City Notes – The Connaught Place Re-builders
The people behind CP’s new look.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is the twilight hour in F Block, Connaught Place (CP). Amid apprehensions that the renovation work will not get over by October 3, the first day of the 2010 Commonwealth Games that are being organised in Delhi, tired-looking labourers are carrying on the mud work with shovels and spades.
Delhi’s colonial-era shopping district is being given a major facelift in the run-up to the D-day. Roads have been dug up, corridors have been barricaded and subways have been demolished to make way for new ones. Shoppers have to hop over dug-up portions to go from one block to another.
While many Delhiites are dreading the impression that foreign visitors will receive if the various construction projects don’t meet the deadline and CP continues to look bombed-out during the Games, the labourers are optimistic. “You don’t worry,” says Pashupati Mandal, 20, a migrant from Maldah, West Bengal. “We are working day and night. We will change the face of this place.” Mr Mandal and his fellow workers have set up a temporary house in a settlement near Minto Road, near New Delhi railway station. They are a part of 1,50,000 migrant labourers who are working to rebuild Delhi for the Games.
“You must take our photographs,” says Sunil Kumar, 24, a labourer from Bhagalpur, Bihar. “There were no cameras when the Taj Mahal was being built. Don’t miss the opportunity now.”
Jaideep Gupta, a foreign magazine vendor in F block, is skeptical. “Will the renovation work ever finish? The labourers break some wall here and before they could re-build it, they move ahead and break something else and this goes on,” he says. “Nowadays, there is such great technology that highways can be built overnight. I wonder why we can’t replace labourers with machines and finish off CP’s renovation in time.”
What will the labourers eat then? Ashok, 47, a migrant from Maldah, West Bengal, wakes up daily at 9 am sharp at his Minto Road house. His schedule, similar to thousands of other labourers, is simple. After a shower and prayers, he cooks food, mostly rice and vegetable curry, which he eats for breakfast and also packs for lunch. “If I work from 9 am to 5 pm, I get Rs 135,” he says. This amount is less than what you pay to watch movies in your neighbouring multiplex. “But if I continue till 11 pm, they give me Rs 270.”
Just then, a family carrying shopping bags walks past Mr Ashok and his colleagues. “Why is the photographer taking their pictures?” The Delhi Walla overhears a lady saying. “They’re just labourers.”
Be careful about what you say, Ma’am. These are the very people who may save your city from embarrassment in October.
On the job
A long day?
CP’s present look
Planning for overtime?
So much to do
The CP re-builders