates in his age group in the neighbourhood. But a government job eluded him. In his professional life, he is doing better than many of his contemporaries. But the rising prices of essentials and expenditure relating to his sons’ education leave him with almost no savings. Khalid sums up his life and that of millions of others in this Urdu couplet:
Subah hoti hai, shyam hoti hai
Zindagi yunhi tamam hoti hai

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

Name: Khalid Jamil, 43
Profession: Khalid is a contractual resource teacher in Sarva Siksha Mission. In the evening, he helps out in his family business of printing in Rajabazar
Education: Graduate in science
Family: Stays in a joint family with his parents, wife, two sons, two brothers and their families
Place: Stays in Rajabazar

Do you earn more or less, compared with 2004?

My income has increased compared to what I earned in 2004. I earned between Rs 8,000 and 10,000 in 2004. In 2014, I earn between Rs 15,000 and Rs 18,000.

Do you save more or less, compared with 2004?

I save less now. My responsibilities have increased but my income has not increased proportionately to meet the expenses

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

I bought a small refrigerator last year. We used to face a lot of problems earlier, especially during the month of Ramazan. We had to request our neighbours to keep our water bottles in their refrigerator. So, last year, I decided to buy the refrigerator.

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

I used to travel by bus. Even today when I go somewhere, I always travel by bus. But when I take my wife and two sons anywhere, I try to take a taxi

Have you travelled abroad?

Yes. In 2010, I travelled to Mecca and Madina to perform Haj. My father sponsored me after he sold off some land in Bihar, our native place

Where do you buy your grocery from?

I purchase groceries from the local market in Rajabazar. Once I purchased a few edibles from Food Bazar at Pantaloons in Phulbagan when it had opened a few years ago

Do you shop round the year or only before Id?

I do not shop round the year barring some very necessary things. I purchase clothes for the family two weeks before Id. For that, I start saving up a month in advance

Do your children go to school?

Yes. My two sons, Obaid and Saify, are studying in a private English medium school in central Calcutta. Children in our family went to schools earlier, too

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

Food was more affordable in 2004. The same things cost more than double now. The number of family members has also increased

Have you got an Aadhaar card?

Yes. Till now, it has not been of any help

Do you encounter more corruption or less in your daily life?

More corruption now. At least it is more visible, but I never pay any bribe to get my work done

What was the last movie you have seen and when?

I saw Chennai Express on television last year. I have been to a multiplex only once in my life. I had watched Veer Zara with my wife soon after we got married. Two tickets had cost Rs 240

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

Last year, on my younger son’s birthday. We went to a restaurant in Park Circus and had biryani.

Do you have a cellphone?

Yes. It is almost four years old. I had a cellphone before this too

What do you do with the cellphone?

It is a very basic handset. I use it to make and receive calls

Do you go on holidays?

I have not gone on to any holiday in the past 10 years

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

Every year, during the start of the new academic session, I run out of money. But since I stay in a joint family, buying food does not become a problem. But I am left with no money for any other thing. This year, I paid around Rs 35,000 that included the session fee and books for my two sons

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

I had more clothes in 2004. Now I hardly purchase any clothes for myself. We shop for our children

Describe the biggest changes in your life since 2004.

My financial status has remained the same. My social status has got elevated because of the nature of work I do

What is your biggest regret in the past 10 years?

I cracked the examination for the post of a junior proof-reader in 2010. I received the job letter but never got my appointment letter

Are you happier or sadder now? Why?

I would not say I am sad but I am not content. I find myself slogging but I find my financial condition remains the same. Some days, I work up to 18 hours a day. The rise in the prices of food items and educational expenses have broken my back.