The mixer in action at the Garden of Unity on May 6 th
May 6 th , 2008
The cement mixer speaks…
“Ah!, they have awakened me again, good, good, back to work. Now let's see, where am I this time? Oh yes, I see now, they have moved me over to that circular pool in the Garden of Unity, beyond the Banyan tree, where they want me to help concrete the structure for the cascade that will flow towards the pool. Hmm…not such a big job, should be over before lunch in fact. Let's get at it. I see that the piles of sand and granite “jelly” are ready to feed me, but where is the cement?.....Ah, here it comes now on the tractor...looks like only 30 bags or so, nothing at all! Why, in my prime, 300 bags weren't too much for me!
Now they are loading me up…time to flex my muscles again (getting a little stiff, you know…we've been building Matrimandir for quite a while now, 36 years) Here we go -- a bag of cement, four baskets of sand and six of granite stones...yes, just about the usual 1:1 ½:3 mix, good for any normal slab…it really feels good to roll my old drum again and mix up this concrete just right.
--Hey! careful! Not too much water--…they should know by now that extra water will make the concrete weak. These young fellows…I could teach them a thing or two; why, I‘ve been at this since their fathers were here on the site.
Let's see, it was ‘72 when I arrived here, fresh and new from my birth factory in Calcutta . On 21 st February, Mother's birthday, we had had a grand start to the entire construction project…I can still remember the morning, with all those people, so many dressed in white, just dropping a single stone each in my hopper, a fine symbolic start to all these years. And Mother had given such an inspiring message for that beginning, it was read out by Nolinida at the dawn ceremony:
`Let Auroville be the symbol of a progressive Unity.
And the best way to realize this is a unity of aspiration
towards the Divine Perfection in work and in feeling,
in a consecration of the entire life'
That was a truly great day. And soon, on the 3 rd of May, we began in earnest with the concreting of the tie slab for the foundation of the four great pillars. Now, that was a big job! I went on mixing concrete for 26 hours. For that occasion too, the Mother had sent message:
‘Let us all work with a growing sincerity for the
manifestation of the Divine Truth.
With my Blessings'
Beginning the concreting of the foundation of Matrimandir
Oh, now what has happened? Again a current cut, typical for Tamil Nadu in the summer time! They'd better get that generator going before the mix gets hard inside me. It wouldn't be the first time it hardened up before it could be emptied out. Why, one time it got so hard that some poor fellow had to sit in my belly with a hammer and chisel to crack out all the hardened mix. The banging, ringing sound was terrible, he probably couldn't hear properly for a week!
Ah good, the generator is on so I can roll my drum again, at least they are still fast with starting that generator (I heard recently on the machine grapevine that they are going to give my friend the generator an automatic start-up mechanism soon. Pretty fancy, and about time I would say.) Lets have a look, how are we doing?…OK not so bad so far, we've done the floor for the square basin that will be at the base of the cascade…good, it looks fine, and they have vibrated well. That little fellow, the vibrator machine, with his shaking, vibrating needle to settle the concrete, has been my companion for all these years too. Or course he's worn out lots of needles, but that little electric motor is a really a fine fellow, he just keeps spinning those needles.
--Hey you, watch out! You are bending that needle too sharply--
Too much of tight bend and the end of the inner needle will overheat and become unsoldered. ….I .have to tell them that every time!
Well, breakdowns do happen, I've had my share of them, I can tell you. I think every part of me has broken down at one time or another over the years. The cables that lift up my hopper have snapped, my clutch plates have worn thin, and my drum rollers have even fallen off. But my motor is still really fine, a good old 10 HP Kirloskar, just keeps on rolling my drum. A good thing too, because there is surely still a lot for me to do here. More and more visitors are coming these days so we are going to need a new reception building for sure. And the workshops too will eventually be in the way of development outside the Oval border of the Gardens. We'll have to move them somewhere and I'll bet I'll be needed for making those new workshop floors. Why, just last week I was sent out to the edge of the gardens area to mix up the concrete for the roof of the new generator room which is being built at the site of our solar plant. That was interesting because I finally got to see the solar plant that I'd been hearing about from my friends since it as put up in '97. All those hundreds of solar panels, just soaking up the sun to make electricity for the Matrimandir look really fine.
What now, why are we stopping? Oh…lunch time (for them, not for me!). OK, just make sure you put a lot of water in my drum and rinse it out well…don't want to get indigestion over lunch!”
It is good to rest a bit and dream…we've really had some great days. I remember '76 …that was quite a year for me. Why, in May of '76 I mixed up the concrete for casting the ring at the very top, the “ring of unity” which joins the upper ends of the four giant ribs together. That was really a great day. And then six months later, there was that fantastic concreting in November…the casting of the Chamber floor. That was a long one, with so many people helping out, pushing the sand and stones into my hopper hour after hour. I must hand it to those humans, they really can do a job, I mean for non- machines that is.
Matrimandir structure in 1976 after casting the ring of unity
Then we followed quickly in 1977 with the casting of the twelve walls of the Chamber and finally the sloping roof in 1978. After that a very strange thing happened: in '79 the humans decided to mix all the concrete for the next phase by hand ! – 1,100 precast beams for the space-frame. I don't know what came over them. Well, it took them nine years to do the job. They just woke me up once a month or so to mix the concrete for the “nodes”, the joints on each row of beams. [ Editor's note : In defense of the human's decision to mix the concrete for those 1,100 beams by hand, it may be noted that each of the concretings used just three bags of cement and we did not wish to mess up our beloved mixer for that small amount of concrete two or three times a week for the next nine years! ...and we were very happy that he could help out with concreting the nodes once a month.]
After '88, when I had mixed the concrete for the top cap of the sphere (completed on 8-8-88!) and then for the Chamber vestibule ceilings, there was another long a spell when I was just left to sleep out by the steelyard. That was the time they were busy with the Chamber, with fitting the marble slabs on the wall and painting and mounting the 12 columns, and finally, installing the crystal globe on its golden stand. It took them about 5 years to get it all done. (I hear, from the floor polisher and the vacuum cleaner, that it looks really fine now, but I have not been up there myself to see, as you can understand)
Matrimandir circa 1990 after completion of the spherical space-frame
….Then one day they decided to paint me purple: my once bright yellow paint had faded and peeled, yes, but can you imagine me in purple?...and not just one shade, many shades of purple. It was the brilliant idea of two ladies…as you might already have guessed. It was kind of fun but I'm not sure what my friends the generator, the crane and the tractor thought about that! (These days, by the way, I am a fine bus green color, and I blend in well with all the trees and bushes around.)
Then, in'92 I was put back in action again. That was really great…it is not good to sleep for too long! The first thing I was used for was to extend the lower curves of the four giant ribs of Matrimandir, -- to complete their outward sweep at the base, the place where the stairs to enter the building have now been fixed. And then there was a long stretch of time where I was used to mix up all that concrete for the petals foundations and walls. Twelve petals, twenty four walls with pathways all around. That was a good steady job indeed. It kept me busy right up to '98 or so.
Lately, during the last few years, my job has been to mix concrete for the small petals and for the foundation of all the pathways through the gardens area. Now that the job is just about over, I am really keen to see what kind of gardens are going to come up in all this space bordered by this one kilometer of pathways!
But now it's back to work!...here we go, lunch is over, let's finish it off now, only a few bags to go and we're done. A h, it's so fine to sing my rhythmic mixing song again, so fine….”
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