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Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019

Gurugramwale: The roadside digger

Life and ambitions of a young migrant worker

gurugram Updated: Sep 02, 2019 14:13 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Mayank Austen Soofi
Hindustan Times
Jehangir Khan works as a labourer in Gurugram.
Jehangir Khan works as a labourer in Gurugram. (HT Photo )
         

It’s very hot and humid. Only those who have absolutely no choice are obliged to be out under the sky this unforgiving afternoon.

One such person is Jehangir Khan. Completely drenched in sweat, he is standing within a pit, quietly digging the earth. Mr Khan would have been immediately identified as a grave digger if this were a cemetery. But it is a roadside, here in Gurugram’s Sector 14.

“This is to lay underground cables,” he says, explaining that he is working for a communication network company.

The gentleman decides to treat himself to a brief break. Keeping aside his shovel, he stands still within the pit and starts to chat. “I’m used to this kind of garmi (heat)... back home in the village (in Bihar) I would work on our farm land for hours beneath the sun.”

But, of course, he earns more in the city.

In his 20s, Mr Khan arrived in the National Capital Region two years ago after being nudged by a friend who was already based in the Futuristic City. The digger’s existence in our city however has no firm roots, so far. “I do not have a home here... I sleep where the work of the day is... the thekedar (contractor) makes arrangements for my shelter and food.”

Mr Khan shyly shows the mud that has covered his feet and ankles, saying, “There is a famous player who has the same name as mine but I don’t remember what he used to play.” The labourer has an athletic body due to the nature of his work but he confesses he has never been into sports. “I have only one ambition and that is to work, to do koi bhi (any) work, so that I could earn enough money to support my family and to eat and sleep well... and I like drinking at night!”

He now picks up the shovel.

Meanwhile, a little dark cloud has blocked out the sun making the air suddenly less intolerable.