July 18, 2008

Fate of Chennai's watchmen

Our watchman is gong to lose his job.
We have two of them doing the shifts and the older of them has to go.
The community in our apartment block decided his fate. They said he was getting on in years and could not climb the steps to the overhead watertank to see if all was well in there.
Fair enough. The old man was the one we 'recalled' when a younger chappie from the neighbourhood was 'dismissed' for being drunk during duty hours.

The bad news hasn't disturbed the old man.
What has been playing on his mind is the news that watchmen in the Vadapalani area have died in mysterious circumstances.
One had his head smashed in. Another sank into Purgatory. And the third was murdered . .

So our senior watchman is worried.
I don't think he is afraid of death.
He wonders why people would want to kill watchmen unless they come in the way of a burglary attempt or are witness to a gory murder.
He isn't unduly perturbed about losing this job. He will find another soon in Besant Nagar. Elderly couples who spend four months abroad hire them out to sit/sleep on their verandahs.
He knows he will not be paid what the 'agency' men get. That is four thousand rupees.

'Agency' men are the people who register with a security agency, are given uniforms and shoes and badges and caps and sent to apartment blocks where residents are willing to pay six/eight thousand rupees.
Most residents though will not pay for able-bodied security men. And when they pay peanuts they don't get monkeys but poor old men who drag on with their lives and are thankful for the leftover 'sambar sadam' some kindred households provide.

We still haven't understood what it takes to live in apartment campuses. Because we need water and elevators and lighting for the staircase, we are willing to pay a few hundreds for these bills.
And who will pay for repairs, renovation and whitewashing and painting of common facilities?
There isn't any balance in the 'sinking fund' for all that.
Now, can anyone tell me what a 'sinking fund' is?

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