‘Sunday lunch is the best part of my week’
Subhash Gupta, 31, earns so little as an office assistant that he is forced to work two jobs, supplementing his income of Rs. 6,500 a month by delivering newspapers.
In all, he works more than 12 hours a day, and has no weekly day off.
The Class 9 dropout starts each day at 5.30 am, dressing hurriedly so that he can leave his one-bedroom Andheri (East) home, built under the slum rehabilitation scheme, at 6.
He heads to his consignment pick-up point, then spends the next hour cycling through his neighbourhood delivering newspapers. This boosts his earnings to R1,500, just enough to support his wife and three-year-old son.
“From vegetables to bus and train fares, everything is becoming more expensive,” he says, “Yet our income has remained the same. I often worry about how I will support my family in the long-run.”
By 7.45 am, Gupta is back home for a breakfast of tea and biscuits. At 8.45 he sets off again, walking the 10-minutes distance to his office to clock in by 9.
“I consider myself very lucky to live so close to my office,” he says. “At least I don’t have to spend on a commute.”
At 9 am, he unlocks the 550-sq-ft public relations company office where, for six years, he has served as Man Friday to a staff of four.
He then dusts all the office furniture, swipes the computers and makes his first batch of tea for the staff.
For the next four hours he is on his feet, multitasking as he makes tea, files papers, updates inventory records for stationary and pantry provisions, replenishes supplies and makes his way about town delivering letters and parcels.
At 1 pm, he takes a break for lunch — a tiffin of sabzi and roti packed for him by his wife, a homemaker.
At 2 pm, it’s time to start delivering documents and parcels to media offices across the city. “On an average day, I shuttle between Fort, Lower Parel, Mahim and sometimes even Goregoan and Borivli,” says Gupta.
Back at the office by 4 pm, it’s time to start brewing another batch of tea.
At 5 pm, he conducts a final check on documents filed and, at 6 pm, locks up for the day.
“I often have to work overtime. If the staff stays late, I stay late. But I have no complaints,” says Gupta. “The staff treat me extremely well and hardly ever raise their voices at me, except when they are under a lot of stress.”
By 6.30 pm, Gupta is back home, where he spends some time with his wife and son, then sits down to a dinner of roti, sabzi, dal and rice at 9.30 pm while watching Hindi TV soaps, before turning in for the night at 10.
“I like the fact that the work is stress-free, but that also means it gets monotonous,” he says. “Still, I am earning more now than I did as a mechanic with a home appliances company.”
On Gupta’s day off from the office, Sunday, he delivers newspapers and magazines till 1 pm, then returns home to a hot lunch of chicken curry and rice. “This is the best part of my week,” he says, smiling.
After a short nap, he heads to a local park or mall with his family and ends the day with dinner at a streetside stall.
His annual 30-day vacation is the only time he gets a real break, returning to his village in Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh, or taking his family on vacation to a nearby beach resort or hill station.
“This is the best time of the year for me,” says Gupta. “I look forward to doing something different.”
(This weekly feature explores the lives of those unseen Mumbaiites essential to your day)