Friday, April 27, 2012

Time is Money

This is a phrase commonly used in the US and it's meaning is fairly literal. Many jobs pay by the hour so the term used in reference to a person's time implies that you're paying them and it's costing money so work should be completed. When used in reference to non-human functions it implies that you're paying money for the electricity, etc. We place a high emphasis on time being valuable in the US. This is a stark contrast to IST and is one of the many things I have had difficulty adjusting too. It doesn't seem to matter how many times I've told myself to just breathe, things will get done it still bothers me a lot. It's maddening how long some things take to get done around here. Let me give you an example.

Hubby was going to go out and get something for me when I was sick the other day. I slept until 2 PM and he had been home all day. He didn't go while I was sleeping but indicated he had been bored waiting for me to wake up. So I suggested he go ahead and go before it got late. He agreed and started to get ready.

While he was getting ready his mom decided to run out for a minute and asked him to stay home so he could answer the door if anyone came. So then time goes on, he waits for her and finally about 4 PM he comes back in the room to check his appearance before going. I reminded him of my list and then he left.

At 6 PM I get a text message saying he hasn't made it to the store yet. He was having trouble with his bike. (The store is 15 KM away.) He says he just got it fixed and is heading to the store as soon as the rain slows down. It had started raining about 5:30. He also tells me his phone battery is dying. 

At 7:45 I get a call from him that he hasn't made it to the store yet. He is about 3 buildings away, again having trouble with the bike. He's thinking he's going to push the bike the rest of the way and look at it after he gets there and has let it sit for a while. (He does tend to flood the engine trying to force it to start when he's having trouble with it.)

At 8:30 I get a message saying he just got to the store. Then he calls me 3 or 4 times confirming what I wanted him to get. One thing they didn't have and by this point I'm annoyed and tell him don't worry about it. It's on about the 3rd phone call I find out he's with a friend. I don't mind, but that explains the 2 hour gap after he left. This friend lives outside of the city and I know I'm facing at least another 2 hours before he's home for the night. That means I have plenty of quiet time to work but seriously? 8 hours for a trip to the store to pick up 4 items and dinner? In the US this task would have taken less than an hour and I'd likely have had to drive a lot further.

9 PM a message comes in that he's now waiting in the checkout line. He's ordering my food and will pick it up on his way home. Looks like I was wrong, he's going to bring the food then go take his friend home. This means we won't eat together. 

10:15 PM Hubby came home with my dinner and had already dropped off his 2 friends. That's when I found out it was 2. I don't care that he was out with them, it actually explains what took so long. But seriously? 8 hours for a trip to the store to pick up 4 items and dinner?

I did end up eating it alone because he had ate with his friends after he got my groceries. I don't like eating alone.

I think that if Indians' time was valued better, then IST might not be so prevalent here. Many Indians in this country work for substandard pay, even by Indian pay guidelines, and sometimes don't get paid when they should or have to work extra time with no extra pay. There's no emphasis on the value of a person's time at all from what I've seen.

Indians are forced to work longer hours each day, more days in a week and they get off for less holidays than they should. Some companies here are completely awful to work for and even though there's a labor board nothing ever gets changed. For example I'll use hubby's company - one of the worst I know of.

He's worked there for 3 years now and only recently did they start paying the employee's PF Funds. Why? Because after years of fighting one of their offices turned them in to the labor board. And even then they faked a bunch of records and didn't pay what they owed to the workers. Just last month they called a meeting to tell everyone they weren't going to get paid in March and would have to wait until April to get paid. (They get paid once a month.) And all this is on top of the company paying extremely low wages to many of its workers.

They hire some of the worst people around - gangster types - and they're all really young and just getting the job to make their parents happy. They give these guys about 2000 INR a month each. In return for that, they work 7 days a week almost every week from 6 AM to 9 or 10 PM. The company doesn't allow them to go home and keeps pushing them for more work. People quit and don't get replaced which doubles the work load on other people. When hubby started working there, there were 5 office staff and it was a new office, destined to grow. Now they have 2 office staff and have expanded the one office into 4 and put hubby in charge of database administration for all of them. (And OMG, one guy they hired didn't know how to turn on a computer and hubby had to train him....seriously? Who the hell hires someone for a computer based job that has never used a computer?)

While hubby's company is worse than most you can see some of the same things going on in other  companies. Workers time is just not valued here like it should be. When someone gives you their time, they're giving you a piece of their life and they deserve to at least be treated humanely when they do. I know jobs in a lot of countries don't value workers as they should either but salary laws regulate that they at least have to pay a fair wage so the workers can afford to survive. These guys can't live off of that money.

Some of them have families too. I can't imagine trying to support a family on roughly $40 USD a month. Not even here where produce is much cheaper than in the states. (About 20 cents for 2 lbs. tomatoes for example.) And what's the worst part about these wages? Another company that is extremely similar pays much higher rates but it's harder to get hired there because there's so much demand.

