Earning My First Penny: Episode 3

Previous Episode: Dollar A Day Life

I woke up the next day in a daze, still not fully comprehending the situation I was in. The first thing on my mind was to satisfy the craving I was having for street food, and that was what I ate for the next two days. But my inner American eventually came out and I proceeded to eat at a pizza place down the road. Counting up my money after the meal, I realized that I only had fifty dollars left! If I kept this up I wouldn’t even survive the next 10 days. I started skipping meals and four days later I was only eating one meal a day. I was dying of hunger, and I knew I needed a job in order to at least eat every day. I confidently thought to myself, “Hey, I’m a strong young man from the United States who can speak English! Who wouldn’t want to hire me?” Well boy was I wrong. Even though I was positive I would land a job, there was no organized way to apply for a job unlike in the United States and the idea of asking random shop owners to employ me made me nervous. Still, I overcame that and went around pleading for any sort of work. I walked up to the first place, a restaurant, and asked the guy standing behind the reception desk if they were hiring. He told me to wait while he called the manager over and the next few minutes that I stood there in anticipation of what would happen felt like the longest in my life. The man came up to me and asked what I wanted and I anxiously stuttered, “Um I just wanted to know if you were hiring.” He bluntly told me in a serious tone “No” and just turned around and left. Now considering the American culture I grew up in, that was one of the rudest ways a person could act. I was shocked and I immediately left, never wanting to face that situation again. With my heart beating out of my chest, I felt like this was the worst rejection I had ever experienced and made me question my whole self worth. I was twice as hesitant to walk up to the next place, but I did. And I got rejected again. And then again, and again for the next five places.

Wandering around for more than an hour in the South Indian heat I was exhausted and hopeless. One of the shops required me to speak the local language thoroughly. What I thought of as my strength, my ability to speak English very well, turned out to be my undoing. I went home hungry and dejected. After a few days of trying the same thing around the city, my mind had accepted the idea of rejection, but my body refused to accept the idea of receiving only one meal a day. On my 8th day in India, I was just wandering on Velachery Main Road and I noticed a small, newly opened vegetarian restaurant named “Idli Podi,” so I went to go see if they were hiring. They needed any sort of labor they could get so I was immediately offered the job with a salary of 250 rupees a day, or about 3.50 dollars a day, $0.45 per hour. I wasn’t assigned any specific task and I just filled in where help was needed. Sometimes I would be a waiter, while other times I was in the back washing dishes. One typical day at work, one customer finished her meal and ordered a coffee but the chef told me to inform them that we had run out. I told the customer that we didn’t have any more coffee but I offered to go and get her some from the coffee shop next door which I personally really liked. I carefully handled the steaming cup of coffee and delivered it safely to the customer, and she just nodded and proceeded to drink. After finishing, the customer stood up and called me over. She just smiled at me and placed a 5 rupee coin on the table as a tip, equal to about 7 cents in America, and left. The satisfaction I felt from receiving that hard-earned tip was equal to almost nothing I had ever felt. It was the first penny I had earned in my life and it truly meant a lot to me.  I was able to fully appreciate the hard work that waiters at restaurants in America put in just for that end of dinner tip. From having no job and nothing to eat to earning my first tip was a huge achievement for me and I realized that happiness is not what you get but how you get something.

Next Episode: Getting Lost In The Middle Of The Night

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