The boy from Darjeeling

One of the things I love about overseas travel is the people you meet, and the stories they have to tell…

Meet Sanjeev. Sanjeev lives in Darjeeling in West Bengal, India. For the last 10 years the 29 year old has been traveling to Goa in Southern India to work the tourist season, as the pay is much better than he can earn at home. Leaving his wife and 14 month old son with his parents, he makes the four and a half day journey by train, along with many friends who are making the same journey, leaving families behind in search of providing a better income for them.

Arriving in Goa, the first month is spent building the beach shack where he’ll be working and living with his colleagues. The shacks have to be dismantled at the end of every season as they wouldn’t survive the monsoon season. For the next 6 months Sanjeev works from 8am to 11pm, 7 days a week, answering the beck and call of the tourists. No days off. Spending every night sleeping on our sun beds in a shack at the back of the beach, with just a blanket and a mosquito net.

They don’t get paid until the end of the six months when all their wages and tips are collated and divided between them all. The last month is spent dismantling the shack and putting it away ready for next year. Then the long train journey back home, to work on the local tea and orange plantation, and back to his wife and son who he has only been able to talk to on the phone for the last six months.

When I asked if he ever took a holiday, he looked at me quizzically and replied “no, I just work”.

Clare, Sanjeev and Steve

It was a privilege to meet Sanjeev and hear all about his life and a culture so very different to ours. He greeted us every day with a huge beaming smile, eager to help. Coming from such a materialistic Western world it was refreshing to meet someone so happy and humble, who is just trying to create a better life for his family and isn’t worried that he doesn’t have the latest smart phone, flat screen TV, biggest house, flashiest car…

We were really sad to say goodbye to our new friend, but with promises of seeing him again sometime in the future, and being connected on Facebook we hope we’ll be able to stay in touch, and maybe one day visit him in his home town of Darjeeling.

Sanjeev with the shack he helped to build

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