We are from Farala. It is a village near Banga (district Nawan Shehar). My father had lived with his maternal grandparents in Doraha near Ludhiana. After my father’s mother passed away, and the stepmother neglected him, his maternal uncles took care of him. In ’58 my father got work in the State Electricity Board. His salary was 80 Rupees per month. He got married in ’60. My mother is from village KaddoN. I have a brother and an elder sister. Both of them live abroad. My brother is in Canada and my sister is in Italy.
I came back from Saudi Arabia eighteen years ago and got married immediately. I had lived in Saudi Arabia for ten years and worked as a truck driver. It was big truck with 22 tires. My employer was very nice. He did not want me to leave. He trusted me and never asked for bills to pay me for the trips. Early on, he tried to pay me less for a trip. I said, “here is the license, here is the key, I am not going to drive the truck from now on.” I came back to my room. He showed up at my room thirty minutes later, gave me the license and the key, and told me in Arabic that he would pay me better from there on.
I earned 40,000 Rupees a month in Saudi Arabia. I could read Arabic too. Since I drove a heavy truck, that means I could take up to 100 tons of freight. It would take three minutes to load the truck using a machine called loader, and one minute to unload it. The freight was divided into two sections to make the unloading easy. The company paid for oil and repairs. There was hardly any problem. Here, you have to go and find labour and whatnot.
Additionally, the road network was very well maintained there. There were proper signboards – to go to Riyadh, take this line; to go to Dammam, take this line. We do not have such good signboards here. Riyadh had a check post to inspect papers. Most of the people abroad are honest. I lived in Dammam. I worked tirelessly. But, I do not want to go back again. I used to drive all night covering 850-900 kilometers. My employer would call me up from Al Dammam, and I would take the truck to Riyadh and be back in 12 hours.
After ’83, I started learning the nitty-gritties of becoming an electrician. I kept learning it for a few years. My teacher was from Khanna but his workshop was in Payal. He passed away few years ago. In ’90, my sister got married. Her in-laws were travel agents, and they sent me abroad in ’91. They said, “just board the flight, the money can be sorted later.” My father did not let me take the favor for free. The charges came to 21,000 Rupees. We had 10,000. I asked my paternal aunt and she gave me the rest. I earned that amount within six months and paid her back.
I make 400-500 Rupees per day here. It takes care of the bills. My in-laws live in the USA. They buy us clothes. They bought me a car too. Since I am sincere and nice, we are on good terms. I have a son who is in eleventh standard, and studies commerce. The in-laws will take care of his future.
I want to work more but nobody likes to pay fair wages here. Earlier, I had a few chairs and a bench. Some idlers would come and sit there. I do not like idlers in my workshop, so I removed the set-up.
I have to mend this motor today. There are two fans to be repaired too. My job is all about finding faults. My apprentice is even better than me. He has been learning from me for five years now. He has set up his own workshop in Payal now. He is from the family of baazigars. He respects me saying that I taught him well.
Story & Photographs: Satdeep Gill
Write Up: Jasdeep Singh
Edits: Sangeet Toor