Oh my job is tough!!

There must have zillion times the thought comes to my mind that “Oh my job is tough”.

There is the neighborhood small shop (Kirana/potti kadai) at the end of the street I live. I frequent the shop daily for over 20 years. This is 6×5 feet shop stacked with all sorts of stuff from chocolates to soap etc. Also there is a stove to make tea or coffee for customers. This shop does not have electricity which means no ventilation or fan. Imagine being inside this tin shack on a hot summer day. There hardly space to sit comfortably. This is run by a man all through this years. He must be pretty old at least 70 now.

Look at his working / operating conditions.

1.He opens the shop at 5 in the morning. He needs 30 mins everyday to setup things as he needs to layout stuff. He needs to be up and running by 5.30 am to service customers on their way to work from laborers to execs. Meeting their needs of tea,coffee,cigarettes etc.

2.He needs the same time to close shop. He starts closing down by 10.30 pm. Must be he reaches home by 12 and would be lucky to catch a 5 hour sleep before he is back next day morning to open the shop.

3.The shop is open on all days even weekdays. Lately I see it closed on Sunday afternoons must be the man is really getting old. The fact is his being a “commodity commodity” business he loses customer loyalty just like that he is under pressure. In fact I have myself switched loyalty at times because once I started going to a different shop on Sundays, the same continues on weekdays as well. I need to take extra effort to remind myself to go to this shop.

4.There is no lunch time or break time for this guy. As there is no one else to step in for him.

5.At times I see his daughter helping him out. Nowadays she is there daily must be because this guy is getting old.

6.He can’t call in sick. There is no one to call. 🙁

7.He can’t take a vacation or go for functions as there is no substitute. ( HR issues )

8.He does not get paid on time. Believe there are a lot of guys who keep “account” with him which means they buy on credit. Not to mention some cops/govt employees who can think it their liberty to bump a few cigarettes/tea from this poor roadside vendor. (Financial issues )

9.Additionally he is at the mercy of the distributors who push him for doing enough sales. I believe this shopkeeper has sales target to meet, otherwise the cigarette distributor will not give him stock next time. (Sales pressure )

10.Within his shack he has to stock sufficient quantity of all small stuff without over stacking. Am sure he can teach a thing or too about inventory management to the “Supply Chain” folks.

The next instance was I on my family vacation to Ladakh an year ago. We were going to Pangong lake this was a tough ride of 6 hours from Leh where we were staying. This was in end of May.According to the folks there that was pleasant weather. I am from Chennai so any cold is “COLD” for me :-). This was a tough journey even though we were in a Swaraj Mazda and fully covered in winter clothing.Soon we were riding along the  straight long road with absolutely no life in sight this includes trees or shrubs as well. Of course, humans or shelters where out of the question. The line of sight would have been at least 20 kms.

We had been riding along this deserted stretch for an hour after getting off the main highway. We saw 2 figures in the horizon.At first I thought it was some animal or clothes fluttering on a stick ahead of us. We drove for another good 5-10 mins before we came closer only to realize they were 2 women walking with a basket like a cooler box.I was thinking when I saw -“Hmm cooler box here, what are they carrying beer? or maybe they carry stuff to keep it hot”. The driver stopped and chatted with them. He turned and requested if he could give them a lift.I said-“Yes”.Both of got in and sat down on the floor of the vehicle as the seats were already full with passengers.We were a group traveling.They traveled along with us for at-least 25 mins talking with the driver in Ladakhi( the local dialect) which we could not understand.They were chatting cheerfully cracking jokes etc.Then the vehicle stopped in the middle of nowhere.I was wondering why, when the driver just got up and opened the door. The 2 women turned to us gave a small bow with a BIG smile and got down. Ignore the tents in the photo below they are makeshift.

I was wondering what the hell they were doing, getting down in the middle of nowhere.As the vehicle started to move again I asked the driver why they got down there.He said they needed to walk to a village tangential to the road for another 15 kms.I leaned out of the window to see a small track to walk, heading into the mountains.”It will take them 3 hours to get the village”-the driver said with a smile. Wow!! my head was spinning. I don’t how long or how far they were walking till we gave them a lift.But I know for sure that they are going to walk for another 3 hours. We dropped them around 4 pm and am sure it will be night before they reach the village and that too with cold and winds. My heart literally stopped at that thought.Bear in mind there are no trees or shelters to take rest ABSOLUTELY NOTHING but the cold winds to keep them company not even a rock to take shelter for 5 mins. When I recovered I asked the driver-“Do they work in Leh and are going back to their village?”. What the driver told just blew me away and my so-called sense of (ego/pride/professional commitment)  whatever, I don’t know!”.It was a humbling experience.

