Building roads above the clouds

Building roads in the Indian Himalayas is a challenge.There’s a constant battle between humans and the terrain, which teams up with forces of nature to try to prevent the humans from making their creations or to destroy the roads they’ve already built.

One would think that in such challenging circumstances, the job of building roads, which connect countless Himalayan villages to the outside world would be done with the help of some futuristic, high-tech machinery. But this isn’t the case. Instead, the large part of the road building is done by men, women and sometimes children, who rely on not much more than their sheer muscle power to get the job done.

The road builders are usually migrant workers, from Nepal, Bihar, Jarkhand, Rajasthan. They brave extreme weather, landslides, altitude sickness and generally hell-like working conditions in order to earn a wage that will be somewhat better than the wage they can earn back home. These people are the backbone of the mountain road system in India. Without them there would be no roads, simple as that. In a sense, they are the unsung heroes of the country.

The roads of India are very familiar to me. I have ridden about 30,000 km around this country on a motorcycle. Throughout my journeys I constantly encountered the road-workers I mention and I’d been particularly intrigued by those who worked to build roads in the mountains, in places where one might argue there physically should not be any roads.

And so, my fascination led me to undertake this little project. I don’t know whether I will focus purely on the road-workers and their lives or the road system in general. I’ll let things sort them selves out organically. For now, here are a few more images that I’ve shot so far.

Jagdeesh and his extended family pause for a lunch break.

I'm off somewhere remote again, for at least a few days. Will try to post something when back.