In a series of pictures taken during the 1980s and 1990s, the building of the country’s most iconic brick factory has come to symbolise the post-independence era in India.
The brick factory, located in a bustling industrial area in the city of Varanasi, was the first industrial development in the state of Bihar and was one of the largest in the country.
It was the site of the first steel mill in India and the first to be constructed in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
Today, it has become the backdrop of a series on post-India modernisation, which has brought a resurgence in the history of modern India.
In the pictures, taken by the Indian photographer Nandini Agrawal, the factory is now a micro-cosm for the country that was undergoing a major transformation and transformation in the 1980 and 1990 years.
“We had a lot of people coming to the factory and there was no electricity, no water, no sanitation, no roads,” says Nandinis Nanda, who is currently based in New Delhi.
“I remember my father working at the factory.
The building had no electricity for so long because of the brick factories that were being constructed there.”
“The bricks were not made by the traditional brickmakers, but they were made by Indian workers.
We had to pay them to make bricks.”
The building of this brick factory in the early 1980s.
Photo: Nandani Agrawale Nanda’s father was a brick kiln labourer.
“He had worked in the brick kilns for over 20 years,” she says.
“It was not uncommon for people to come to work every day.
When we moved to Varanasis, there were only two or three people working in the kilns.”
“We were poor people, so we were earning money at the mill,” says Prakash, Nanda and Agrawals father.
“In the mid-1980s, when we came to the state, we started the brick mill and soon, we began making bricks.”
A small brick factory near the road leading to the brick works.
Photo credit: Nandi Agrawall The brick kilner in Varanas and the brick and mortar factory at the top of the hill.
Photo Credit: Nanda Agrawa The brick and concrete factory in Varas.
Photo credits: Nandan Agrawald “In those days, we did not have any electricity,” Nanda says.
The kiln was only open on a very limited schedule of two to three hours per day.
“Our daily wage was Rs 5,000.
If we had no money to work, we would be forced to sell the bricks and mortar we made to make ends meet.”
“But we also built a lot more houses.
We also built roads to connect the town with other parts of the city.”
The kilns at the site, which was then called Vatsavana.
Photo and video credit: Agrawalla Nanda grew up in a village of 1,500 people.
The family lived on the outskirts of the town.
“My father worked as a brick worker for five years, then as a machinist for three years,” Nandans mother says.
Nandis father had worked as an engineer for 20 years, so he also worked in brick kilners.
“When we started making bricks, we were the poorest of the poor.
We were poor.
Our house was very small.
We could not even afford a basic kitchen.”
“Even in those days when we did the brick work, there was not much electricity,” Agrawalli says.
As Nandias father went back to work as a labourer, his wages went up.
“But in those early days, bricks were made from wood.
We didn’t have any other material,” Agrawayas mother says, adding that the kiln, the brick houses and the roads were the only things that they were earning.
“The brick kilnan [bricksmith] was the only one who made money.”
“I never worked more than two to four hours a day,” Agariwal says.
Photo of the kilne in the middle of the road.
Photocredit: Agarwal Nanda remembers his father being a proud brick kilne worker.
“One day, my father told me that he would be retiring soon,” she recalls.
“At the time, he was the kilner and I was the labourer.”
The brick house.
Photo courtesy of Agrawala Nandas family, which had been farming since the late 18th century, moved to a farm house at the bottom of the mountains near Varanas.
“As soon as we arrived in the village, we made bricks from the same material as our neighbours, who were making bricks from stone,” Agarwala says.
Agrawalia says that the brick house, built by her father, became a place where she could