The Night Shift: Giant metallic hands at work in Egmore

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Stormwater drain construction work under way at Adithanar Salai (Harris Road) in Egmore in the liminal time zone straddling the night and dawn of September 15 and 16 respectively.

Stormwater drain construction work under way at Adithanar Salai (Harris Road) in Egmore in the liminal time zone straddling the night and dawn of September 15 and 16 respectively. , Photo Credit: PRINCE FREDERICK

The small hand on the clock is gliding towards the midnight hour, and the section of Adithanar Salai (also known as Harris Road) in front of the Chief Magistrate Metropolitan Court shakes with the ruthless thuds of metallic giants. It marks the most recent site of a stormwater drain work that has been scudding through this road. The ground that has been covered outstrips that which needs to be. From the Court section, the final destination — the Egmore roundabout — is now in sight.

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However, the intensity that has always gone into the night shift remains. With its bustling used automotive spares market (called ‘Pudupet Market’), Adithanar Road would not provide the luxury of free movement to these machines during the day.

There is a sense of hurry and impersonality to the work on the graveyard shift.

Three operations play out simultaneously. An earth mover with a drill hand is ruthlessly piecing through slabs of stone (vestiges of an old stormwater drain) they way the shrike impales its prey on a thorn. On this section, there is a sewage pipeline making the operation delicate.

Parallelly, an earth mover is scraping the surface of the road, uprooting blocks caked with bitumen and depositing them in a waiting lorry. After working on parallel lines, these two earth movers come together.

The earth mover with the drill hand leaves its post and swings to the assistance of the one with the claw hand.

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Meanwhile, a cement mixer turns the contents dropped into its bowels, standing next to the patch that is ready for concreting work. The clang of metallic hands will continue through the night and the wee hours of the following day, up to the point when regular traffic begins to take hold of the road.

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