The Indian Express
Sunday, October 09, 2005
On a morning walk along a pot-holed road which was being re-laid, I saw a group of labourers who were about to begin their day’s work. It was obvious that they belonged to a migrant clan of stonebreakers, engaged by the construction contractor. It was also obvious that they were poor, very poor. Tented huts on the roadside, open-air kitchen with the barest of utensils, a baby cradled in a cloth-sling — it’s a common sight at construction sites in India.What struck me was that before the team began the day’s work, a woman performed a small puja on the stone, smeared it with the auspicious yellow and red powder, broke it with a ceremonial strike and then everybody went about their respective tasks. I asked the woman why she did it. In her own earthy Marathi, she replied, "This is not a mere stone for us. There is divinity in it. This stone feeds us. It also makes your cars run smoothly on the road.