Looking out from my fourth floor bedroom window I can see baskets balanced on the heads of many men and young boys. They queue in the heat of the midday sun, waiting their turn to tip bricks and cement they’ve slowly hauled up the bamboo ladders of a building site that suddenly sprung up a couple of doors away from my Dhaka flat. Then, bare footed they carefully make their way back down again for more. Having only lived here for a couple of months I was taken by surprise. It appeared as if from nowhere and grew rapidly to this current hive of activity. I do occasionally catch a glimps of a bright yellow hard hat, but mostly this consists of low tech hard labour…and lots of it.
It’s strange looking out over a building site so high up and I mourn mildly for the view about to be snatched away, but in this city nothing is static, you must take life as it comes. Within Lalmatia where I live regeneration is exclusively residential. You don’t have to venture far however to find huge commercial complexes and foreign banks being built, cheek to jowl with the typical jumble of tiny run-down retail cubicles that offer a vast array of goods and services, ranging from street food to tailor shops.
We have been warned to cross the road before passing large building sites as bricks and debris are regularly and casually thrown down, and I have read about several pedestrian deaths reported in The Daily Star, a Bangladesh English language newspaper (www.thedailystar.net). I’ve yet to work out which poses most risk however, masonary falling on my head or being mown down by crazy traffic while crossing the road!
Every night, as I sit out on the balcony trying to keep cool during yet another electricity black-out, I spot a battered old yellow lorry trundling slowly down our road. It parks up in the street outside the entrance to the building site, the driver immediately throwing the bonnet open to cool off the overheating engine. It’s packed full of loose bricks and half a dozen labourers, who leap out to start the unloading immediatly by hand. Stacking the bricks expertly in a huge neat pile, the re-supply is made ready for the day shift, who start work the next day at seven am. Then, the following morning I watch as those same bricks appear, transported up the ladders in many head baskets, ready to raise the building even higher.
A brick chipping machine, women normally do this by hand