When people visit the Bahái Lotus Temple, they are taken in by its beauty and amaze at the peace it exudes.
Or when people travel on the Bombay-Worli Sea link, they are awed or when prices of shares go up or down at Bombay Stock Exchange, people are worried about their own profit and loss or when Delhi metro is delayed, people create a fuss….
Though we often take pride in the iconic structures like Lotus Temple and Bombay-Worli Sea Link, which have none other than Tata Tiscon rebars running in their veins, but not one of us gives a thought to the effort that goes in and hardly do we think of the bones and skeleton of these magnificent constructions…the invisible steel that holds and strengthens the complete structure.
Even I, as a fresh architecture graduate, though fantasized myself to be the next Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies Van der Rohe…the Howard Roark of Fountainhead…the unassuming iron bars that would go in silently in my buildings however never found themselves in my dreams….
Eighteen years ago, I was excited to put my newly acquired knowledge of designing and planning into the construction of a house for my parents….my first project. I was of course in love with the idea and had a dream to fulfil…the house even before it was built was my baby and close to my heart.
There was not much of a difference between me and others, common people who dreamt of getting their house constructed. The only advantage I had was the basic knowledge of the structural design. It was easy for me to point out the anomalies and rectify those in the structural elements like beams, columns, footing and the slab.
Finally the house cum clinic was completed in about a year and in fact it was where the guests during my wedding first assembled but the amount of stress that me and my father went through during the entire process of building our home was actually nerve-wrecking. I remember when the first slab was under construction and it rained…it was a frantic morning and humongous effort to cover the entire grid of iron rods for the slab. A whole day later when we rechecked the bars for displacement, re-tied some of the binding wires…the slab could only be laid the next evening…
The only time concern for the quality of steel bars crosses an individual’s mind is when he/she is involved in making their own house of dreams!! And it was no different in my dream project either…I was concerned about rusting and breakage of binding wires or failure of the structure…
It was then that I, for the first time, woke up from my world of dreams and glamour of the glass façade buildings and ‘saw’ the real hero…..
Few weeks ago, I was at TATA CENTRE, Kolkata attending a presentation on structural steel for building construction. I couldn’t help but agree about the time it takes for unskilled labour to cut and bind the bars during construction or about the margin of error in accuracy by manual bending or the wastage of steel during construction.
Come to think of it, back then if I had access to a reliable, branded corrosion resistant steel bars, stirrups and wires of standard sizes and consistent composition like those of TATA TISCON combined with services of trained local thekedars (local contractors), masons and rod binders half of my worries, time and effort would have been reduced…..
The steel bar is the unsung hero….the embellishments which attract our eyes to a built space…the paints, tiles, marble floors all come later. When Maya Angelou said “There is a kind of strength that is almost frightening in black women…It’s as if a steel rod runs right through the head down to the feet” she unknowingly also commended the role of the humble steel rod that goes in the concrete structures strengthening them to stand for years.
Its importance is realised only when structures fail…One wrong bone…displaced, added, ill fitted…and the entire structure comes crumbling down…slabs cave in, columns bend, floors sink or at times entire building tilts….I am reminded of a tagline from a popular advertisement here…“ye banaye andar se strong (it gives you inner strength)”
We often overlook and forget the silent crusaders, the good Samaritans….the real heroes. May be it’s time now we give credit to all unsung heroes….be it our men with guts of steel guarding the borders or be it the steel rod itself.
So next time somebody compliments you for what a wonderful house you made, you could humbly say….
“Ye andar ki baat hai…” 😉