Steps on stairs (Sirite Pa)

Saturday, June 13, 2009




Five more floors to go. Only five more. Each of the floors can be reached by twenty steps on the stairs. Ten of them and he can get to the landing. A few seconds, a few steps and a little rest in climbing. He can stop there for few seconds if he likes, but then need to climb the rest few stairs to reach the next floor. It is around 1:00 PM now. He never mistakes the time. During the long experience in his work, he never looked at the clock. He never wear a watch either. Or, better said, not wear a watch when there is no special occasion, for the work he does, the wrist watch cannot be worn on his wrist.

He is concentrating on the stairs. The stairs are already a bit slippery for the sand and dust on them. The stairs are pretty wide. Three four men like him can ride them at a time. He is panting a bit. Panting due to the restlessness, the lack of air, and the tremendous humidity, normal in Kolkata in these days.


There is rain sometimes, but in the month of June, the humidity reaches it's maximum. The weather is cloudy, air is heavy and hot. As hot as 38 degree Celsius. May be it seems so hot as he is working for long. May because he is feeling hungry like hell. May be because he need to breath some air, need some rest, need a few puffs on his favourite handmade Indian cigarette, known as "biri". Ah! If he could stop now for a while, he thought in himself. Unknowingly he argued against the thought, he is not supposed to think like this. He is not allowed to, he is a worker, in work, and need to finish the work in due time.


He has just crossed the sixth floor. This is his last trip. After this, he will go down to the basement, where they report every morning to the supervisor. The supervisor will take his thumb impression. He will get the pay for today, and will have his lunch. He has will have lunch at a temporary canteen made for them near the construction venue. Rice, dal, one vegetarian dish made of potatoes, brinjals, etc. a piece of onion, two green chillies.He is feeling the crave for that food rapidly growing in him. He doesn't like that food very much but that is all he can afford here. After having his lunch, he will get back home. His wife cooks rice in the evening. They will eat some at night and will keep some in water for the next morning. Early morning, he eats this wet rice with salt, some hot dishes cooked early by his wife and daughter and comes to his work.

He is around 50 years in age. He is not supposed to work here according to the supervisor, as it takes to much of physical labour for a man of his age. He requested, argued and finally got the work. He needs this work as the payment is much better than the normal works he does. As this work continues longer than the works he get locally. As he can earn enough from this work to save some more for his two daughters, one of them is going to be married very soon when the other has been already married.

Seventh floor has been reached. He is in full concentration on the steps. But, he is getting distracted sometimes. His son-in-law has gone to Kerala, a place far from West Bengal, almost 2000 Km. away. He earns better money there. He wanted to take his father-in-law with him, but he didn't agree. The money may be high, but he need to stay with his family. He opted to come to sector V instead. The software tecnology park, where new high rises are being built and for him, the pay is much better than his locality. He is a masonry supply worker, the kind of people who supplies the required materials to the brick layerers. He also knows how to prepare the mortar with cement and sand and water. He knows, how to bind the racks for masonry workers to seat on and work on a tall building. All these things he has learnt from his childhood. All these years he is working for his family. He never talk to the other workers much. They think that, he is a thinker. Well, he thinks but not as a thinker. He never argues with anyone about the present political issues, nor he comaplints about the wage he is receiving and the ratio of work and wage. He never be there in the union meetings and always try to avoid all kinds of controversy.

Only thing he belive about his life is, he is a poor man. And, like other men, he needs to work for the people he is responsible for. Sometimes, only when, in special occasions, he drinks and become a thinker. At those times he finds his life to be screwed up top to bottom and he cannot change his life.

"Nobody can change his life, his fate", he thought. "It's fate, it's God, it's the destiny. The day we born, it has been written on our forehead. No one can change that, however he tries." A deep sigh came out of him. He is feeling really exhausted, as he is crossing the ninth floor and heading towards the tenth. He need to climb the rest of the steps to reach up to the eleventh floor. There the other guy is waiting for him to carry the bag of cement to the sixteenth floor. The work is there at the sixteenth floor. The building is almost finished, so the cranes have been removed from the building. Only way to carry things up to that height is the lift. The two working lifts are meant for the people working in different offices in this building. They are very sophisticated people, so the lifts, in no way can be used for carrying the building materials. So only way it can be done is with the labours, the supply workers.

The man is sweating like anything. The bag has become heavier than ever. With is burning stomach for food, he is feeling a tremendous head ache as well. He is nearing to the tenth floor.

His legs have started trembling. The lack of water in his body due to the continuous sweating for the last one hour has made him weak. He is panting heavily. His eyes are feeling like popping out. It seems that he cannot make it to the eleventh floor. If he can call loudly, the guy at the eleventh floor may come down to help him. He doesn't want anyone to help. No one will help him to carry the load he has in his life, no one ever can. However uneven the war of life may become sometime, he cannot just wait and loose. This is his war, he needs to fight till the end.

15 comments:

Ralph Ivy June 14, 2009 at 3:39 AM  

The wages of life. Steps to go. ("Miles to go before I sleep" the poet says.) He has steps to go. Stories to tell. You told this one.
Thanks.

Shankha June 14, 2009 at 10:47 AM  

Thank you so much sir. I have tried a new style of story telling. It is not my favourite. Will expect personal guidance from you to improvise the style some day.

