Friday, December 13, 2013

A Road to Nowhere

When we arrived in India, the road outside of our house was incredibly potholed. To call it a road at all is extremely generous. It was a rocky path between two buildings that you might see in a Jeep Grand Cherokee commercial, the kind of road used to demonstrate off-road capabilities of giant American SUVs with trail ratings.

Evidently, the “road” had not always been like this. Of course, we didn’t know this. It had been torn up a few months before our arrival in preparation for a repaving that hadn’t come until this week. The paving started last weekend. For some reason, they only pave at night. The first night of paving wasn’t too bad. Then, monsoon rains came and there was no work for three days. The next day, I received an email from work notifying the residents affected by the street work that the paving would resume that evening, but that there could be no guarantee as to when the job would be completed due to a sand shortage in India.

Yes, a shortage of sand.

Anyway, the construction would be inconvenient for most people. Fortunately, we are not most people and are already becoming incredibly patient with the machinations of various bureaucratic processes (among other types of processes such as: registering the birth of your child born outside of a hospital, transferring the registration of a vehicle from one state to another, ordering pizza delivery, and figuring out how the cable remote control works) in foreign countries.

That being said, our driver (yes, we have a driver; you would, too, if you saw the traffic in Chennai) can’t pull into our driveway, so I have to walk three incredibly heavy car seats half a block to install them in our rented car, an activity which, in and of itself, borders on absurd, since most other children in this city ride without a helmet sandwiched in between their mother and father on the back of a scooter weaving in between cars, cows, and autos travelling 40 kph.  Moreover, I have been receiving giant Amazon boxes at work filled with Christmas presents from the States which I have to haul through a construction site in order to get them under our tree. I only got small amounts of wet cement on my work loafers last night.

As I was saying, construction resumed last night. Let me just say, a team of twenty Indians pouring cement in the middle of the night is not quiet.

Besides the hollering, praying, and honking, a generator droned powering giant lamps that shined into our bedroom windows all night long.

Okay, so enough complaining, already. Let me tell you about the new “road”.

The new road is a giant slab of concrete about six to eight inches higher than everything else around it. Which begs the question (which I posed to Sam the other morning as we were waiting for his school bus): How is a car going to either get up onto the new road and, once having gotten up on the road, get back down again?

There are no ramps or drives. Just a giant slab of concrete that now covers about half the road out in front of our house.

As I said, they only work at night for some reason. I would blame it on the heat, but it’s not even hot out. It’s actually quite pleasant. I almost think they think they were doing us a favor. So, not much happens on the road during the day.

During the day, it is covered with wet burlap sacks. Stray dogs leave their paw prints in the wet cement, and an old man in a V-neck t-shirt and turban squatting on the side of the new road bangs two rocks together like something out of the opening scene of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

It has all made for an interesting entre into life in India. In Brazil, there were two houses at the end of our street that were under construction for the entire two years we lived there. Here, you can regularly see women carrying baskets full of stones on their heads to and from work sites. For that reason alone, you can understand why it would take so long to get anything built. I just hope our new road is not like the houses in Brazil.

Pray for sand. 

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