By Younas Chaudhary
I was a fairly lazy young boy back in Pakistan with little knowledge of fixing anything on my own and no desire to learn skills related to simple do-it-yourself (DIY) day to day tasks as it was not part of our culture. After moving to Edmonton, Canada, I changed my perspective quickly on the dignity of work. I learned that all types of jobs should be respected and no occupation should be considered inferior.
In Pakistan, there was a class system so certain jobs were considered inferior, below certain grade and had to be done by a particular class of people. For instance, changing light bulbs, washing cars, sweeping floors, and looking after livestock were not jobs that an average educated person was supposed to do.
After arriving in the West, I quickly realized that general home chores, like changing a light bulb was something I had to figure out on my own. In Pakistan back in those days, to change a light bulb it had to be pushed into the socket and then turned. But in Canada the light bulb had to be screwed in, which took me some time to figure that out.
Living on a low income I headed to Acme Store, one of the local hardware stores where I purchased my first home maintenance kit. The kit had a combination of screwdrivers, pliers, wrenches, and other essentials to do simple home repair jobs on your own.
Slowly, I learned how to fix things at home and to repair cars including my first cars, a Gran Torino and Volkswagen Beetle. I learned to change oil and spark plugs, do tune-up, flush coolants and brake fluid, etc. I had no other option because I could not afford to hire a mechanic with my $3.31 an hour pay. This taught me that every job has its own dignity and one should not discriminate having a laborer’s job or a job in an office setting.
The culture I grew up was prideful so doing certain jobs was not my cup of tea at that time and this left an impact. While working as a part time security guard in a shopping mall in Edmonton, I would engage in friendly conversations with local white people but if I saw a brown person, I would avoid them.
As time passed, I valued every job and treated everyone equally. I made money by fixing used cars by myself and selling them at a profit as well as being a door-to-door salesman.
Unfortunately, four decades later, I see the same pride among new immigrants from South Asia. The first three things they see/ask to judge a fellow immigrant are: What do you do? Where do you live? And of course they sneak around to see what car you drive. Any answer that says you are not an engineer, professor, doctor or high roller businessman will come with a frown. If response is that of a handyman, hairdresser, cleaner or a waiter, they will start looking at you with pity.
Unfortunately, not much has changed in our culture when it comes to class divisions. Kids raised by South Asian parents still hold on to their occupational pride even in a Western culture. I hope these views change. This reminds me of a famous quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “The dignity of labor depends not on what you do, but how you do it.” Stay Blessed!
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. Further, I make no warranty regarding the accuracy or effectiveness of my recommendations, and readers are advised to consult other advisors as well as their own judgments in making business decisions.