Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Reach for the clouds, but remember the safety net

Barely a day ago a man fell off the under-construction high-rise opposite my place. The worker had been balancing on a ledge before he toppled over, or so we thought. Today a local newspaper announces that he wasn't a worker but a producer and real-estate dealer who chose suicide. There were no financial problems, his friends said. Cases like this go away eventually, but not before the media digs up something. So we'll know more before long.

That's one matter. The other is, there are workers who walk on the edge of this skyscraper without a safety device. There are no nets, not even a rope attached to the waist. I see them on the ledge on the 16th floor, balancing precariously - it always looks precarious at that height - on the 19th floor, heck, even a fall from the first floor could hurt some. Do the workers even know they're supposed to have some sort of safety nets? I'm going the easy way and blaming the builder on this one. He has a real-estate empire in Bombay, and though his money-making skills are respected, the methods aren't. Yes, it's possible in Bombay to build a posh building and tell the government its actually middle-income housing, while selling each apartment for over $350,000 - that'll get you three brownstone flats in Brooklyn. It's possible to build that building without safety procedures. It's even possible to work around-the-clock and disturb the peace around the construction site while the police shuts down Christmas music performances at 10pm.

Bombay, city of dreams; you can do anything here.

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