Photographer's Note

Back in the sixties when I grew up in India, we lived in a small apartment in a town near Calcutta.

Across the street was a tea-stall, a smaller one on the other side of the Grand Trunk Road, and yet another one beside it. The tea-stalls were serviced by groups of boys about my age, ten to twelve year olds. At four in the morning they would be awakened by a loud banging on the iron gate by the owner. Sleepy boys would slowly open the door and shuffle around in the dark. The day would begin by fetching water from the municipal water tap across the street, which they would do two iron buckets at a time, straining against their weight. Shouts of abuse would ring through the still air, prodding the reluctant boys into a frenzy of activity. Serving of tea, washing dishes, and more fetching of water would continue through the day until nearly midnight, when the boys would lock themselves in the shop for the night.

The gulf between them and me seemed only as wide as the street.

One of my fourth grade classmates, whose father had died suddenly, had to leave school to get a job in one such tea-stall somewhere down the road.

Then there were the coal depots, which sold fuel for coke ovens. A layer of black soot enveloped all the boys who worked there. Younger boys would only move the counter-weights around and keep tally in a dirty bound book. Somewhat older boys, and some girls, usually much older and stronger, enveloped in coal dust, their hair hidden under a piece of cloth, would hammer down large chunks of coke into smaller pieces and shovel them into piles or put them into wicker baskets. Then they would haul them to the neighborhood households, the black fuel piled into two baskets hanging from the ends of a yoke.

Some forty years later is his dream any different from those who had preceded him?

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Additional Photos by Animesh Ray (AnimeshRay) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 689 W: 44 N: 846] (9089)
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