Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Where man & machine meet a little bakery stashed in a small street in our neighbourhood. i went there today on a field trip with a bunch of kids. And though i have been there before, that place never ceases to amaze me.

This bakery essentially has three units - bread division (where dough for the bread is made, cut, and kept on hold till it enters into the oven), bun division (likewise for buns and biscuits) and finally the packing division. Plus there is a quality control lab and a distribution unit.

So what's amazing there is the complete harmony i experience between man and machine. Around each machine stand a group of people, rooted to the spot repeating the same motion over and over again. A few walk around moving material - but most workers just stay put. Stand and repeat what they need to do to keep the machine going - again and again and again. It's basically the machine that sets the pace while the men and women around it support it. Like in the bread unit, as the machine drops the dough balls into the conveyor belt, workers on either side pick it up and put it in the molds. The machine goes clip-clop clip-clop clip-clop. The man goes pick-drop, pick-drop, pick-drop, pick drop. In the packing unit, the bread slicer goes trrtp-sash, trrt-sash trrt-sash trrt-sash and the lady standing there goes hold-pass, hold-pass, hold-pass, hold-pass. Everywhere you see, there is perfect rhythm; a super-efficient mechanical dance between the two parties.

Now, one might believe that this highly repetitive set of motions could be quite mind-numbing over a period of time. And sure i agree people may not necessarily being doing it out of love for the bread-making process. But despite the humming and sounds of machines, there is an air of meditative serenity i experienced. Everyone works in tandem with the machines for a few minutes at a stretch and then there is a break: machines are stopped, quick conversations and back to the dance floor :) . It's not just me who gets drawn into that harmonious rhythm, it also has a calming effect on the children. The same kids who need a variety of theatrics just short of standing on my head to settle down and pay attention back in class, now standing for a full five minutes as one of the men there just stands at his post pushing out hot breads from the baking moulds - dhapp-woosh; dhapp-woosh; dhapp woosh......

i have seen little videos on bread-making where the whole place is mechanized. But trust me, while those places look zillion times more efficient, they do not have even an iota of character like this semi-mechanized bakery has. I think there is a sense of peace many a times, when one is engaged in a repetitive motion. Plain repetitive mechanical work. On an auto pilot mode, doing things over and over again. I get a feeling, this is what i miss in my life. Sure the work i do is quite stimulating and i have all the freedom in the world. But end of the day, i do get a little tired dealing with tons of variables and personalities. So just to recharge myself, it may not be such a bad idea to engage in something simple & mechanical and done in silence. In Mumbai local trains when i was in college, i would notice some women getting into that same calming energy through knitting or at times twirling a rosary. So what do i do?

Not that i could work all my life in a bakery, but certainly maybe once a week. Put on the hair cover and the apron and take my place in this synchronized mechanical world. A time to calm my nerves, relax my brain cells, exercise those arms and just go on and on and on. And given my love for bakery products, the aroma of the place with buns and biscuits all around would be a perk I'd happily enjoy!

So the next time you don't see me in my office, you know where to find me - by the corner of a little bakery in Bangalore, in complete peace going : dhapp-woosh; dhapp woosh; dhapp-woosh!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lucky kids to be able to observe this. I can completely identify with the desire to do something mechanical and manual, but I have heard it can that kind of job can get boring. Did you get a chance to interview any of the workers?