He (and fortunately all of us in the room) talks Hindi, so it wasn’t difficult to understand his conversations. Very short hair, firm athletic physique, hard hitting palm, and his attire made me think of him being in army or ITBP force. It was 8:30, and upon asked by the cook, he told that he got late as he had to return back the earth-mover JCB to some distant place, and walk back from there. This had put me in more curiosity about his work. I thought, bluntly asking his name or being curious about his job may not feel good, so I remained silent and kept on listening the talks around. Soon, the bus driver broke a political conversation to which both the bus conductor and the cook jumped in, whilst, this guy kept silent. I found a good gap, and immediately cracked a question to him. Aren’t you interested in politics? I asked, looking at him. Soon he said that he’s not interested, the cook intervened and said “Is bar tabka nai mila na” (he didn’t receive a recognition this time) followed by a loud laugh.
I did smell the irony in this, and showed my curiosity towards knowing more about it. Whilst this man burrowed his head deep inside, carrying a fake smile on his face (which showed his disappointment) the cook carried on explaining that BRO (Border Road Organization) is designated to clear off the snow every year in Spiti valley (of which Pooh is a small remote village). He continued, that however, BRO gets active in prime areas of Spiti Valley, Pooh remains the least bothered, hence they ask local people to help them out in clearing the snow in return of a minimum daily wage. The bus driver also joined in, and said that local people clear snow all day manually, and earth-mover JCB(s) are only given for clearing hard snow enroute. Clogging snow on road means no traffic, which is a very big issue for these remote villages of Himachal. The issues can range from food, necessary household utensils, schools, and medical emergencies as well. The national newspaper The Times of India carried an article on 19 March 2017, as how local villagers of Spiti valley complained about BRO being inefficient in their duties, and did cost 2 lives due to medical emergencies. The cook continued, that this man, among many local villagers, help BRO cleaning up snow from roads every year, and he received recognition from BRO and state government for last two years. Just while I was pondering as how much of a snow a single person could have cleared, I heard the cook asking the man “bata-bata kitna hataya iss bar” (tell, how much of snow you cleared this time). The person, after a long time, raised his head and again with a laugh and proud on his face, answered 4kms. The cook was a good story teller indeed. Soon he made a point, that for last 2 years he did 8kms, which is why he received the recognition. I asked if the recognition is in form of certificate, or a medal? This person replied that its a certificate and 1000 INR awarded to the one who tops in clearing snow, each year.
In year 2017, when a barber costs 100 bucks, and petrol costs 73/ltr, how much of value is an award of 1000 rupee for the one who devotes himself for weeks of work? Anyhow this chap does not seem to care about money, but only the recognition.
He adds, I’m sure next year it would be me. To this, I was very glad, and immediately I got a hint of the life of such people. They just fight for their own achievement and glory, irrespective of the fact that they are recognised by other people or not.