Press "Enter" to skip to content

Extra, extra! Screwing Indians wholesale

I have had it with Indian businesses. Sure, half of them are my cousins and all that, but even shared bloodlines and Sunday Akhni doesn’t make shitty service and bigoted operations okay. We all talk about how big ol’ Telkom, SABC, Eskom and SAA rip us off, but no one writes about “the Indian business” and their built-in penchant to make you chew your lip, grind your teeth and wish you had bought that Kalashnikov.

You would think that after a century of profiteering, conning and banging the domestic, South African Indians would’ve stopped acting like malnourished cane workers and learned to be professional business people.

But they simply won’t.

Indian businesses succeed through a bunch of underpaid zombies working like hackneyed machines under managers who are usually a bunch of muppets, hired to just follow orders and ensure that their lowly workers don’t walk off with pizza crusts in their underpants.

In fact, owners specifically hire spectacular sub-humans as part of a grand conspiracy to institutionalise customer apathy.

Rumour has it that Shoprite has a similar policy.

And as hard as you may try, it really is difficult to debunk all those stereotypes about Indian businesses, and their inglorious methods of treating their employees.

If it is not the ill-timed payment of paltry salaries to staff, it’s the lunch-time, over-time and any-other-time without extra pay that holds true.

If its not poorly trained employees, it is the verbal abuse those poorly trained employees suffer, in conditions that often do not live up to health and safety standards, which come to the fore.

Of course, if feeling sorry for blue-collar workers is really not your thing, even highly skilled professionals are treated with a disdain not seen since the time Stalin met the Gypsies.

Accountants would rather join the circus, optometrists would rather become sailors and administrators would rather milk their mother-in-law’s pet monkey than work for a fellow Indian.

True story that last bit. Saw it in The Post.

Likewise, quality service is often a non-treatment altogether.

It’s common talk in the circles of the general brown populace, that when Indians run a place, skimping becomes part of standard business practice, regardless even of possible franchise requirements.

And in the event of their deviating from an agreed upon deal or an advertised visual, muppet managers will be “unauthorised” to deal with your subsequent complaint.

My experience says this is more that just an urban myth.

Not surprisingly though, being Indian, there is always a spice that can vindicate the queasy-food-poisoning-inducing-pizza.

“It was just the new lemon tikka flavouring, sir”

“What? Jou ma se–”

And all of a sudden Indians become really good at Afrikaans.

On the other hand, I’ve heard people say, that if you play dead when you receive poor service from an Indian business you might just score a longer, more rewarding life. Apparently, your willingness to be rolled over and have your pubic hairs stretched until your balls turn a royal monkey blue, will bring you virgins, wine and the good life in the hereafter.

But not everyone buys the virgins in heaven story; not even the Muslims.

Besides, who wants a virgin anyway?

South African Indian businesses continue to provide pathetic services because they are all too aware that their mass Indian clientele are unlikely to stand up to anything, save for perhaps a fleeting moment in the bedroom.

Sure, some of my older cousins might have stood up to apartheid and risked being sent on a long vacation some travel agents called “in exile”, but today, even Indian community newspapers are too terrified to expose Indian businesses for poor service or pathetic work conditions, ie what they really are.

Anyway, Indian community papers are also Indian businesses; it is incumbent on them to become bastards themselves.

But this is why it is particularly amusing to hear South African Indians complain about being the soya in the grand South African club sandwich.

“We were second-class citizens under apartheid, and now with this fucking affirmative action, we are still second-class citizens”

But I really wonder what they were told when they left India.

“By order of her Majesty the Queen, you may play Maharajah with the natives.”

Affirmative action might be flawed, then again so is powdered milk; Indians might have good reason to feel bummed from both ends, but too little is made of their role in the unhappy orgy.

It is often the case that Muslims and Hindus will complain about a lack of cultural sensitivity in their majority black-white workplaces, with regards to cultural festivals, religious gang-bangs and other minority shenanigans. Yet quite frequently, it is the unregulated, non-unionised Muslim or Hindu workplaces that are even more unholy and uncompromising than the multicultural settings.

It is a strange cacophony; business acumen might run through their genetic makeup, but Indians are hardly conned by the idea that business is anything more than an act of making the most money as possible.

Keeping your employees smiling with a decent pay cheque, a lunch break and a clean toilet is really not on the memo.

“If you want work satisfaction, upward mobility and a decent salary, go work in a white company.”

But of course, it is not all bad.

Some percentage of their income will almost always end up sourcing a blanket for the homeless, a brick for an orphanage, mosque, temple or discothèque; like that, Indians can be very generous.

Indians are emotional sods and they’re always willing to make a plan, bend the rules or burn you that DVD.

Also, if you know someone who has a cousin who once worked with his brother’s mother’s neighbour’s step-daughter, you might even score a discount on that unmarked item.

But unfortunately, this still just doesn’t cut it; perhaps guilt for being imperious dickwarts at work is the reason they donate so majestically.

Then again, Indians are strange.

While most white kids dream of becoming the next AB de Villiers or Bryan Habana, Indian kids look up from their PSP and talk about opening a supermarket, just like the ballie.

That is fine; I can totally understand why opening a supermarket would be so attractive for a nine-year-old.

The problem is that they really go on to open it (or audit it) without ever learning how to piss straight.

I have worked in the aisles of an Indian wholesale; you don’t want to go there.

Fact is, it doesn’t matter how incredibly big, respectable and important some Indian businesses have become, their indentured past is really just a curry stain away.

Again, it doesn’t matter if the owners are wealthy enough to be sitting on the Isle of Capri drinking tea in a sari, or important enough to be playing golf with Robert Mugabe or suave enough to be enjoying high tea with Peggy Khumalo, all Indian businesses think customers get a big, respectable hard-on when they drive all the way back to return faulty products; returns are as welcome as a black daughter-in-law.

But it wasn’t always like this; this is what the older folk say, at least.

The Indians who had graduated from cane cutters to farmers, and the traders and their assistants, who arrived here later as businesspeople, were said to have operated in a more dignified manner.

And some Indians made it really big by being honest businesspeople as they chipped away at the sensible and not so sensible needs of rural and urban consumers.

Business was said to have been about craftsmen selling a trade, an art or an expertise in a soft, cordial dialogue that paved the way to the strong foundation the community now proudly sits on. Moreover, the strong religious and work ethic rooted in family values, entrepreneurship and determination managed to prioritise education, cement community values and secure 17-inch rims in severely hostile terrain.

This, they say, is the house that Jack (Devnarain) built.

Touching story that.

But you would think there would at least be clean toilets by now.


  • Azad Essa

    Azad Essa is a journalist at Al Jazeera. He is also the author of a book called "Zuma's Bastard" (Two Dogs Books, October 2010) Yes, it is the name of a book. A real book. With a kickass cover. Click on the cover to find out more. You know you want to. or join the revolution: Accidental Academic won best political blog at the South African Blog awards 2009 and is a finalist for 2010.