Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Pyramid Builders

[I am visiting my hometown for a week and so have very limited access to the Internet. I'm posting this blog here in Hooghly. Naturally, I had to be content with a small piece of writing. And also naturally, just like I often write about Hooghly when I post from Hyderabad, this post is about Hyderabad since I'm writing from Hooghly.]
I watched a documentary called The Pyramid Builders on National Geographic Channel sometime ago. It showed the workers' huts that had been found near the Great Pyramids of Giza. These were the people who built the timeless Pyramids, and were very proud of their work. Their skill is, of course, evident from their work which still survives today.
This is the only analogy that came to my mind as I looked out from my terrace the other day. Here, in Hi-Tech City, Hyderabad, construction work never stops. Something or the other is being built all the time, be it a high capacity office building or a big block of flats. And just below the modern high rises, what do you see? Yes, slums. Those are the living quarters of the people who build some of the most luxurious apartments and offices in the country.
Most of them are outsiders. I have heard them speak, and was surprised to find that an overwhelmingly large number of them come from West Bengal and Orissa. Ironically, the IT industry in Hyderabad also has a very large number of professionals from these states.
As I walk down the road in front of those slums every day, I watch their lifestyle quite closely. They keep pet fowl, and have facilities like under-tree hair-cutting salons and STD phone booths in the slum. The children swing on swings made of cloth and old rubber tyres hung from the tree branches and play in the dirt.
The Egypt simile may seem far fetched. The buildings these people make won't last four thousand years. And their own dwellings? Those will be gone as soon as their work here is done. Then they will dismantle their huts and go to build houses at some other part of the city. Houses where they can't even dream of living. Just as the pyramid builders could never think of pyramids for themselves and were buried in ordinary cemetaries. Has the situation really changed much in the last four millenia?


  1. That's such a beautiful post Sugata.
    Very thought-provoking.

  2. @shivani: Thanks! Keep visiting. :)

  3. It could your one of the top three posts. Don't ask me other two.. :-)

    Life is like that buddy..who knows tomorrow IT professionals also may need to go to pakistan or china as a transfer.

  4. Interesting. But wondering if all the people who stay around the high rises are indeed construction workers. Also I doubt it the workers move from place to place when a construction is complete, more possibly, they stick to unclaimed land and settle. But the disparity if quite a contrast.

  5. @abhijit: What? I'm not going to any of these two places!

    @shreemoyee: I agree that generally all slum dwellers are not construction workers. But in this particular case, most of them are. And they are not really keen to settle as they have come from other states. They move from place to place and try to stay close to the construction sites. That's why, these dwellings are not even huts; they are tents!
    Some of them do cling to unclaimed lands, but the rate at which Hyderabad is growing, unclaimed land is becoming rarer every day.

  6. True! not only hyderabad, this is the case all over India. I have seen many people from Bihar, UP coming to punjab to earn what they call big bucks. They contribute in their own little way, but the factory/field owner eventually laughs away with all the money and success. Although, its true that people are skilled at different levels, but what amazes me is the indifference they have towards the bigger picture and the smile on their face brought upon by their own contribution. :)