Drawing Blog


Modinagar factories, late afternoon.

From the roof I look over Modinagar station directly below and out across the maze of angular rooftops dissipating into a milky haze of morning smog. Macaques rummage unseen, deep inside the crowns of fruiting trees. A train pulls into the 1000 metre long platform, cutting off the flow of pedestrians on the line. People climb into the open doors and disappear into the windowless carriages.

I cross the roof to the West, climbing between a web of cables, through narrow doorways, along terraces and around rusted cages built over satellite dishes and skylights to keep off the macaques. Drains clog with green algae and another is full of old light bulbs that crunch under my feet. Concrete turning to rubble and dust mixed with guano cascades down the walls, collecting on sills, ledges and the broad leaves of garden creepers grown wild below.

To the West I overlook the sugar mill; decorated lorries, bullet carts and tractor trailers loaded with sugar cane form a cue below. Macaques clamber, unseen on the high loads nonchalantly chewing on the cane, an easy target ( I have seen pedestrians in town steal a stick from the slow moving tractors as they cross the road, gangs of school boys snap canes on their knees, the unsuspecting victim rumbling down the road behind them). Pure white egrets pick amongst the empty trailers and heavy machinery, looking for insects, small mammals and reptiles. A family of mongoose weave in and out of corrugated shacks built around a giant silo. The convoy of sugar cane snakes around this silo and into warehouses where cranes transport the sugary loads into the dark recesses beyond. Above, more silos rise amongst a network of overhead pipes. Chimney stacks reach even higher into a static clot of yellow haze.

In late afternoon the sun hangs above the factory, a visible disk smothered by smog, an orange crescent around it, purple brown below. Macaques troop through the factory in a long procession appearing and disappearing over rooftops as they travel into the distance.

As night falls on the 31st, the convoy into the factory is double thick snaking out the gates into the main road. Lorries hidden from above by the gigantic bundles, spindly canes piled high and overhanging. Macaques clamber over them, bathed in phosphorescent light. A boy washes clothes on the pavement below, men mill around, a bullet cart starts rolling, the farmer takes a running jump onto the edge of the cart whilst examining his bill of sale he carefully folds it into his pocket and pulls at the rains of his buffalo. The factory is lit internally, the workings now visible, mechanical claws lifting cane and piling it high in the yellow glow. Vertical sheets of shadow beam into the night sky. Techno rumbles out of the streets beyond the railway, mingling with the workers radio station punctuated by the clang of metal claw and woody cascading of cane.