by Fred Glick
The (relative) peace of our neighborhood has been broken by the settlement of a twenty-year
lawsuit concerning the occupation of the house next door to ours. In India this is nothing unusual, civil
suits, and especially those pertaining to property are routinely settled long after the deaths of the litigants.
The house had been a guest house for a large Indian corporation and the monthly rent they paid was only a few thousand rupees, or one or two percent of what the landlord might get if he were to rent to a couple of trusting foreigners.
Now that he'd at long last evicted them, he'd obviously decided to make the most of things. After all, there's plenty of room for expansion in the front yard, not to mention on the roof...So shortly after the house was vacated the demolition crew moved in. A couple of barefoot, undernourished guys with sledgehammers, actually.
The demolition process was quite something. The houses in our neighborhood were mostly constructed in the 60's, with brick walls and steel-reinforced concrete ceilings. (Hard concrete, as I well know, having drilled many holes in our own ceiling and flattened a few carbide concrete bits in the process.) And though they didn't remove much of the front of the house, I'm not sure that I could think of a more difficult way doing it than beating straight down on an eight-inch thick slab of steel-reinforced concrete with a thirty pound sledge. Did I mention they were standing on that same slab?
We weren't sure, until they stopped with the front porches, that they weren't going to just tear the whole thing down and start from scratch (as they did just down the street), but after only a few weeks of persistent pounding, the front of the house was reduced to a pile of rubble and they moved on to construction. As I write, they're out there working away, adding a third story onto the roof. A few days ago a pile of bricks was delivered in the night (trucks are mostly banned from the city during the day), and since then a few men have been busy building walls on the roof while a half-dozen women haul the bricks up to them from the front yard. Carrying 8-12 bricks on your head up three flights of stairs while wearing a sari (which is essentially six metres of fabric artfully wrapped around the body) is no mean feat.
I'm guessing that it's a family operation as the kids come along and keep themselves busy playing in the rubble whilst mom and dad earn a living.
Last night a dump truck delivered a full load of sand and today a barefoot man who looks to be about fifty is moving it-twelve feet onto the lawn, one basket at a time, on his head.
I suppose at US$2-3 a day, it's cheaper than buying a wheelbarrow...
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