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Friday, January 9, 2015

Moving Forward

Guntur is definitely a city on the move.  Everywhere, everywhere, construction, remodeling, and road widening advance......Narrow lanes are narrowed further by tiny patches of broken earth between compound (courtyard) walls and, in some lanes, archaic open drainage ditches await the street widening. Indeed, streets are paved or concretized in most of the town, and the drainage ditches are being replaced by underground pipes, as they already have been, in our neighborhood. A plethora of tiny shops old and new are interspersed with large, shiny new shops, some of whose names you would recognize (United Colors of Benetton, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Dominoes), others of local and regional Telugu and English creation. A multi storied multi-specialty hospital is overshadows the sleepy compound where, in contrast, Drs. Patricia and Samson are painstakingly growing a simple grass roots inner city hospital.

Our street resounds with the sound of pounding on concrete, iron, stone and wood.  Buildings are of concrete, stone, and tile, in a country where trees are few and precious.  Despite advanced techniques and materials, much of the local work is painstakingly done by hand, with rudimentary tools.  Rods are beent by hand and/or pounded into shape with simple hammers..

Near our apartment, concrete finishers sit and walk along bamboo scaffolding of a four story building project, somewhat shaded from the noonday sun by huge, tattered plastic bags that puff and blow about in the wind. Here and there a team of men and women relay open-pan head-loads of cement, sand, or stones from curbside piles into building sites. Small cement mixers turn out the stuff in small doses.  Miniature (Piaggio) to medium sized trucks ply the roads, delivering everything from take-out food to onions, from paper products to boxes of a variety of world class and/or made in China goods. Once in awhile a larger truck rumbles an ocean-going container along.The sounds of trucks and the unloading of materials might be heard until midnight or even later. Then night is very quiet until the usual daily sounds announce the early morning.

Our apartment building's generator has been commandeered for post-storm-damage recovery at Vishakhapatnam, an important university, port and ship/submarine building center several hours away, on the Bay of Bengal. So, when we lose city power (mercifully, only twice this month, for short periods), my husband braves the stairs. But I stay put in our fourth floor apartment, musing and hoping for a return of computer access to record my observations here.

In the relative quiet of a holiday morning (even the door-to-door vendors are silent) when, like people everywhere, those who can are sleeping in, I take my camera to the laundry veranda...a common feature in Indian apartments, new and capture how the neighborhood looks from four floors up.  In this part of our block, only three single family homes , now surrounded by four and five floor apartments, remain.  Once charming middle class homes, freshly whitewashed every year, and surrounded by dusty palm and fruit trees, they languish dingily until their owners decide how and when to modernize, demolish, and/or build.  The trees are few, that remain to freshen the dwindling air supply.

But building goes on all around, all around, construction goes on all around.

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