Magazine article New Internationalist

City of Dreams: Shravan Maishe Talks about His Life

Magazine article New Internationalist

City of Dreams: Shravan Maishe Talks about His Life

Article excerpt

City of dreams

Shravan Maishe talks about his life

WHEN I FIRST MET Shravan Maishe ten years ago he was 16, peeling prawns at Sassoon Dock. At that time, he was just like any other lively and mischievous boy. His parents were working on construction at Nariman Point. His brother had just joined them, and Shravan would do likewise within a year.

Ten years later, Shravan is transformed. I scarcely recognize him. A capable, thoughtful young man, married to Lalita, with a boy of three and twin girls six months old. His parents have returned to cultivate their patch of land in their native place in Karnataka. This has been made possible by the little money they had saved, and the regular remittance Shravan can now send home from his salary of 2,500 rupees a month (about $100). He says: 'This is what they always wanted. To cultivate their land in peace. When we were children, they could not survive at home. People want to go back home if they have land. No - one who had the choice would prefer to stay in the city if they were guaranteed a living from the land.'

Shravan has achieved a great deal in the past decade. He joined his parents on the construction site when he was 18. After several years as mason, carpenter and bricklayer, he has become a building - site supervisor. It turned out he was working only a few minutes' walk from where I was staying in Bandra. Every time I passed, I called to see him. He has worked, both for the improvement of his family and for the community. He says: 'You cannot separate them. The people of the community were all our family when our parents worked on construction. The children belonged to everybody.'

He is working on a heritage building on the seafront at Bandra; a colonial bungalow that cannot be demolished, but behind which the owners are building a 12 - storey block of flats. The ground has been excavated, but because there was some irregularity in the plans, work has been temporarily suspended. Shravan must be on the site all the time as a security measure. He sits in a back room of the house - tessellated floor, desk and telephone - waiting for the work to resume. In the compound are the hutments of rough hessian, bamboo and polythene which shelter the construction workers - the kind of place where he and his parents lived not so long ago.

Shravan has a house on the edge of Sanjay Gandhi Nagar, near the enclosing wall that bars it to intruders. …

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