Chennai Journal
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Construction Ladies
There is construction going on next door---a couple of apartment buildings like our own, that have been underway even before we looked at this apartment a year ago in January. Almost everything here is done by manual labor, but despite lots of people it takes a long time. A few months ago we had to complain to our building management because the construction workers were pounding next door in the middle of the night. Fortunately, our building is owned by ITC (the Indian Tobacco Company), so they were able to leverage their influence and within a night or so, it was quiet again.

Women play a large role in the construction industry here. A common job is for them to carry bricks, gravel, and sand from where they are dropped by the contractor to where they are needed on the site. They wear a little plate-like stablizer on their head, and then someone helps them fill a bowl up with construction material---I've seen bricks piled 8 or 10 high. Once at a British Social club event, we had a contest where we tried to see how far we could carry two bricks on our heads before losing balance. This is trickier than you think---these ladies make it look so easy.

Roberta has been fascinated by their colorful garb, not to mention how much stuff they can load up on their heads, so a few days ago she went off to take some pictures. She gave each of these ladies 100 rupees, which is probably close to a few days pay for them, so now they smile at us every time we walk by.

(Blogger is giving me a hard time today posting photos, so you'll see the pictures up top, on Flicker.)

Last night when we were walking home from swimming, some men were working on the power station between the Madras Club and our apartment. One of them was welding---sparks were flying, but he had no goggles, no helmet, and no shoes. Safety awareness has a long way to go here.
Thanks for your message on my site. I enjoy reading your blog and will continue visiting so that I can remain (vicariously) in Madras. All the best--

-Prince Roy
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