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Asia » India » Jammu & Kashmir » Ladakh » Leh
August 5th 2011
Published: August 30th 2017
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Geo: 34.1803, 77.5801

Better late than never, the last reflection of the time in the subcontinent.

We in the so called developed world have a very rigid view of work time and leisure time. I know it's a gross generalisation to say that we all work 9 to 5 Monday to Friday and this doesn't take into account those who do shift work or perhaps those who run their own businesses, those that work in part time or casual positions or people who are on call. But realistically the majority of workers do so during what's commonly called "business hours". In the less developed world the concept of work and what is considered a reasonable source of income is completely different. Shops don't have set hours of opening and closing if you own a shop chances are that you and your family also live in the shop or perhaps a room or 2 that is attached to it. This means that every member of the family who is capable of counting has a responsibility to serve in the shop from the time you get up in the morning until you all go to bed at night, every day of the year. It is not unusual to go to an establishment for breakfast and be served by a 10 year old child ( who is generally but not always the offspring of the proprietor) and not see an adult at all. They are more than likely out the back cooking and cleaning. Obviously this cuts down the wages that need to be paid but at the same time it teaches the children that they have a role in helping for the greater good of the family. In the west children have it pretty easy in developing countries children are expected to contribute from a very early age, once you are old enough to pick up a baby then it becomes your job to look after that child so that either your elder siblings or your parents are free to get on with more important tasks. Take water for example, a lot of houses and businesses don't have mains water plumbed straight to them, instead there are several government established water outlets. These consisted of a big concrete block with a couple of taps poking out of it in the busier parts of town or simply a tap protruding out of a wall in lesser areas. What this means is that if you want water at home you have to go and get it. So every morning and afternoon these water outlets become a social gathering point mainly it must be said for women and children whose responsibility it seems to be to ensure there is adequate water for cooking and cleaning to get them through each day. You see small children under 10 years of age out in public without any adult supervision and with a very import task, they will fill whatever receptacle they have bought with them, then carry it home. Every day sometimes twice a day and often carrying up to 20 litres, you don't hear one of them whinge or complain they just get on with it. There are also the men and women who carry baskets on their back with a strap that runs under the basket and across the forehead filled with fruit and vegetables for sale, they wander the streets stopping at houses and shops selling their wares as they go. These baskets I have been told can weigh up to 50kg, I don't know too many people in the west who would be capable of carrying that weight a short distance let alone all day. It seems that the people of this region have over time developed a very efficient way of transporting heavy things and what surprised me the most was that they don't use their arms instead they use their heads, literally. I have seen whole piles of stones, 40kg bags of sand, 50 kg bags of cement, concrete bricks in fact anything that can be transported will be using this method. This has a lot to do with the terrain that they live in, its hilly or even mountainous with very few roads and you need your arms free to maintain your balance or you run the risk of falling from a great height. Alternatively you might find a small treasure (a tasty morsel for instance) on your travels and need to pick it up but don't want to impede your progress. Distance, terrain, weather or the weight of the article is no deterrent, in a lot of places and to a lot of people if they want something to get to their village or house there is no alternative but to carry it there. I have been to the top of mountains at 3000 meters where shops stock everything from beer to chocolate bars and everything in that shop has been carried for hours up a steep narrow path, you can forgive the proprietor for charging a little extra for his goods under these circumstances. There is a dark side to some of the services provided in some developing countries, usually in little eateries that exist all over the country. Quite often apart from the usual husband and wife who cook and take the orders you will see a young girl doing the cleaning up and washing the dishes. Generally this child is between 8 and 15 years old and obviously not a member of the family. This child has more than likely been sold by her family for sometimes as little as 40,000 Nepali Rupees that's the equivalent of around $500 Australian dollars. This child is often not aware of what arrangements have been made and may have been told they are going to a new city to gain some training before being sent off to school. In reality the child has been purchase for the purpose of work, essentially they are slaves, they are not paid a wage and are expected to do whatever duties they are instructed too. By the time they reach the age of about 15 and they have come to the realisation of what has happened to them, they have become a financial burden on those that have acquired them, they are often cast out. They cannot go back to their families they have no education and they have no prospects of further employment. With a bit of luck they may get married but with a grim outlook the future of these children is not a happy one. Another horrific practice is the selling of young girls into the sex trade, they are the sad product of an industry that prays on the unfortunate circumstances of many families and inflicts untold misery on thousands of unsuspecting young girls.

Oddly enough though in the developing countries you don't see people stressed out, running because they are late for work or complaining that they have to race around to get everything done. In fact you see people that have time to stop and talk or sit and share a cup of tea, groups of men and women congregating while going about their daily business. Once the necessary duties of gathering water and food have been seen to then there is time to catch up on gossip or fix the world's problems. While it is true that we in the developed world enjoy a higher standard of living we are also slaves to our lifestyles most people have high debt and are working so hard that they have very little time for pleasure or the pursuit of hobbies. While those in the developing countries deserve the right to improve their lives and enjoy the benefits of advances in technology, we in the so called developed world have a lot to learn from countries that have had the opportunity to hang on to the simpler approach to life and survival and put more stock in social occasions and family connections. Wealth is measured in a totally different way.

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