Those women where with the government medical service.They were the health nurses working for the Govt Hospital in Leh. This is the nearest recognized medical facility.There are some military camps with doctors which locals can use in case of emergency.But for any serious ailments they have to travel to Ladakh. The woman’s job was to carry vaccines into the village and give vaccinations to the babies.This includes vaccines like small-pox to polio. These women it seems spend 2 days to reach a village.They get some small travel allowance but that does not help as there is no transport.The statements-“The cab did not come on time/The cab was dirty/The cab was noisy etc..” made by colleagues came to my mind.I too had those thoughts at times but never encouraged it.I remember the unreserved travel in coaches which I used to make during my college days. But these government staff and their sincerity in doing the work blew my ego/pride about my professional sky high.What I did was in cozy air conditioned cabs/hotels/offices is nothing compared to the harsh conditions they faced. They stay overnight in the village then comeback to Leh to collect supplies and head to another village.They don’t have any government assigned vehicles.They hit the road and if they are lucky hitch a ride with tourists or military vehicles passing along.Don’t forget the risk of women are taking by hitching a ride with strange men in deserted roads.The harsh conditions of weather , the insecurity of conditions they work under is really mind blowing.They don’t obviously get paid even a fraction of what we get paid.They work hard and sincerely.Thanks to that even our government works in those far flung areas.Nobody would even know if these women dumped the medicines in a garbage and went home and slept.But they did not. To me personally there people are famous  icons, leaders who inspire me. Along with those list with equal priority are the folks like the ones above who motivate me about commitment,hard work and sincerity.Every the thought of “Tough job or Tough life” comes to mind. I have a mental picture of these people appearing before me with a smile and asking me-“Kumaran, did you just say ‘Tough’?”.

P.S: This is a blog I have been writing for a long time in installments. During one of the recent days I was a the shop and stuck up a conversation with the lady. Turns out she is his wife and not daughter. There must be at least 15 years difference between them which was common during those days.Now to add to the bleakness above. She is managing the shop now because the old man is having trouble with his memory forget credits given, does not reorder inventory on time and to top it that guy has a drinking problem. Came to know they run on loan for operating expense at a rate of 5 Rs to a 100 per day. That works out to whopping 150% per month. This is locally called “Thandal”. Looks like the women is left holding the fort. Woman fighting in the middle of Metro to a women walking in the cold deserted roads I salute/respect you. A special thanks to these unsaid people who motivate me and help me feel good about the life I have been blessed with all along.


  1. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said December 25, 2010, 7:38 pm:

    Superb post Kumaran. Including the pics is a nice touch. It does pay to remind ourselves about how blessed we are when people like this shopkeeper and his wife have to go through so much trouble for a meager income.

  2. Quote

    Very Nice post Kumaran . We have to look at people like them to get ourselves up and running when we think of our job being tough.There is inspiration everywhere from our Parents (Who wakes before me and sleeps after me day in and day out) to Shopkeepers like them.

  3. Quote
    Joe (subscribed) said December 25, 2010, 8:15 pm:

    Awesome and Inspiring post Kumaran. I wonder what would have happened to those babies if these nurses had said “Oh my job is tough” and gave up. Truly remarkable example of grit, courage and sincerity. The health nurses at Leh are unsung heroes.

  4. Quote

    Very humbling and awe inspiring. Guess it is pockets of dedication and selfless acts that holds the society together.

  5. Quote
    Augustin Prasanna said December 25, 2010, 10:09 pm:

    Inspiring Post…

  6. Quote
    Kavitha (subscribed) said December 25, 2010, 10:14 pm:

    Very touching post Kumaran and indeed an eye opener …Thanks so much for sharing…….The present place and the present time that we are in seems to be the best as given by God. So guess got to be thankful to him for the same !

  7. Quote

    These are unsung heores who make the Indian economy.

  8. Quote

    Super post Kumaran.
    “Tough” is a state we define between our ears, not with reference to the real world … until someone puts it in perspective, like you’ve done superbly.

  9. Quote
    Archana Madhubala said December 25, 2010, 11:46 pm:

    This is an amazing post, makes one realize what a luxury our workplace is. Thanks for sharing this post, an eye-opener 🙂

  10. Quote

    Brilliant post! Need these to remind us of the comfort and luxury that we enjoy.

  11. Quote

    Very nice post Kumaran. Reminds you that life is all about perspective. And blogs/stories such as these reminds you of what is important in life. Reminds you of the saying “I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet.”

  12. Quote

    Excellent Post Kumaran, these part of society has real life experience and from them we can learn lot of things.