Maybe instead of lowering the poverty level guidelines the Indian government should set minimum wages so that people can actually afford to survive here. I kind of feel like the government is just trying to sweep the poverty issue under the rug and make the country look better. But in the end, that does nothing for the people of this country.

India Today: Ruckus in Rajya Sabha over lowering poverty line
NY Times: Who Deserves Welfare In India
The Wall Street Journal: Starving In India


  1. yeah the lack of minimal wage standard for each professions in India is a problem, but then before setting minimal wages there is the need to create strong syndicate movements who can impact on this issue.
    DH worked in IT and now business consulting, one thing he admired when he was on assignement in Europe was how people work 8 hours, and then leave, or if they have to work longer get paid for these extra hours. In all the companies he worked be it small ones and big ones like Accenture and E&Y he was working close to 16 hours a day sometimes and didn't get any compensation for that, at the most a pat on the bag from his boss for being a good team player. But it wasn't what he considers the worst, the worst is that when he was in IT he felt like he was stagnating, that the work wasn't even challenging or rewarding in any way. he moved to Business consulting, had a few glitches from his former company, and they still owe him over 5 lakhs in salary they are never going to pay because they are bankrupt. Fortunately his current company is great, not as far as work hours goes, he still works tons, but his boss loves him, give him more responsibility quickly, and DH just about loves the job which makes the after office hour work actually worth it and I see the change on his face daily.

    I also noticed that in Mumbai house maids actually have all set their tarrifs the same, it's 500 for each job, ask them to do one more chores and they will inform you of the extra cost, I don't think they are organized in a Syndicate, but they sure are in charge of their earnings, it doesn't even really depend of the area you live in or the size of the flat, I have friends in various part of the city telling me their maid quotes the same fee. In Bangalore they aren't as professional and business oriented, I had all kind of fee quoted without much of a reason or logic over the year. Mine works at least 3 houses that I know off, in mine and one other she does cooks the evening meal, so I estimated that between me and the other household that hires her for the same as me she makes around 8k a month, the other one I'm not sure what she does, but she must at the least earn 1000 there, and she was at one point heading to a 4th flat so that means she makes a minimum of 10k a month, I think there are employess in smaller firms that earn less than her. And since all the people who hired her rave about her including me, we are actually all ready to give her insentives and freebies all the time.

  2. That is one thing that aggravates the the hell out of me about my Indian husband-
     He absolutely can not organize his time at all.
    While I've had to 'multitask' and have had my time organized to the last 15 minutes every day at every job I've ever had. 
    It takes him hours and sometimes days to like buy diverse items like a light bulb, cat chow, and tomatoes- even though he owns his own business & car.
    I've realized it simply isn't important in Indian culture nor valued to 'organize' one's time as it is in the US- so he has absolutely no concept of what I'm talking about when I tell him about how 'time is money' & 'time organization' in the US.
    I wonder if he'd even catch onto 'time organization' if we moved to the US in time & could 'make it' in these financially rough times with his own business or a 'job' there?

  3. Sometimes it's because of bad infrastructure too. There are so many reasons!! Excuses.

    Simple story. The last few days, it's been raining in most parts of Kerala. When it rains the power is shut off. It's Friday as I write this. My friend's mom has been wanting to make chutney (use of a grinder which doesn't run on inverter) since that day. Wednesday, the power was out most of the day and over night. Thursday morning really early, it was on. So, she decided to prep the stuff... soon as everything was ready to go into the mixie, the power went off! And, it hadn't come back on til night time. So the food got spoiled and had to be thrown.

    Here's another interesting example. A conference by a reputable group was being given in a five star hotel in Kochi. One day, while driving I saw a poster for it, and it had the face of the keynote speaker. I saw another flyer the next day, with a photo of the keynote speaker. There were two different names and two different faces. I mentioned this to my neighbor. He said "How can they have only one keynote speaker? What if for some reason one doesn't show up? We never know around here, sometimes people just never show up and they don't give a reason also." I think, what if both show!!

  4. Good for the maids. More people need to be that way with demanding adequate pay. Too many companies cheat their employees. Even if you don't pay for overtime the employees still deserve fair wages.

  5. Lol, I have the same fears about Rohit in the US. I can just imagine how many jobs he may get fired from when he consistently goes in late. Or how hard it's going to be when we have to go somewhere at a set time and I have to leave without him because he's not ready. It should be quite an adventure.

  6. I empathize with your friends mom! It's so frustrating to have things like power outages keeping you from making foods you want to make, etc.

    I wonder what would happen if both showed up tool. Lol, how would they manage that? I guess send one home?

