Friday, September 26, 2008

gym dandy

They are building a gym at Woodstock School. Since the school is located in a natural forest of some sort, an ocean of paperwork held up the project for several years and the treasured bit of flat space was of very little use to the school. Construction is finally in full swing, twenty hours a day I'm told, just a very literal and very tempting stone's throw below our cozy cottage.

I thought that I would take a few pictures of the building site. Much of India is under construction at any given time, so this is not an entirely new experience for us, but people in other countries can not perhaps imagine what this implies, and we do not often take pictures of every project that we see.

If I had heard a few years ago that a gym was being constructed, I would have pictured men in hardhats and neon vests taking control of the situation and making the elements submit to the technology of mankind. They would level the site with a heavy machine and they would use a crane to lower each finely engineered steel beam into place. There are some fundamental differences when construction occurs in India.

To begin with, as seen in the picture below, the construction crew has set up shacks to live in right here on the building site. Such projects rely heavily on manpower, and India is simply teeming with that. To use a bulldozer in such an endeavor would deprive people of jobs. The bottomless supply of labor creates a very different economic situation than what we see in the Western world. In the US, salaries and availability of labor make it critical to find an efficient method--an earth moving machine is used to do a job quickly if it will save a crew of men a day of toil. Here a fundamentally different economy makes it much cheaper to be inefficient, or perhaps redefines efficiency.
The next picture shows some of the large mounds of dirt. Some is sand for concrete, carried in on the backs of mules. The nearest road access is a few hundred meters away. The materials are dumped in piles from a truck and hauled the rest of the way by mules. The brown dirt has been dug out of the holes. All of the digging is done by hand, and some of the holes are 14 feet deep, according to Nigel, the man in charge. In this picture, you can see a few of the circular pans covered in sacks that a person uses to carry gravel around. Also visible are the steel reinforcing rods that came in a few at a time on the shoulders of lines of men stepping carefully and feeling the heavy spring of all that metal.
The next picture shows a few mules making a delivery of sand and gravel for concrete. Each mule is fitted with a pair of bags that are filled to the brim with bricks or dirt or sand. The mules walk slowly and cautiously, zig-zagging up the hills to decrease the steepness (these mules know calculus). Also in this picture is a pair of men working to bend the steel bars, some of which have already been planted in forbidding little clusters in the background. This is the mixing of the concrete. The large black tank is for water, identical to the two or three that store our water here at Redwood Cottage.
This picture again shows the mixing process. Also visible is an amazing little trick that can be observed near any road project all over this fair land. The two-man rope-shovel. A rope is tied to a shovel near the blade and a second man holds the other end of the rope. The man with the wooden handle of the spade stabs it into a pile of gravel, but the lifting is done by the other man using the rope. The arrangement seems like it would prevent a few back problems, but perhaps it only addresses a shovel shortage.
The rope-shovel:


  1. Nate,
    It was awesome to see a picture of the rope shovel again - something I had forgotten about.
    -Dave W.

  2. I love the pictures Nate!
    And it is amazing that they do it by hand.

    Love MaryGrace