Saturday, September 12, 2020

Bugs, then and now!

When I was a school going kind, when computers weren't a commodity, when India was yet to become an IT hub that it's today, we used to buy rice, wheat and all sorts of food grains once in an year. For a few mornings after buying, we would spread sheets in open spaces or on terraces and spread the grains exposing almost every single grain to the Sun. A thin cloth, almost transparent, would be spread on the grains to protect them from all sorts of dirt. Somebody would sit nearby watching for birds, cats and other pests. Around tea time we would bundle the grains in the same sheets and keep them in a secure place till the next morning. This would make the grains dry, moisture free, and also free from any infestations that those may have. The process would take three or four days and usually was fun. The grains would be stored in a large containers sprinkled with dried Neem leaves, garlic cloves with skin or castor oil. Another set of small containers was used for day to day use and would be refilled from the large containers.

Just before using the grains, they would be required further cleaning to remove any bugs, soil knots and any other impurities through a manual process. Rice would be cleaned daily but wheat would be cleaned monthly before being ground to flour. This used to a bit tedious task. In a flat large pan, we would pour wheat grains on one side, and push the cleaned wheat grains to the other side forming another heap. The bugs and insects in the wheat would scuttle to the clean heap or vanish back into the heap they came from as soon as they were exposed. Those small insects needed to be crushed with the back of nail outside the dish. This de-bugging process would take hours.

Irrespective of where we spend our holidays, at our own house or at some relative's we were expected to help in the process. It used to be fun, so we never complained. One afternoon my aunt set me to this task and promised me to pay 1 paisa (hundredth portion of a rupee) for every bug I found. I complained that this is too less a compensation and I want 1 rupee per bug found, hardly knowing what a rupee per bug would actually mean. The negotiation, my first ever probably, settled at 2 paisa per bug. By the end of the first hour I had earned a whole rupee.

Switch to present, I still work in a profession which requires periodic debugging; I am software developer. But then I earn much more than a rupee per hour. My first ever negotiation and a paid job didn't go waste after all. Mind you, the payment I was demanding was way lesser than the market rate, even then :).

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