house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Lime-light in the Indus Valley

The deep-scarred face of the Indus plains has opened a hundred hot mouths. A hundred small volcanoes add their fire to an endless summer.

... fire and man-made magic. Slim, laughing people stack limestone inside the kiln, make walls and domes of white stone. As they work, they sing, they chew 'paan', they spit deep-red stains on the white stone. They cover everything with warm mud, they tie the oven together with sticks and ropes. Then they brace for the back-breaking job of tending to this temporary god.

... while small donkeys bring their daily loads of 'taru' wood, 'taru' and 'devi', young saplings, cut early and already dry. The workers unload and stack the wood, a thorny forest miles-deep, surrounding the crater. Now it's ready.

The fire is lit. It will burn for three days and three nights. Every 20 seconds or so, another bundle of wood will be pushed into the mouth of the furnace. Inside, just glimpsed, a blinding inferno. More than 12,000 bundles will burn, each adding its bright instant of combustion to the relentless heat. The limestone will lose almost half of its weight, gases and moisture will billow out of the crater, and when the fire dies down, another kind of stone will await its servants.

Quicklime, a highly unstable substance, trying to revert to its previous state, seeking moisture - finding it sometimes in the skin of the workers, their lungs, their eyes. Barefoot they walk into the furnace to load it onto waiting trucks. And they smile, they cough, their arms burn, and they smile.

We wave and leave them. Black silhouettes against the sun, they straighten up to watch, slaves of some ancient artisan god whom they serve, day after day, without expecting any mercy, or riches, or light.


At 9 March 2013 at 13:05 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Pakistan I need to go back soon I miss it you have lovely blog come check mine out and follow me if you like what you see. .


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