A new storey is being added to the college-building I work in. One spanking new floor atop the existing five floors. Which means more classrooms, more students, more revenue for the college. More comfort for the management.
What it DOES NOT MEAN is more comfort for the workers slogging in the April heat to build this storey before June, when the new session starts. Their story remains unchanged, though the change the cityscape ever so often.
The volleyball ground is overrun with snotty-nosed little children running about butt-naked and dusty. Their dishevelled over-burdened mothers peep out from temporarily-erected asbestos shelters with makeshift doors creaking on their hinges. Some of the broken bits of wood and board are used to light fires on which food is cooked. Actually, food is a euphemism, because what is being cooked would perhaps not go down our pampered-priveleged throats. Raggedy clothes hang in drooping washing-lines strung between the trees. Clothes that would have abandoned by us in dustbins long back. And a line of gaunt, sun-darkened workers, men and women, trudge up and down balancing loads on their heads, making a brick-cement-mortar building they themselves will never be able to live in.
History tells us that exploited slaves built the Pyramids. That the poor workers who built the lavish Taj Mahal had their hands cut off. But that terrible irony is not just history, it is also continuing reality we witness everyday. Only now we do not cut off their hands. Because we need a new Taj Mahal everyday, in every part of every metropolis. And we need a steady stream of hungry, hollow-eyed, , hard-working workers to build for us our highrises where we can eat and sleep and chill-out.