The usual buzz of activity at the Chennai Metro Rail site in Koyambedu was missing on Wednesday as the workers were out celebrating the arrival of New Year.
Barring few security guards and construction workers at the site, it was a closed holiday for workers who were out picnicking at the Marina beach and at the airport watching aircraft land and take off.
The workers, mostly from Jharkhand and Bihar, were happy to be at the beach and watch the waves lash the shore. Paswan from Jharkhand said, he had never seen a beach and it was first time he is visiting any seashore. “It is really beautiful,” he said.
But not all Metro Rail workers were as lucky as Paswan. A few like Panchan Kumar didn’t get the day off.
“I have been working here since 11 am. It is a holiday for most workers but we have to work till 4 pm,” said Kumar while pointing to his co-workers. Kumar was part of the team that was carrying out maintenance work on the railway tracks.
Last year, Kumar had a blast on New Year’s day at his hometown in Nalanda, Bihar. “We had great food and I had fun with my friends,” recalled Kumar, who joined work two days ago.
Many of the Metro Rail workers are temporary workers and some have taken up the job to facilitate their higher studies.
Farizul Haq, who is working as a security guard at the Metro Rail site, said he took up the job after completing his higher secondary exam. He hopes to save money for pursuing higher education. “I will go back this February,” Haq, a resident of Assam, said adding that his resolution for the new year was to join a good college.
While many were nostalgic about their family back home, Binay Paswan said he does regret missing them here. A father of six children, Binay said he had to keep working to help feed his family. “I would rather prefer to work outside than spend time with family,” the resident of Gaya in Bihar said.
Sanjay, a worker from Pulamu in Jharkhand, said he made a tidy sum at work in 2013. “I earned nearly `60,000 to 70,000. Had I been home, I would have gone out picnicking,” he said. Sanjay has been in Chennai for the last few years and said he liked the weather, which is neither too hot nor cold, unlike in New Delhi. He said he was looking forward to celebrate Holi, the festival of colours, with his family in March. “I will come back and hope I find work till the end of this year also,” he added.