Living in a three bedroom house in this area is a sign of prosperity for most. For Ashok and his seven housemates, the neighborhood reminded them daily how far they had to go to reach their dreams. Ashok, like his housemates, was living in the area on a sponsored visa as a consultant. Companies that required extra programming capacity but didn’t want to pay full price for the capacity would hire Ashok’s company to provide programmers at a lower cost than it would cost the company to hire a full time employee. Ashok’s company charged $85/hour for his services yet he himself only received $30/hour. The hourly wage made it difficult for him to enjoy a normal living arrangement hence the extra housemates. To most Americans, the living conditions would be termed harsh and extreme, but for Ashok it was right as rain. Ashok grew up in a house with his parents, two sisters, grandparents and an Aunt and Uncle, his current living conditions were better in his mind, quieter for sure.
Ashok’s phone rang and it was his friend Sandeep. Ashok had met Sandeep through a mutual friend at a local vegetarian cuisine restaurant. Ashok, for all his parents knew, was a vegetarian. What they didn’t know is that during his time in the States, he had developed a mean chicken habit. Laughingly, he referred to himself as a Chickegetarian. Ashok learned over the course of the meal that Sandeep was the same way. They quickly became partners in crime as they roamed about town scoring illicit chicken tandoori.
“Yes?” Ashok tersely answered the phone. Ashok always answered the phone tersely.
“Ashok, what are you doing on Saturday? Don’t tell met you are working, you know they won’t pay you for that time but they’ll gladly accept the work.”
“Actually, I am going to go into work.” he said sincerely. “The project scope has increased and we need to keep to the project timeline. I think the development manager for my project is starting to notice my work. I hear that a full time position might open up soon. If I work this weekend and help keep the project on time, I like my chances of getting an interview if the position opens up.”
For most consultants that move from India to the United States, this is the goal: secure a full time position with an American company, earn a full American wage and start the process towards naturalization. The difference between Hyderabad and the United States could be as much as 10 times more earning potential in the States than in Hyderabad. A full time position with an American company changes lives and Ashok wanted his life changed.
“Ashok you do this almost every weekend, you don’t get paid for your time and you aren’t getting any interviews. I’ve a better idea.”
Sandeep paused and acknowledged Ashok’s guttural response.
“I have a friend who can get us a paying job this Saturday, easy money. All we have to do is show up and help serve food at a party. No questions asked, job pays in cash. What do you say?” Sandeep finished the last sentence with an upward inflection to accentuate his question.
“You know we can’t take the job, Sandeep. Our visas are quite specific about what work we can and can’t do. I’m not risking getting sent back to India for an extra days worth of money.”
To be honest, Ashok could use the money. Ashok regularly wired money back to his parents and his wallet was empty and it was still a week to his next payday.
“You don’t think I know all about the visa? You think I want to go back to India? Face it, though, we both need more money. I know it, you know it. The job pays in cash, there aren’t any questions asked when you show up and, the part that I didn’t tell you about, we will be wearing masks. All the risks are removed and we can get some much needed cash.”
Ashok pondered Sandeep’s words. Everything he said was right, from the work to the need for money. He could always work on Sunday to make up for not showing up on Saturday. The deportation risk was something, though, and Ashok generally didn’t take risks; however, Ashok also needed money. What are the odds that he gets caught working illegally for one day?
“OK, I’ll do it. Tell me where and what time and I’ll see you there.” Said Ashok with a hint of resignation.
“Lets meet at the central light rail station at 9 am. We can take the light rail to the location where we are to meet the party caterers. Everything will be handled by them once we get there: what we are supposed to do, our clothes and even the masks we’ll wear during the event.” said Sandeep with his best confidence voice.
“Sounds good, Sandeep. I’ll see you at the central light station at 9am Saturday morning. Do you happen to know where the party that we are working is being held at?”
“Not sure, but I think I hard them say it’s at the Harbor Yacht Club. See you Saturday.”