Dr Jay Dubashi
GLANCING through newspapers one morning, I chanced upon an announcement for recruitment of teachers for an engineering institute in Noida. There were scores of positions for professors, associate professors and others, down to lectures, and the salaries mentioned were so astronomical, I could not believe my eyes whether they were monthly salaries or yearly.
For instance, the gross salary for a professor was mentioned as Rs 136,000, which sounded fair enough if they are annual figures, but actually they are monthly salaries. A professor would make something like Rs 150,000 a month after a few years, which, I calculated, would be the salary of a viceroy, if not the king himself. A poor lecturer would make half that a month, nothing to sneeze at, in these times of low salaries for the common man and high unemployment. A professor would actually make Rs 5,000 (Rupees Five Thousand) per day, which, thirty or forty years ago would be the salary of a full secretary to the Government of India per month, and on which he used to live like a lord.
Since I am out of touch with day-to-day developments, I had no idea that professors earned so much-these days. If this is what they made, the salaries of business executives must be of Himalayan dimensions. A junior business executive, just out of a business college and with an MBA, now probably makes Rs 2 lakh a month, if not more, although he has no experience at all. All he knows is how to operate a computer and perhaps some case histories once taught at Harvard School in the US. On the strength of these accomplishments, the boy – what else can he be but a boy? – starts his life on Rs 2 lakh a month, maybe ten times or twenty times what his father made when he got his first job.
My first teacher, a dhoti-clad middle-aged man, was paid three rupees a month – exactly what you read, three rupees! Oh this princely amount, he ran his household, which included a young wife, a small son, an aged mother. This was in my village in Goa, and my uncle, who looked after our educational needs, took care of the family, for there was only one school in the village, and only one teacher.
But the man was a gem, more than a match for all the Ph.Ds of today put together. He taught me my first Jh x.ks’kk;ue% with which we always began our lessons, he also taught me how to stand up straight and address a class of ten children, salute the flag in the morning, sing Vande Mataram, and never speak to elders unless spoken to first. I also leanred v] vk] b] bZ] and to add and subtract and multiplications and divisions, which I still use in my exercises. When I went to Lodnon, my teacher asked me who had taught me to multiply and divide, and I said my teacher, and he was stunned. I could actually do the sums faster than he could.
From my village school, I went to the main town, where a suited and booted gentleman taught me English – and also Portuguese – but I felt he was not half as good as my teacher from the village. The suited and booted gentleman taught me how to say, good morning and good afternoon, and play football and sometimes cricket, and eat with knife and fork. I don’t think he earned more than 50 rupees a month, though he was a government teacher and could speak English like an Englishman.
From the town, I made it to the main city of Bombay to enrol myself in my first college, and came into contact with my first professor – a real professor, down from Cambridge, with a Cambridge degree and an accent you could cut with a knife. But he had a famous pedigree – he was actually a grandson or great – grandson of William Wordsworth, the poet, and he spoke just like a poet, with every syllable measured to the last letter, and long stories of his family and his grandfather, and his Austin car, which was always short of petrol during the war. It was he who introduced me to English language, and, of course, to English literature, and English teachers in London, who made me feel at home, and who taught me good manners. I don’t think my teacher ever earned more than Rs 1,000 a month, which was, of course, big money in those days, and was more than what my uncle put together earned in those days.
In London, my first professor, was so poor he often borrowed money from us, but he was a devoted teacher and he taught me economics and politics, though not in that order. One of my teachers was Prof. Harold Laski, who taught us a class in I forgot what, but although he was a brilliant man, he was more interested in real politics – he was chairman of Labour Party and always talked about goings on in the Parliament, which at that time, didn’t interest me as much.
My first salary, or rather my salary on the first job, was an apprentice engineer, though I was more of an economist than an engineer, but my employers did not know that, and I was hired, through one of my teachers as a junior engineer, whose main job was to keep drawings in order, bring tea, and accasionally some sandwiches from outside. For this I was paid five pounds a week, or about twenty pounds a month, or Rs 250 a month. Fancy doing a doctorate in engineering and being paid Rs 250 a month, just enough to keep body and soul together, though there was not much of either, and sometimes body was more important than soul!
I don’t think in my entire career, I have been paid more than, say, Rs 3,000 or Rs 4,000 a month, which are fairly large sums, but a piffle compared to the kind of sums that are being handed out these days. What do the young men and women do with this kind of cash? I suppose they spend it on brand now clothes every now and then, parties at five-star restaurants, motor cars and foreign trips, and rarely, if at all, new books. A son of my friend is a computer engineer and the only books he ever reads are Sydney Sheldon – I had never heard of this man until I saw the book – who is supposed to be a famous screen-writer and makes millions from his books and his scripts. Even my dog would write better, if he were taught to write!
I have nothing against these computer men and women who spend a lifetime sitting before their machines, pressing buttons and watching characters jump on the screen, and at the end of the month, collecting their lakhs of rupees, before splurging them on the nearest boutique or five-star restaurant. People like me, who were taught by Rs 3-per month teachers and Rs 1,000 a month professor have never been to a boutique, let alone a five-star restaurant. But the world has changed, and so have habits and likes and dislikes, and you are living in a world that seems meaningless to us but which has been created by these very same people who take home tens of thousands of rupees or dollars every month, who think in millions and deal in millions, what can you say but Good Luck to You All!