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Portraits of inequality

business Updated: Dec 17, 2011 23:23 IST

Hindustan Times
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‘I relax with a glass of wine at a lounge’

Ashish Arora, 33
PR executive, Mumbai

At 6 am on a week day, the alarm goes off in Ashish Arora’s apartment on the 15th floor in a tower in Lower Parel. Arora stretches and reaches for his smart phone. “I browse through Twitter the moment I wake up to check what is happening in the world,” he says. Next he browses through newspapers and heads to the gym for a game of squash or a quick swim. At 8.30 am, he gets back, dresses up and drives to office.

Arora completed his post graduation in communications from a Mumbai-based college eleven years ago and ever since has been working in the public relations industry. Today, he heads the Mumbai division of a global PR firm. “Since liberalisation, India has seen many foreign brands enter the market.” His company, too, set up operations in India in 1996 because of the opportunities here.

After work, Arora goes to a lounge for a glass of wine and a gourmet meal with his friends. “A glass of wine at the end of a hectic day is good,” he says. When he travels around the city he sees the inequalities that exist in spite of the growth he has been a part of. “Lakhs live in slums in Mumbai without basic infrastructure or health care. The government should launch free vocational courses so that youngsters can learn skills and get jobs.”

—Radhika Raj

‘Govinda’s films make me forget poverty’

Bipin Valmiki, 19
Office boy, Mumbai

At 5 am, Bipin Valmiki, 19, walks out of his 100 square feet shanty; careful not to wake up his mother and two younger brothers sprawled on a mattress on the floor. A ten-inch television set stands on a plank suspended from the wall. In the three-feet wide lane outside, lined with gutters, Valmiki starts his early morning workout — crunches followed by a quick jog at a nearby playground. “It is my dream to be an actor. I have to stay fit,” he smiles. Till that dream comes true, Valmiki works as an office boy at a private firm where he delivers packages, serves tea and does other odd jobs.

When he was 11, his father passed away leaving behind a family of six — two daughters, three sons and a wife. While his mom started working as a maid, Valmiki quit school to work as a delivery boy for a neighbourhood grocer. For eight years, Valmiki worked double shifts to pay for his brothers’ education and save for his sisters’ marriages. But life got better when three years ago, he got a job as an office boy. He now supports his mother and two brothers with a Rs 6,000 salary.

After office, Valmiki makes his way to an English speaking class. Doesn’t he get tired? “To forget my poverty, I watch a Govinda movie.”

—Radhika Raj