At the southernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent in the state of Kerala on the Arabian Sea, there is an incredibly gorgeous stretch of beach known as Kovalam, and on it is a charming string of hospitable and laid back mid and upper scale resorts. For swimmers and surfers, the powdery sand beach offers powerful waves and for everyone Kovalam offers a pleasant climate, fresh fish and tropical fruit. Sounds like a nice place, doesn’t it? It is, and thousands of tourists from both many countries and within India itself come here and contribute to the local economy by filling the local coffers with their rupees.
But the place isn’t quite as idyllic for the local gravel makers. These are the women and girls who labor all along the side of the road that winds down to the beach breaking rocks into gravel with iron hammers.
When people go to India, they try to prepare themselves. They get innoculations; they try to learn about food, water, and hygiene. They know they are going to encounter poverty, but I don’t think anyone can really be prepared for India. Everyone hears of India’s tremendous growth as of late, but going to India is still like going into a spaceship and travelling back 500 years in time. India, in those hard moments, can be baffling, disconcerting, shocking, surprising, and beautiful all at the same time. The times in India when you cannot believe your eyes are often.
To sum up, a gaggle of us tourists took a mini-bus to get to Trivandrum Station, and that is what we saw on the way: two kilometers of hundreds of women and girls breaking rocks with hammers. I won’t offer any moral comments on it, but I do know it was very surreal. Why it was considered women’s work still puzzles me though.