CHENNAI: The reverberating sound of a metal rod hitting against the road or gate in the dead of night is what you might instantly associate with Gurkhas — short and stout men with thin moustaches who came from Nepal.
For ages, many industrial and commercial complexes too employed Gurkhas for manning their gates. That is slowly changing, as quite a few of these soft-spoken men have exited the profession.
Ruk Bahadur, a 28-year-old Nepali who prefers to identify himself as a helper, says today Nepalis have moved on to other ‘lucrative’ professions like kitchen helpers, cooks, waiters and drivers. “Security guards are not paid well. A waiter earns much more than a security guard, while the work is also easier. A guard is required to work long hours and has to continuously stay on his feet,” he said.
Gurkhas are paid anywhere between Rs. 7,000-10,000 for a shift of 8-10 hours, mostly at night. Compared to that, a job as a driver or waiter is comfortable as it is a day job, it pays more and offers more social prestige.
Rim Bahadur Pandey, a 35-year-old Nepali, who works as a driver for a Hindi-speaking family in Anna Nagar, says there has been an influx of local Tamil people into the security business. Ruk Bahadur claims security agencies prefer locals as they are fluent in Tamil, while the Nepalis aren’t.
Like Ruk Bahadur, most Gurkhas have left their family behind in Nepal and live all by themselves in small houses in the city. As the primary reason of moving from their native land is to earn money to support large families, these men strive hard to save as much as possible from their already miniscule salaries.
Hiren Dole, a 25-year-old guard, manages to send back `4,000 out of his salary of Rs. 7,000 back home. He lives in the slums in Pattinampakam facing the sea. Pandey is luckier, as his employer has given him a small room in the outhouse.