Stung By a Woman

7 March 2013. We were at the last leg of an ambitious project, diverting surface runoff from the Brigade Millennium Avenue nearby into the lake. It was a calculated risk BBMP was taking at our behest. Everything depended on the force of the water entering the trench because the road sloped sharply away to the north and the lake was in the south. Alternating between hope and anxiety, my friends and I watched the JCB dig the trench and make way for the crane to lift and place the cement pipes, each a good 45 inches in diameter. We watched the men bring what looked like a broad and flat rope around each pipe and hook it to the end of the crane’s boom. When it rose in the air and the pipe hovered above the trench, they directed it inside where it settled in a cloud of dust. The men jumped down to remove the sling and the mason quickly cemented two sections together.

Pipeline to harvest surface runoff
Man and Machine
Building the Diversion Channel

Mentally applauding the streamlined operation, we stood at a safe distance and watched. By late afternoon 15 out of 18 pipes were in a continuum, hopefully sloping ever so gradually into the lake. At this rate, they should be able to finish the work quickly. I began to breathe easy. Suddenly, the sky darkened and it started to rain. What? Just when everything was going so well?

The Spoilsport

All of us scrambled to the gazebo except for the two drivers who remained in their machines. If only the rain had held for another 24 hours, we would have known how the “Diversion Channel” worked!

A watched pot doesn’t boil but after an hour or so, the rain became a fine drizzle. However, the men showed no sign of returning to work. One of them even had the gall to lie down on the bench. The drivers in the crane and the JCB became restless and called out to them. The fellows gestured to them to wait. One pointed at the sky as if to say more rain could be expected so what was the point? If they were not going to listen to the drivers, would they listen to us? We telephoned the contractor. He was stuck in traffic. Of course!

Unable to bear it any longer, I got up to tell them to start work. Just then, I saw a woman emerge from the walking track behind the piled-up soil near the trench. She was wearing a faded purple blouse and flowered synthetic sari, its pallu tucked firmly at her waist. With a big white plastic bag protecting her head from the rain, she held the sari up and away from the muddy ground. Her stride, vitality, everything about her oozed confidence. She didn’t look to the right or left as she picked her way quickly but carefully on the slushy soil, past the monster machines, and us, and went briskly on her way.

The Woman Who Came By
And Became a Role Model

The next thing I knew was the workers asking our gardener for plastic bags which they tied around their heads and set to work once again!

Stung into action
Back to work

Published by Usha Rajagopalan ("Lakeika")

I am a writer, translator and lake conservationist based in Bengaluru, India.

One thought on “Stung By a Woman

  1. A nuanced narrative of human enterprise dampened by the force of nature and redeemed by the archangel of inspiration; all animated by some detailed photos that speak a thousand words.

    Liked by 1 person

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