She was standing in the middle of a 100m long brick line. A towel over her head to sustain the heat, she was busy stacking up the semi-wet bricks. With the chamber owner’s permission, I went up to her and introduced myself.
Worker: Thambi! My name is Azhagu Rani (pronounced as Alagu Rani). I am a native of Thirumangalam in Madurai. It has been four years now since we came here.
Me: Madurai is one of the biggest towns in the state. What made you move here?
Worker: My husband and I used to work in our field. Because of the lack of water, we had to move here. After coming here, we joined this chamber. We also go and work in the nearby fields, now and then. I have studied till 5th standard.
(Pointing out to an old man who was pulling the bricks cart from the machine) That is my husband. He injured his leg badly in an accident. It has been a year now since he started walking properly, again.
Me: Is the pay you receive sufficient enough to run your family?
Worker: I am paid around 200 per day while my husband receives around 350 per day. My son in law also works here (pointing to a man dressed in pink, who was scooping out sand from a heap).
Worker: Thambi! Shall I get you a color (cold drink) to drink?
Me: It’s fine Amma! (Pause) You are handling the mud every day.
Worker: It will go in one wash. (Smiles) Pazhagi pochu Thambi! (You get used to it).
I was watching her work and she looked up and said, “I shall finish this before lunch”.
Almost half a line of bricks was left to be stacked up with less than an hour to lunch.