Friday, August 7, 2015

All that glitters is gold in the sewers of Chickpet

The streets may not be paved with gold but the gutters of Chickpet, Bangalore is an El Dorado. At least for the workers who, at the break of dawn, descend on a maze of lanes near the K R Market area to slip into the murky pits that receive the overnight and morning ablutions of the locals. They are looking for gold.

In the early hours, manholes with covers removed are guarded by boys to warn drivers of vehicles. One might assume the band is on a cleanliness drive or mistake them for manual scavengers hired by civic agencies to clean the sewers.

The area is a major hub for goldsmiths and jewellers. There are more than 300 goldsmiths in this area who are the design supply chain for some of the top jewellers in the city.

The gold dust from these workshops lands in the drains when the goldsmiths wash up at the end of the day or gets strewn on pathways as powder. That is the mother lode for the young boys are purposefully hunting for gold.
Once it is collected, the gold is sold to dealers in the same area.

A goldsmith for the past 45 years explains "When we're melting gold, there's a small amount of wastage -- for every 10 gm, at least 1 gm is lost.
When asked how it felt to look for gold amid human excrement, one had words of wisdom, " ... are people who live above these gutters as decent as they look? They do worse jobs than us to lead a luxurious life. What's wrong with getting into gutters for a livelihood?"