From the heat and dust of Katua in Burdwan to the snow-clad valley of Sangla in Himachal Pradesh’s Kinnaur district. That is a tourist’s dream journey in summer. But Tarak Saha took this journey one winter ago in search of his dream job.
Born to a street-food vendor father and a home-maker mother, Tarak’s childhood was spent like most other boys in a village near Katua in Burdwan district. Despite the family’s limited earnings, Tarak finished his higher secondary exams from a local school and decided to start contributing to the family’s coffers soon after.
Opportunity came in the form of a job in a hotel at the foothills of the KinnaurKailashmountainin Himachal Pradesh, a state about which Tarak knew very little. The only consolation was that the hotel was owned and run by another resident of Katua, TarunSaha, who was a known face.
Today, Tarak is into the second year of his job and he enjoys every moment of it. Sporting a regular red sweater, he runs around ensuring the comfort of all the hotel guests. “I like meeting new people, different kinds of people,” he told this reporter. What about the biting cold? “The first year was very tough when I could barely move in this cold weather, especially during snow. Now I am used to it,” he says.
Tarak works for nine months in year. He goes back every December and returns to his workplace every March. “November is the toughest month here when everything freezes, including the water in the pipes. We bathe once in two days, usually with bottled mineral water or melted ice,” he says, adding with a twinkle in his eyes, “and that is quite an expensive bath”.
Twenty-year-old Tarak gets paid a decent salary for 10 months in a year for 9 months of work. When he joined, he was getting paid Rs 3000 a month. Now, with some experience under his belt, he earns more. Boys like him earn between Rs 3000 to Rs 5000 per month. In the peak tourist season, he could earn an additional amount of Rs 1000 or so per month from tips. His accommodation, food and smaller needs of everyday life are all paid for. “I am able to send the entire amount to my parents,” he says.
So, what’s the best part of the job? “We get to meet a lot of foreigners who come here especially during the winter months. And we have to speak to them in English,” he says. Do you know English? “I am learning on the job. That is a bonus,” Tarak signs off.
Saswati Chakravarty/Sangla Valley/Himachal Pradesh
This article appeared in Uttor issue 2 – vol 3 – June 1-16, 2012