The Ripple Effect: Effects Of A Strike On Common Man

Posted on July 30, 2012 in Specials

By Neeraj Ramchandran:

It is a fashion these days, to employ strikes with reckless abandon, as an instrument of collective bargaining or arm-twisting, so to say. But have the junta gone too far with it?

A striking fact about strikes is that there is no strike-out. Forgive me for a lousy effort to strike-up a conversation, but lately I have just not been able to strike-off this word from my mind, and my life.

It all started on the eventful Monday morning of the new financial year, when, like most office-goers in the country, I was all excited and pumped-up for the day to begin. Going by my usual habit, I mapped out the entire to-do list for the day in my mind while having breakfast. “Pay electricity bills, negotiate that order with vendors at office, pick up my parents from the airport “, Wow, the last one was reason enough to double my excitement and I marched out of my house with a spring in my step singing “It’s a beautiful day” to myself.

I have a bad habit of not noticing the intricacies of Indian roads when I am excited about something and I learnt about it the hard way. Before I knew it, I found myself on the ground with my elbow twisted away from its normal position. I had stumbled over pothole no. 4(FYI there are 5 potholes in the street leading up to the main road from my house and I have labelled them, in line with the clichéd corporate ritual of 5S) which appeared to have widened after last week’s rains. Realizing that there was no other option I called in sick at the office. With my elbow hurting terribly I walked to the nearest auto stand and summoned an autowallah. Not budging from his place he replied “We are having a strike against the petrol price rise today.” To my utter bad luck, there were no cycle rickshaws in my area.

After my half-an-hour, wait in the scorching Delhi sun for any available means of transport went in vain, I finally decided to walk to the nearest hospital. As I approached the hospital building, I saw a big crowd that looked like Doctors and staff gathered outside, holding banners and shouting anti-government slogans. On probing one of the gentlemen, I learnt that doctors throughout the city were on a full day strike against their low wages, which for me, meant that I wouldn’t be getting my elbow fixed any sooner. After one hour and what appeared to be at least 40 frantic phone calls to most people falling under my six degrees of separation, I found a private clinic which was open and got my elbow bandaged. Minutes later, my mom called me to tell that her flight had got delayed due to a strike by the airport authority staff. Dazed by the triple whammy, I slowly paced my steps towards my friend Ajay’s house which happened to be in the neighbourhood. Not noticing my bandage and busy devouring popcorn from a huge bucket, he invited me in to see the ongoing IPL match. I collapsed on his sofa set, tired from my ordeal. “Hey look!! Yousuf’s on strike now” he exclaimed, to which my spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment reply was, “What? He too?” My friend gave me a weird look and I shrugged, not having the will to explain.

I heaved a sigh of relief when I finally got to meet my parents at the airport later in the day. Easily spotting my effort to conceal my trepidation beneath my smile, as all mothers do, my mom asked “What happened? You look terribly fatigued”. “Long story”, I said, trying to downplay the entire turn of events that day, while a voice inside my head murmured,  “India became a democracy, that’s what happened.”