The Builder (short story)
Came out from “Jazz by the Bay’, a club in Mumbai, into Marine Drive. Called the ‘Queens Necklace’, this area is among the most desirable and expensive real estate in Mumbai. Was approached by a really old bent and gnarled woman begging for some money. I asked her where she came from. ‘Sholapur’ she said, but had been in Mumbai for longer than she can remember. She left her village in search of food and a better life. A better life ?…..
She came to Bombay (as it was then), when some of the buildings were still being built on Marine Drive. She smiled almost with pride as she told me that she was a laborer working at Rs 1 per day in those days. And then her wages went up to Rs 1.50 per day. She swept her hand proudly as she pointed at some of the buildings she had helped build. Suddenly she was no longer a beggar, lost in the mass of people of the street that India prefers to forget in the mass hysteria of India’s new billionaires and stock market (over) valuations. She was an individual that had contributed to society.
I gave her some money, and as I drove away she was still smiling and waving at me. I think I reminded her of a time when she carried herself with pride and hope. Even at Rs 1.50 a day And my last image of her was this frail old woman silhouetted against the large imposing residences. Still waving. And I thought …. Each building must now be exchanging hands at values over $ 100 million. While an old woman that helped build it still begs on the streets.
by Shekhar Kapur
Read that story on the net today and it made me think…there is a story everywhere, it is but our ability to see it and perceive it that makes the difference between people who are sensitive to the world around them and rest of the herd. I see a remarkable resemblance of the story and the city I live in Dubai: A teenage city; strong, vibrant and erratic. A city in its growth phase, morphing every day and acquiring a personality and creating its own identity. As I see it being built and the workers from different nationalities labor the burning heat of the summer months to make the city look pretty I wonder where they would end up after they finish their contracts and their visas….would they have the privilege of standing on sheik zayed road and say “ that building stands and I helped to build it”