The proof that constant adaptation has served the society well is seen in the fact that families have stayed loyal for generations.

C.K. Kanaran, one of the few remaining witnesses to the society’s earliest days, waits at the society’s headquarters at Vadakkara – a 1969 vintage building. He had joined the society as a manual labourer in 1949, fed up of his job in a local tea shop.

“I wanted to stand on my own feet. The society was not rich as it is now but we were bull-headed and worked from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., at times without taking a break. We knew that our survival depended on the society’s survival,” he said.

While Kanaran’s period saw crude contraptions such as a tar drum with handles on both side to mix cement, his son K.K. Divakaran, who joined the society as a junior clerk in 1984, witnessed the gradual mechanisation of labour with the purchase of a hot mixing plant in 1997.

Divakaran’s 26-year-old son, Benjamin, is working at the UL Cyberpark project office – a white collar job.

“The change in attitude of workers is a social issue. There was a time when a family had five or eight children. Now with one or two children, parents find it difficult to send them for road work,” Mr. Divakaran explained.

S. Shaju, society’s secretary, says that increasing mechanisation has anyway reduced the need for manpower.

But M. Baiju, who joined Uralungal in 1997 and is one of the site leaders at the cyber park construction, says he is not troubled by “ego.”

“When I pick up the shovel in the morning and go for work at the site, I know that I am my own owner. If there is anything I feel, it is pride,” he said.

More In: KERALA | NATIONAL