11:00 AM, 3rd May ‘2011:
After years, the road that connects our society, to the link road joining the NH8 is finally under construction. A road that has waited with utmost patience for more than two decades, finally gets its right to exist! Ever since I was in school, there was always a debate on who would bear the expenses of making this road, which was imperative in every sense, as our road connects multiple societies. For years, our street road stood like an abandoned orphan, which was more or less, a disputed property (something that is of utmost importance but gets least attention) that failed to draw warmth from either of its parents, the municipality and the panchayat. And finally, after all these years, the Panchayat after succumbing to its maternal instincts decided to end the long staged drama of fighting custody and decided to make our road! Yes!The road sees its dream come true and so do the residents!
It is May and the deadly combination of sweltering sun and humid climate could probably bring out the most irate form of human being in anyone, by just strolling out for 5 minutes. Instantly the body aches for a breeze, even if it were for a second. Or probably just walking for 10 minutes till the departmental store near by, makes the parched throat ache for a glass of water. And all of this does not come without complaints of a tanned skin, a throbbing headache and with every crevice of the body screeching for a shower. The moment we step inside our homes, the first thing we involuntarily do is switch on AC and fans to cool ourselves off! But as I was watching these people outside, from the terrace of my home (getting the bird’s view!) who were making the road, I was appalled by their working conditions. Not that I have never seen such work before, but never so close from my home, and never in such hostile climatic conditions. All through out the day, the cement concrete water mixture kept churning in the road equipment machinery and the dissonance was just never ending.
Yesterday as I was taking a look at, how far the road construction had progressed, a small tuli (in tamil, a desi style swing made by a piece of cloth that is tied to a couple of poles) caught my attention. There was a baby (not more than 4 months old) sleeping peacefully in that cradle tied by the road side, amidst the scorching heat, endless cacophony and an unremitting cloud of air containing cement, dust and smoke, yet blissfully unmindful of it. It was like seeing God’s wonders at work. A baby can swell you up with boundless warmth and love, how much ever intimidating the surroundings could be. At times, its face twitched, as its tiny arms and legs kicked sideways to adjust to a more comfortable position. It was around 12:30 PM then, and people had already started taking a break for lunch. Their lunch consisted of the bajre ki roti that were already made in the morning sooner than the sun’s wakey time, aalu ka sabji, accompanied by sliced onions sprinkled with salt and lime. To us, that lunch may be too simple to have, but for them, it was like a banquet. After lunch and a power nap of 10 minutes, the guys were back to scene, back in action!
As the work continued, so did the time continue to pass at its own pace. Around 6 PM, the workers started winding up. Not only did the Sun need rest, but also these people who were content with the day’s end. Half the road was already made. And there were huge drums of water, of which some was to be used for spraying on the cemented concrete road. As they were done with the final touch up, the young boys on the other side, started their relaxation with playing around, singing and dipping themselves in the drums of cool water. In Tamil, there is a saying – ‘neezhal in arumai veeyil le than teryium’, which means, you appreciate the comforts of shadow under a tree only when you get roasted in scorching sun at midday. However this line can have different connotations with profound meanings. But the contentment these people gain at the end of each day, and the way they relish it, could make any one of us practically envious! How many of us, are content with the day’s ending, or are happy with the salary slip at the end of every month, or get a good night’s sleep sans dreams filled with expectations? Some food for thought, isn’t it?
But why am I telling you folks about a road that barely concerns you? Not because, I am benefited or I am relieved or I am feeling great about all this. Perhaps, I have come out of the vicious circle of expectations mania and do not over-expect anything, lest alone expectations cause a lot of pain, be it whatever. Sometimes, comfort levels enjoyed by a man create a benchmark, making him strive harder to stay put with that or above. It is human nature after all, and I would not like to refute the fact here. But when one comes across such sporadic yet gripping spectacle in life with these people working hard physically with not a speck of complaint, one may be forced for a while to think about the hardships, about the every precious drop of sweat that is released from each pore of one’s skin, about the struggles faced every day, every minute, and last but not the least, yet the silver lining of optimism that keeps one going in life. After all, their work is their bread and butter, but then for whom, it is not? Right?
..And that is what life is all about, isn’t it? The persistent dedication with which these people carry out their tasks for the day, without complaining about the unsympathetic working conditions, reflects the resilient spirit of the back bone of our country, yes this working class, who give us the infrastructure we need today! For them, these very hardships count on, when it comes to their daily wages. They may be underprivileged in many ways with unfulfilled dreams, resignation to fate and with every day opening a new struggle for them, adding to their list of unfulfilled ambitions, in life. But I would say, we come across as the privileged lot only because we have such a work force that make things happen for us, at the cost of their ambitions, their dreams and their loss of education and comforts. It is amazing that someone’s life could teach you so much about simple truths which we most of the time, pretend to be blissfully unaware of. But certain moments just make you see that! And this day, in my life is one such day that has helped me understand the meaning of ‘Life is not just a bed of roses, but a bed with colored patches of roses and thorns’ in a thoughtful way…..
P.S : Am still a learning photographer and so my skills may be amateurish at this stage.