my summer training at the arthala construction site has reached it's final stage.. with only 3-4 days of minor work left, it's more like attending college lectures just for the sake of attendance..
but today a strange thing happened...
As my stay at the site was going to be short-lived, I wanted to explore every inch of it... Those places which I had never paddled as they had nothing to do with my project were like calling me at my every glance..Frankly I couldn't suppress my yen to visit them..
So when the site engineer asked me to take the day's final stroll around the site, i straightaway headed towards the carpentry area..
Huge blocks of wood were cut along their cleavage by the muscular blows, and later hammered to plates of ply.. but my interest lied ahead..
"jhuggis"-- the dwelling places of masons, laymen, workers had always caught my attention.. I always wondered where do they live.. those who erect handsome multi-storeyed lairs for all of us.. where and how do they live..??..
the answer lied a few steps away...
I saw the open gates of their "house".. and i couldn't control myself to enter into one of them.. clueless of what I was going to see inside..
There was a bed..(charpayi).. over it was sitting a middle aged man.. with a plastered right foot.. There was a child (or should I say a newborn) sleeping on his lap.. On the ground there were two more babies.. with a plate in front of them(empty).. Their mother was sitting nxt to them with another plate(not empty).. She landed a tight slap on one of those babies (the girl).. which was perhaps what she got when she asked for another roti.. she started crying.. her only statement of protest against her mother’s bash.. All these happened in a glimpse of an eye.. As I stood at their gate blocking the sunshine (the only source of light to the room) everyone looked at me.. The mother became a bit conscious (rather irritated) at the sudden advent of a foreigner.. The girl didn’t stop.. The man sitting on the bed tried to get up placing the baby aside (he mistook me for a site engineer).. I signaled him to sit down..
His name was Raghu.. while working on the B block on a rainy day, Raghu slipped off the scaffolding and broke his right leg.. Doctors had advised a bed rest for 6-months.. but in the hunt for food, he joined the work after 2 weeks.. only to injure his mighty right foot once again.. Now the doctors say that if he hurts that again, the leg has to be removed… which means that the only source of income of the family will get blocked (jst like I blocked their door)..
Raghu paused at the cry of his daughter..(poor girl, got another slap I guess..) his eyes were moist.. it’s only then that I realized that how much more painful were his tiny tear drops to his daughter’s loud cry..
He used to work 12 hours a day on the site.. and was paid Rs.70 each day.. with which he afforded three children.. Hoping that they will soon grow up and support the family.. and one day he’ll leave this jhuggi and settle somewhere outside.. outside this site area, where he’ll breathe fresh air every morning before going out to work..
“Lekin abhi kya karein saab??”..(but what will I do now??)..
“Inko fainkh bhi toh nahi sakte”..(I can’t throw them out)..
his innocent eyes full of grief against his own fate had engrossed me..
I was listening to his plans, his past life, his association with the “thekedaar” like I was listening to a story.. And I think that even he enjoyed having a patient listener beside..
I stood up as the phone rang..
She enquired whether I had taken my lunch properly or not..
After answering to all her worries, I looked at the watch..
It showed 5:25.. (25 minutes over time!!)..
As I waved good bye to Raghu and his family, I saw his girl splashing water to her brother outside their jhuggi.. Her laughter filled the air outside.. I was glad to see her happy face..
As I counted my steps back to the exit gate, I recollected today’s breakfast when I threw a parantha away to save time.. a little peep into their open gate brought me face to face with one of the hardest truth.. and it was as draconian as the merciless hammer blow which penetrated the nail deep inside the smooth surface of wood..
After narrating the story to ma after my return, she said a simple sentence which summed up the events in a salutary fashion,
“chalo.. m assured that you’re learning something good out there..!!..”
I worked over time indeed!!..