  7. About labor and such issues ....

    The problem once again is hypocrisy. We "pride" ourselves as a socialist nation ... to the point of explicitly amending the constitution to include just this ghastly word.  If you think about it, socialism is a very nice and warm word ... having policies which takes care of society as a whole rather than the individual alone ... what could be nicer ?

    but the experience the world over proves that all such woolly, fuzzy, nice concepts are just a charade for exploitation, injustice and usurping of individual freedom. India is unique among the world nations/societies in that it never learns from anybody's bad experience. It always aspires (so to speak) to recreate the hell that others have gone through in order to drive home the valuable lesson. Hence we have policies upon policies which try to serve "socialism" at face value but "make room" for "market forces" at some level in order to have a compromise. It ends up serving neither "society" nor the "market".

    India is also blessed with very smart politicians (and I really mean it in a positive sense) but very bad governance system. Almost all the polits have realized that socialism is a big farce, but noone dares to bell the cat. And in true Indian style, we do have communists fighting elections here ... have you seen anything more bizarre ? When in power, they try to dismantle all the positive things anybody else may have done in the past. When not in power, they dominate the political discourse by way of their foolish sympathizers in Indian academia and media (and also in judiciary). Indian academics carry themselves with a chip on their shoulder proclaiming their socialist credentials at every chance, minor or major. "Market" is a bad word in Indian academia (and media) ... each and every evidence/observation/experience is disregarded in favor of their "hunches". Not for nothing, I hate these academics and media ... I would be happy to personally massacre them given half a chance.

    With so much hypocrisy going around, do you not expect labor laws to be so warped ? Where else do you have labor laws which "protect" only 2-3% of the labor ? Where else do you have socialists who simply do not care for farm labor ? What you have seen in Rohit's company is peanuts compared to what goes on in farms -- we simply do not have any, I repeat, any law protecting the farm labor. And these farm labor constitute more than half of all the labor in India. The only type of labor protected by laws are the unionised Industrial workers (which are a small fraction of all the industrial workers), govt employees and (bizarrely) bank officials.

  8.  Maids have understood that destinies are written by themselves. Begging for rights is never the answer. Asserting is.

    Probably maids being women are naturally smarter  ... men are dumb idiots who never see that they are becoming slaves.

  9.  You dont have to worry dear. Indians are money worshipers. Financial losses drive home the lesson to Indians like nothing else ... no amount of corporeal punishments equals a penalty of even a single rupee, as far as Indians are concerned.

    Rohit would learn the ways in just one day, if his tardiness cost him a few bucks.

    On a different note ....  love of money is a deeply cultural thing for us. Perhaps there is no other nation/culture which equates money to God. You must have noticed it too ... no other loss makes us so deeply upset as financial losses. And this tells us a very nice way to chastise Indians. Forget about building jails which quickly get overcrowded. Have a penal system of heavy fines for most of the petty crimes. That is best way to make Indians law-abiding.

  10.  Hehe I don't think men are necessarily idiots, let's say that women have a natural gift at management and multitasking that men do not grasp easy. When you have a household to run you need to do several things at once, manage various things, take care of many individuals and not loose your sanity over it :)
    So yup back to the maids, these ladies are first and foremost household manager who work as a necessity, they have kids to send to school and feed, and while I'm pretty sure some could work full time in some factories and small labour but they probably know that cleaning other people houses is much more lucrative and help them manage their time much better in order to bring money home and still take care of the kids. Mine is a perfect example of this. She is smart, professional, knows how to read and write in hindi and maharti, she could probably get a job somewhere else, but she would loose her being in charge of her schedule and renumeration, she can't afford that to happen, and the best way not to let it happen is to be in charge :)

  11.  Yup I was telling DH the same, enforce fines that are so nasty that your fortune would suffer and you would see all the issues that plague India magically disappear :)
    I made that comment in regard of the governement raiding shady ultrasound clinics that tell people the gender of their unborn child, the clinic pays the fine, it's often low, but then these clics exist because there is a demand, if you fine the family that comes to get the crucial information in these shady clinics heftily such as oh I do't know fining them 10-205 of their total whealth, they might think twice about asking for the gender, a baby girl might not "rob" them of nearly as much as getting caught for it in the first place :)

  12. That's really sad about the labor laws here. I know the farmers have been fighting a lot lately trying to keep from sinking under unfair wages and such. It's just insane.

  13. He'll either learn when the tardiness costs him or I get so pissed I start kicking him out of bed early lol. He loves his sleep.

    I'm with you on the fines but I don't think it stops some activities. Just look at weddings. You have to pay high bribes just to get them registered yet ppl still get married. I know, bad example but it's not the only thing. People pay bribes all the time, it just has to be for something that's worth it to them. Money is always a good way to hurt people. You simply can't survive life without it -whether it be yours or someone elses.

  14. You've got that begging thing right. I know I tried it (not literally but I did try peacefully to get fair treatment here on a lot of issues) and it doesn't work at all. You have to be aggressive and demanding for a lot of things.

  15.  The owner of my flat in Navi Mumbai said about the the building management and getting your peace and rights respected "You have to be assertive to the point of agressiveness" that pretty much sums it all