Thanks a lot for reading and commenting.
: - )

agnitrisha June 14, 2009 at 7:00 PM  

i have seen these people at work and one will feel as if someone has punched hard in the heart of the onlooker. your heart will ache for them, but you cant do anything.. this is harsh reality, you just have to swallow it without water.

Shankha June 15, 2009 at 7:11 AM  

Thanks for your comment Trisha, and it's good to know that you also feel the same as me for these people.
Interestingly enough, these people are mostly happy people. They only work, enjoy their lives in work and get back home exhausted to sleep.
But, these days, the new generation among them are critics. They try to criticize the system, their wages and trying to get out of their native places for better payments.

I tried to portray the representative of the old generation of these people, will write about the new generation, some other day.

I don't think as a style of story telling the story is good, the story line may also be weak, but I had to portray this "special" person, and therefore I have written this. Thanks. :-)

Poulomi June 16, 2009 at 10:46 AM  

Your story took us up the flight of steps as well with the weary worker...This style of writing is good,here u can actually feel the frustration of the character....
Its not a story , its creating a scenario, a picture of some harsh moments of our daily life....sometimes we need people to show us, point out the harsh realitly in front of us....Thanks for being such a good narrator....

me_amitava June 16, 2009 at 11:03 AM  

Indeed it is necessary to face the truth, to battle out against our own destiny in this crude harsh world. But at times it is also required to look at the brighter side of life, otherwise deep frustration and irritation creeps into your life very easily. All your stories have focused on the harsh reality, but may be sometime down the line you need to look into the bright side of things through your stories.

Secondly, there seems to redundancy in content, please have a look into this issue. And also look into the spellings and structure. The concept of the story is nice, but it lacked a concrete structure. Please ponder on this as well. Overall, a good one. Keep up the good work.

Shankha June 16, 2009 at 2:13 PM  

Thanks Poulomi and Amitava. I shall try to write something about a "bright" man's life very soon.
* About the repeating of content, the theme I am using is to be blamed. (Of course me too.) I shall fix this once I get adequate time to search for a better theme and accommodate.
* About spelling... I am checking it with spell checkers, still missing some. Sorry. :( will try to do better in that.
* About the structure ... yes, will consider to restructure or add something later if I get time and energy.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Sashindoubutsu June 19, 2009 at 1:25 PM  

I realistic story very-well narrated. It is written in a way that captures hearts, bringing people into the real world some others are experiencing. I hope he reaches the 11th floor. I know he did.

avijit June 24, 2009 at 12:39 PM  

The Country we live, the economic scenario we have at the recent past or in present; frastation should come at the time of making a persons life.
But the persons chooses the right steps and have the strength of mind, succeeds.
Though, all of us have stories to tell, but sankha your stories will do some work among peoples who are getting frastrated to have more success.
keep it up...

Valerie Wangnet July 1, 2009 at 2:09 PM  

I really enjoyed this piece. You have a great writing style; a very authentic voice. Your talent for storytelling really coveys an unsettling reality, and I liked the stairs allusion

Great work! I will be back for more

Quiet Waters Rise July 13, 2009 at 8:05 PM  

I really enjoyed this very much Shankha. You took us through the steps, gave us his story and background, and in a manner that I could feel the emotion. I felt myself hoping that he would get through okay, and was worried as he was going from the tenth to the eleventh floor.

It opened my eyes to the thoughts of the labor of others and what they go through as they do their daily work.

I thought this was very good and look forward to reading more.

Ibne Hanif July 15, 2009 at 2:54 PM  

Dear Shanka, I appreciate your story very much for you've very nicely decribed the hardships of poor labours. Unfortunetly, in the developing countries like mine (Pakistan) and yours (India) only a few people recognise the important role of a labour. Because I had been working under the supervision of Japanese (in a Car assembly plant), to see that their engineers not only continously struggle to improve the quality of their products, they also work very hard to introduce new machinary, tools, methods, Jigs etc. So labours and technicians may work without too much hardship.
Your story should inspire those supervising such construction projects or wherever there is involvement of hard labour to use advance method and techniques to reduce burden of a labour. Because your story describes an old and weak person, I think such people should be given special concession in their labour work.

Thank you so much for writing this meaningful story.

Nothing Profound July 15, 2009 at 5:55 PM  

Your story reminds me of the Greek myth of Sisyphus. For offending the gods, Sisyphus was condemned to push a huge rock up a steep hill through all eternity. Whenever he reached the top the rock would roll back over him to the bottom and he would have to start all over again. Likewise your character has this burden to bear, this labor. He cannot give it up no matter how difficult or impossible it is. It is his destiny. He struggles with it but he will keep fighting until the end.

Shankha July 15, 2009 at 9:29 PM  

Thank you all for the nice encouraging comments to this post. Te story indeed, is about a struggle. A non ending struggle as "Nothing Profound" mentioned.Yes, that is the main "idea" behind this story.

However laborious you become, at the end of the day, due to your destiny, you will not be rewarded. Some other person, doing much lesser work will achieve much more, that is what I called destiny.

Seema Syed November 19, 2009 at 4:52 PM  

It indeed is very touching. Nice story. You have a good approach of tailoring the things. And telling stories of the reality is definitely a great achievement in itself. Keep it up.

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