Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The blue-white divide?

I was out having beer with some of the grad students in the department. We were talking about this and that and in the course of it I realized that the guy I was talking to, a second year grad student, was actually older than I was. When I asked him about it, he said he had worked as a car mechanic for a few years out of high school before he decided to go to college. That reminded me of the fact that this was in no way unique. In my grad class, I had friends that had been furniture movers, construction workers and picture framers before they decided to go to college or go back to college as was the case with a couple of these guys. And the one striking thing about this is that not one of the dudes in question was desi, they were Korean, Chinese, American or European in each case. I mean, in India, the blue-collar white-collar divide is complete is n’t it? The only case of older desi grad students we come across are usually people that took an unambiguously white-collar job right out of college and then changed their mind for some reason or the other and came back to school. Strange.

6 comments:

ada-paavi!!!! said...

I work in a white collar job, have a white collar job.
am passionate about a blue collar job, ie repairing royal enfields in india. i am called crazy, ppl asked me why i do it part time after a masters.

Such is india. The pleasure of doing something with ones own hands is underappreciated in a market of surplus labour. sigh.

CuriousCat said...

Wow! Super Vatsan sir! I have never known anyone overcome the divide in India before! As you put it, people just do not appreciate it. Super!

Sreekumar said...

Yeah, a little bit of work (physical work) doesn't hurt anyone. And also the kind of experience that you get in a blue collar work is very different. I have never done one, but after coming to the US, and seeing the UGs drive busses, serve pizzas etc, I feel that this is a part of education which most of us do miss out on.

ada-paavi said...

never known anyone who has overcome the divide?

there are numerous hobby mechanics in madras, especially for bullets. work 9-5 in white collar and repair own bike/friends bike etc. but then they are a rarity!!

CuriousCat said...

@ Sreekumar : Yes, I feel the same way, that I somehow missed out an important experience beacuse of it.

@ vatsan sir: I just never knew anyone vatsan sir, the only thing closest is a friend who has undertaken the project of building himself a dirt bike...

suds said...

i don't think indians frown upon the job as such rather than the tangible returns got out of a blue-collar job. for e.g in London a decent plumbing job costs 75 pounds for half an hour. If in India such comparable rates are offered, then parents would allow their kids to take up such vocational jobs before embarking on their college education (which is becoming costlier by the day).