The rain sets in around 10 AM. Of course my umbrella is at home and not in my bag. The metro is late, the traffic is even more a mess than on normal days and the streets and the stairs are so slippery that I am about to fall down nearly twice. When I switch on the light, the electricity goes off, but there is nothing that can be done and the hallway outside is packed with people. For another minute or so I look out of the window on the wet street, at the opposite of the road construction work is underway, the men and women working there having no protection coats or even boots. But then I turn around and the day begins and for a long, long time I do not think at all. When I look up for the first time several hours later the world is covered in grey, a dusty veil and it is still raining. Still the men and women doing construction work are on the street soaked wet by now. But the door is opened again and more people are still waiting outside. At 4 PM I hear but only from very far away a siren and some shouting from outside. But I am not too sure, I barely can see anything and the world outside is covered in thick grey clouds. At 5 PM I ask N. if something has happened. An accident she says, but she does not know more either. Half an hour later, there is turmoil outside, not again I think, please not again. But a second later my door flies open and a group of men and women and N. storms in. One woman holds a metal bowl. One of those bowls the men and women doing construction work are using to carry bricks and concrete and stones on their head from one point to another. Mostly women are doing this, they are carrying probably more than half of their own weight. But in the middle of the bowl there are no stones, no bricks and no concrete. In the middle of the bowl I can see a foot. A female foot. Smashed but unremarkable a foot. Still you can see the tiny rings the woman was wearing and in the long moment where I try to come up with something to say, the women that holds the bowl starts to howl as if something deep down in her is falling apart and she screams as if haunted by a terrible beast and the bowl with the foot slips out of her hands. „Take her out, take her out“, I can hear me screaming and get me a pair of gloves, to pick up the foot and the bowl. N. accompanies the woman out of the door, still screaming and howling in a desperate way. Finally a man speaks up. He is telling me that one woman, who was part of those doing construction works on the opposite side of the road, slipped on the wet and muddy ground, the bowl she was carrying on her head fell down and smashed down on her foot. The ambulance took her away, they say but they forgot the foot somehow. They are shrugging with their shoulders looking down on the foot. No one among those present, knows where the ambulance was going to, the other workers disappeared into thin air and left behind the bowl with the foot. One and half an hour later after endless phone calls, the woman could be located and we are sending courier on his way. The foot not in the bowl anymore, just in case you were wondering. At 8 PM I again stand at the window leaning against the cool glass. I don’t want to look down at my shivering hands and for a minute or so I close my eyes. Everywhere in New Delhi you can see the men and women doing construction work on the many streets of the city. They women wear cheap sarees and flip-flops, no one wear sneakers or even boots. No one has a pair of security gloves or a mask to protect the lungs from the dust. They dig, they divert, they dry out and dig up. The men make around 500 Rupees a day, the women maybe earn 300 Rupees. Tomorrow the sun will be up again, maybe it will rain again- who knows?- another day will begin and the construction work on the opposite of the road will go on. Whoever can work let him work, they say and the mean what they say. And whoever can not work, does not count anymore or is dead. By tomorrow the woman will be replaced and forgotten. Words do not help.
1 Euro are 70 Rupees. The working hours range from 12 to 16 hours a day.