  13. Quote


    Thanks and pics does give the real feeling. This blog is more a note to self. If ever anyone sees me cribbing about my job. Please take a printout of this blog and slam on it on my face.

    This blog is really a selfish post for selfish reasons.

  14. Quote


    Yes Parents are ones who do it more often that not and we miss them.

    Thanks for the nice words. I wish I could have spoken them to know what they tell to thmesleves when they go about doing that.

    Well said that is what exactly holding us not defintely Kalmadi.

  15. Quote



  16. Quote


    The present place and time is important. If you do get a chance do read this book http://www.flipkart.com/power-now-eckhart-tolle-guide-book-8190105914 . Pretty heavy but is good. It has to reference to religion or god.

  17. Quote


    yes absolutely Unsung,unknown and at times victimized hereos as well.

    Yes thanks. and please do whack me if ever I utter “tough job” even after I stone drunk!! 🙂

  18. Quote

    Archana ,
    You put it right if look at carefully our workplaces are actually a luxury.. A/C cabins, cafeteria, comfy chairs etc.

    This is post is also to remind to myself a lot of times this reality. The biggest it feels so good to crib that we just do it.

    Thanks, that refernce is a good one. On a tangential note with times & technolgy a man with no feet is better placed than a man with feet. Checkout this article http://www.engadget.com/2008/01/17/prosthetic-limbed-runner-disqualified-from-olympics/ . 🙂

    Thanks and these kind of insipirations from people around you is always there. It is just that we are too pre-occupied to even look.

  19. Quote

    I’ve observed that when you write blog posts for yourself, it comes out better – judging from the reactions to this post on twitter and the comments section. Good work.

  20. Quote

    Superb Post Kumaran, many thanks for this.

  21. Quote

    Thanks Sukumar. Will keep trying to write more.

  22. Quote


    Thanks, glad you liked it.

  23. Quote

    Eye opener!!!

  24. Quote

    Hi Kumaran:

    Very nicely written – straight-from-the-heart style post!


    An aside:
    On the question of reaching medical aid to far-flung places though, Melinda Gates had some very interesting comment about Coca Cola being able to distribute Coke to these places…and why the Government and NGOs find it so hard – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlUS6KE67Vs

  25. Quote
    Saravanan (subscribed) said December 29, 2010, 9:42 am:


    Excellent post!!! I can really feel the humbling experience you might have undergone. Very nicely written, message goes straight to the heart.


  26. Quote


    I knew with Pepsi was that the pvt operators needed presence. and Thanks for the video.

    Yes it was. Thanks.

  27. Quote

    Mind-blowing post, Kumaran.

  28. Quote

    Thanks Priya.

  29. Quote
    Vamsi (subscribed) said January 3, 2011, 5:57 pm:

    I am speechless. Next time when I complain about working conditions, I will surely remember this gem of a post. Great Kumaran.


  30. Quote
    Kumaran said January 4, 2011, 6:14 am:

    Thanks Vamsi. Glad you found it useful. 🙂

  31. Quote
    Rama Sudheer Vanapalli (subscribed) said January 8, 2011, 11:49 pm:

    Really great and inspiring post Mr.Kumaran.
    You once again remained the fact that we need to learn a lot from the surrounding and the people near us rather than the so called great book. Really its a great post SIR.

  32. Quote

    Thanks Rama. You are correct we so manu living books around if only we could see them. 🙂

  33. Quote

    Superb post Kumaran. After a very long time, I read one very good post. Thanks for sharing. Yes, our country have many such people like what you have pointed out.

    Rich should learn from the poor! They are our unpaid gurus!

  34. Quote

    Thanks Karthee. Glad you liked it.

    BTW your team does good work. Keep it going.

  35. Quote

    Hi really a eye opener. There are hundreds of such lessons to be learnt for us each day, only if we look around. We need to keep our eyes, ears and mind open instead of shutting them out by our frustations and complaints. Nicely writtern article and the message was communicated well.

  36. Quote

    Superb Motivational Post! What we live is nothing compared to this people! These are real heros who are lost in this glorified world! Wish you could have post pics of these heros which each one of us should have taken to every home in the world! Long Live these heros!!

  37. Quote

    Ranga – Thanks, like the part “shutting them out by our frustations “. :- ) We are so lost in our own minds to see what is happenig around us.

    Sri – Wish I had taken photos of those women. 🙁 The shopkeeper is on VenkatNarayan Road T.Nagar in Chennai next to TTD temple. But this story is true for most of bunk shopkeepers in every neighbourhood.

Leave a Comment



Formatting Your Comment

The following XHTML tags are available for use:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

URLs are automatically converted to hyperlinks.