City Moment – Three Labourers Enjoying a Break, Sector 14, Gurgaon
Connections to village and to the city.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
They are some of the faces that are changing the face of our metropolis.
This morning, the three construction labourers are quietly enjoying the gently warming sun, perched on the upper floor of a building-in-progress, here in a bylane shooting off the main road in Gurgaon’s Sector 14 in the Greater Delhi Region.
Kamlesh, Sunita and Bipnesh hail from different villages, in different regions, but introduce themselves as longtime friends and colleagues.
“We have been working together for about ten years,” says Kamlesh (of Bharatpur, in Rajasthan) in a loud, hoarse but affectionate voice, as she struggles to make herself audible to this reporter, standing on the street. The air is filled with the thak-thak sounds of a furious construction activity, indicating the presence of more labourers busy at work inside the building. There’s no other structure nearby. The lane leads to a small urban village nearby.
The labourers are sitting on what appears to be a balcony that is still to be completed, or perhaps it is a window ledge. Whatever, they look like hunters perched on a machan, looking out to an imaginary jungle, waiting for the man-eating tiger to appear.
Kamlesh laughs at this imagery, and says, “We are just having some rest from work.”
The other woman, Sunita (from Hamirpur, in UP) talks contentedly of her children as a response to queries about her life. “My four daughters are married and my son sells vegetables here in Gurgaon, so I’m mast (carefree).”
The gentleman, Bipnesh (of Lakhimpur, in UP), is polite but, unlike his two friends, he isn’t smiling. Looking somber and sort of lost in thoughts, he speaks on the behalf of all three of them, explaining that “we all live with our (respective) family in rented rooms.” He says he misses his village but there is no earning opportunities there. “I only go back often to attend weddings and festivals.”
Though having lived in the capital for more than a decade and having helped build “at least fifty building of 5-6 floors”, these three labourers don’t consider themselves of this city.
“We are grateful for our work, but Gurgawa (Gurgaon) can never be as good as the village, where we have our rivers, our trees and our pucca houses,” Bipnesh says, his speech suddenly laced with a musical flow.
The ladies cheerily nod their heads. Now the two of them take out beedis for a smoke while the man continues to gaze ahead. Soon they get up, return to work inside, to help raise yet another building in our metropolis. It is an intense moment.
Builders of the metropolis