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  • Writer's pictureLieke Hulshof

The carpenter

I write my blog on a mattress in our living room. It’s the only item in the room last year, though a very good one. Firm and comfortable. In the room next door, Karan and the carpenter are talking about circular saws and jackhammers. Because I do not understand all Hindi, I like to guess what they say to each other with some of my own fantasy. ‘This circular saw is really super turbo. It can saw three boards at once.’ ‘Wow. May I try that once?’ ‘Yes, of course. And look, this jackhammer has a light for in the dark. Now you can also work at night.’ I stare to my laptop, which shows it is 41 degrees, but that is exaggerated. It is thirty degrees, and inside the thick stone walls of the house it stays relatively cool. ‘Don’t be so dramatic’, I whisper to my laptop.

Sometime later I am asked to come outside. The carpenter is making a drainpipe. Handmade drainpipes – whom still has those? They are seldom here too. We had the choice between plastic or steel pipes. The latter have to be shaped by hand from steel sheets. We choose the traditional option, as often. A slate roof, carved wooden doors, stone chimneys. It is intensive work. Our carpenters have to grab way in the back of their heads to access the almost forgotten know-how. Karan and I walk into the bright sun. The steal shines sharply into our eyes. The pipe lies in the garden like a futuristic tunnel, hazy blue mountains behind it. I have to laugh. Unpainted it is a bling-bling item for the house.

The carpenter and Deepak, our faithful help, sit in the shadow of the porch. We have some discussion about the drainpipes. I look into the serious face of the carpenter. He is mid fifty, I guess. Always wearing a shirt, even in thirty degrees. Slowly we get to know the people here. Their qualities and their scars, as every human carries them. This man is integer and diligent. He works with attention for detail, thinks along with us and gives his hundred percent. Together with his wife and two sons a bit further in Pauri. Karan lately asked him if he and his family have every been on a holiday. “No, never’, he replied. He talks about a big debt that he has been paying for fifteen years now. Slowly, bit by bit. Years ago, his son fell on his head years and had to have a check-up at the hospital. From the outside, everything looked fine and there was no memory loss. Still the doctor insisted an operation was necessary. The carpenter did not know better, was worried, borrowed a big sum on money for the operation and paid. Eventually the operation was unnecessary and it has never been executed, but the doctor did not want to refund any money.

Till today he works hard for the debt, his household and the education of his children. Money for pleasure is barely there. But he stays optimistic, passionate about his work, honest and loyal to people. Starting as a low-wage servant in Delhi, he has developed himself as an independent carpenter who builds chimneys, roofs and doors. Yes, this is the kind of people that build the project together with us. Their soul, sweat and tears are in it. I am proud that our project displays their work. That this house has a drainpipe made by him. We will give it a nice colour. But for now it shines like a bling-bling on the good old home.

Much love,



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