Wednesday, 17 October 2012

A Stroll Down to the Hougli Bridge

I started the day today with a stroll down to the Hougli Bridge, between Kolkata and Howrah, which was something of an eye opener for me.  During the 4 visits I have made to India over the last 20 years I have seen a lot of poverty.  There is the poverty of the rural poor, who work very hard just to fill their bellies at the end of the day.  There are families in India who make their livings turning large rocks into road chippings.  The final breaking of the stones, to produce the smallest pieces, being done by the children with there nimble little fingers.  In one way this is abhorrent.  People, men women and children breaking rocks when a machine could do this so much better.  But this work provides a living for these people and in the absence of other paid work it is their means of survival.  Farm labourers often have very physical jobs to do.  Also this work is often accomplished by women whilst the men bags the standing about and watching the cows job.  There are often the old and the infirm who beg, particularly in the cities.  They have no other alternative but to hold out their hands in the hope of alms.  But today I witnessed the urban working poor in a way I have never seen before.  Finding myself in an area where goods are distributed to the rest of the city, I saw men working harder than I thought possible.  Probably cheaper than beasts of burden, they carried and hauled impossible loads to their final destinations.  Their physical strength and endurance must be incredible.  I know for a fact that I would not last half a day in their places, toiling barefoot through the streets.
So I returned to my hotel (and some more Imodium) with yet another image of India in my head.  These men I saw, worked hard, tremendously hard, but I also saw a camaraderie between them and a mutual support which was wonderful.  When I lay down tonight in my hotel room with AC and hot running water I shall wonder where they are sleeping and if they have eaten their fill.

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