An unprecedented exodus of household helps, specially cooks has been reported from all over the country bringing a large parts of the urban economy into a grinding halt. The most affected are households in big cities, specially metros which are home to a large number of working couples who depend on cooks or khaansamas for their daily nutritional requirements. Neighbourhood dhabas & roadside eateries too are reporting sudden & steady outflow of cooks.
To get to the root of this phenomenon, this correspondent decided to visit some of the slums where these culinary experts live. He sees a crowd at a tea stall intently watching TV. No, it wasn’t an Indo-Pak cricket match. They were watching TV news and studio discussions about the death of children in Bihar after eating mid-day meals in their school. They came to know that teachers & principals of the school have been suspended for negligence and FIRs filed against them for cooking & serving contaminated meals as preparing & feeding mid-day meals to kids is teachers’ responsibility.
“Well, I wonder what the F are we doing here in Mumbai living under constant threat of being pulverized by MNS & Shiv Sena goons. I can any day make much better and tastier meals than these god forsaken teachers”, muttered a man in his early 30s.
“Arrey, I had no idea that teachers need to cut veggies and cook food in school! All this while I was under the impression that you can become a teacher only if you can teach and for that you need to be educated. I’m not staying here for a moment more. I am going back home and taking up the job of a school teacher”, said another man with unshaven & unkempt beard.
Next morning, hordes of these people were seen boarding trains for journey back home.
Our special correspondents in Patna, Chennai, Siwan, Varanasi, Etawah, Babina, Sholapur, Ganjam, 24 Parganas & many other districts are reporting serpentine queues of men & women in front of District Education Officer’s offices seeking jobs as teachers. Incidents of sloganeering & stone pelting have also been reported from some places.
When asked about their qualifications for the job & questioned about literacy levels, this is how some of them justified their demand for being made a teacher –
Reporter: What qualifications, knowledge & skills do you bring to the table as a teacher?
Chef-de-Dhaba: I bring tasty, fresh, finger lickin’ good food to the table, garma garam from the stove. Give me the job and see both enrolments & attendance shoot up. With unprecedented literacy & education levels India will beat America in no time Baouji. What will a man not do for this paapi pait (sinful tummy; rolling his left palm over his tummy & patting it to produce a bongo like sound).
Reporter: What about teaching? What subjects can you teach & have you done B.Ed.?
Kaka (Chef-de-Middle class household): Teach? Why do I have to teach when all that the government wants teachers to do is to cook & serve meals to poor & hungry students! Don’t you read or watch news? All they are talking about is how the teachers have failed in their duty and all the actions being taken against them! With so much work to do – buying groceries, peeling & slicing vegetables, cleaning utensils, collecting firewood & arranging cow dung cakes for cooking & serving food to kids, where is the time to teach bhaiyaji? And why should one need B.Ed. for cooking!!
Reporter: Well, teaching children is no longer a simple thing like asking them to stand up & loudly read out their books & copy from the blackboard. These days, teachers have to do lot of complex stuff like Continuous & Comprehensive Evaluation, that is CCE! How can you do all this without having ever attended school?
Tandoor Master: CCE may be a new and fancy thing for teacher-teachers, not for us. How the hell do you think that people like me manage to give you well cooked rotis, naans & parathas with the right amount of crispness? It is all because of CCE man! Each & every roti going into the tandoor has to be monitored continuously & comprehensively!! You people really give too much importance to going to school!!!
Reporter: But you see, teachers also have an important role to play in a country like ours. They are the backbone of election process, the very foundation on which Indian democracy rests.
Halwai (Chef de Dessert): I know. I have seen those teachers breaking chairs while knitting sweaters when I go to vote. What is it that they do that I cannot. I can put ink on anyone’s nails. Why do I need education for that!
Reporter: But you have to at least be literate to read the electoral rolls and check their credentials?
Chef de Dessert: Unlike teachers who come from outside & don’t recognize any voter, I know and can recognize anyone from 10 villages around this place. So no bogus voting! Where’s the need to read anything here. Moreover, teachers need cops to stop mischief mongers. Make me a teacher, give me election duty and see which mother’s son (mai ka laal) has the guts to create ruckus inside & outside the booth (shows off his muscles and swollen chest bulging out of Rupa’s vest).
Reporter: And Census duty? I hope you know that as teachers you also have to work as enumerators for various census operations?
Dai (Midwife): Sir, my seven generations have been in the midwifery business. What census are you talking about sahib? Make me a teacher and I’ll show you how census is done. I know exactly who is whose child. You can fool these school teachers about your family size and number of offsprings etc., not me sahib! I can tell you the name of real father of each child here, do you get it!! I don’t have to go around knocking doors of each house. I can fill up all the census forms sitting on my little school desk under the neem tree in the school compound!
Our New Delhi bureau reports that Shashtri Bhawan, housing the HRD Ministry has been surrounded by cooks, waiters & kitchen assistants of all hues and shades including those from the Parliament House canteen, Hotels on Ashoka Road, Hotel Le-Meridein, Hotel Janpath & the Press Club of India. They are demanding a law scrapping the mandatory requirement of being educated and having B.Ed. or Nursery Teacher Training to become a teacher and absorbing all of them into teaching jobs.
A panicked minister of state for HRD, Shashi Tharoor has tweeted that he may starve to death given the fact that his domestic cook of 20 years has just announced his resignation on Twitter. Sources in the ministry reveal that neither Tharoor nor his wife know any cooking (food that is). And considering that cooks of all the non-cattle class hotels where he usually wines & dines could be seen in the crowd from his office window, he has no idea where his next meal would come from.
Last heard, Madam Sonia Gandhi has called an emergency meeting of the National Advisory Council with Digvijay Singh as special invitee to chalk out a strategy that kills the snake and leaves the baton unbroken. Diggy Raja is known to have floated the idea of declaring parliament house, state assemblies & luxury hotels as schools and rechristening cooks as teachers. This is the only way politicians could be assured of a sumptuous mid-day meal every day.
Gujarat is the only state which has remained an exception so far as there are no reports of any such demonstrations or sloganeering from any part of the state. Some of the cooks who spoke to this reporter on conditions of anonymity said that with their chief minister being a master chef himself, there is no way they can beat him in the race to become a teacher. Upon being questioned as to what makes them call NaMo a Master Chef, a Gandhinagar based cook replied that NaMo can cook what none of them can – cook up figures; data; police encounters; success stories about himself & his state like no other politician.