Many migrant labourers from Bihar are imbibing the basics of Indian languages while working at Kolkata's marble engraving shops.
These labourers, who work at Kolkata's Lal Bazar Street, engrave names or messages in various languages as per clients' demand. The work familiarises them with words from different languages, as they copy the texts on the marble slabs from the printed or hand-written papers given to them.
Somu Singh, a migrant labourer is one such example. He has never been to a school, but he is remarkably fluent in Hindi and Bengali."I can speak many languages. Apart from Bengali, Oriya and Punjabi, I can read and write English Getting a job here has proved to be fruitful for me. It is also helping me to earn money," said Somu.
As workers handle a variety of words each day, they slowly learn how to read and write them. Be it engraving someone's address, foundation stone, award citations or other matters, these workers engrave them correctly. Though the beginners find it difficult to align sentences, the experienced or senior engravers help in alignment of texts or even editing the given matter for a better presentation on marble.
The proprietors of the marble shops say that these labourers can become well-versed in the languages. "Most of these individuals (labourers) are from Bihar. They haven't been to any school, but they have acquired multilingual ability," says Ashok Gupta, one of the marble shop owners.
Today, Lal Bazaar is home to hundreds of such workers who are adding to their diction everyday with each assignment. Many of these claim to belong to families engraving here for many generations - even when the British ruled the country.