It’s hard to think that something so sweet and delectable as sugar is only made possible by the sweaty, grimy calloused hands of the cane cutter! Before most of us are awake, these men are filling their water bottles, buckling up their steel-capped boots, pulling on their thick rubber gloves and taking their place in the field, with rows upon rows of caramelized burnt cane to slash.
Their rugged faces, dripping with sweat and congealed dust and their piercing eyes – whites starkly contrasting with black, sooty faces – so far off from the sweet, pure substance we take by the spoonful!
The cane cutters start their day early, when the shadows still belong to moonlight and when every small movement reverberates in the slumbering village. They arrive in time for the sun’s first appearance, dimly lighting the infinite rows of cane. They buckle up their heavy, protective gear and get to work; making the most of the first gentler hours of the day.
As the sun rises, gaining more and more strength by the hour, beating down onto the soaked-through backs of men – they muster their spirits; chatting, laughing and breathing in the aroma of liquid sugar as it drips from the slashed cane. Midday approaches and the rows of cane begin to thin. When the end is in sight and more than just a distant light, they generously splash the last bit of water from their plastic bottles onto their blackened faces, removing a thick layer of sugary grime.
With bodies aching and muscles trembling, they take a communal bath in the nearby canal. They strip off their sweat-drenched clothes and soak away the day, with only heads bobbing above the brown, murky water. They wash their clothes and walk home to their families – ready for another marathon of cane cutting and another day of wages; of food, of school fees, of medicine, of clothes.
“I’ve always been amused by the contention that brain work is harder than manual labor. I’ve never known a man to leave a desk for a muck-stick if he could avoid it.”
― John Steinbeck,
“People might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get.”
― Frederick Douglass
“No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
“There is no substitute for hard work.” – Thomas Edison
“It’s easier to bleed than sweat, Mr. Motes.”
― Flannery O’Connor,