The story so far: in six days spread over nearly a fortnight, tonnes of debris and rubble had been ferried from well-heads nearby, to form a 2200′ long road. It was mostly rocky and lay as piled. The story ended with the intent that it would be compacted and then given a overlay of finer soil to make it smooth. Well, the road didn’t quite run that way. It took its own turns to reach the end
To compact a road, you would of course need a compactor , more commonly referred to as a ‘road roller’, which you see wherever a road being made. I was talked into seeking the services of a road-roller by two friendly villagers who wandered over as the rubble was being piled. “It’d be a waste if you didn’t bring a roller over to compact and firm up the road’, they said and added it’d be easy to get one over. And I was seduced.
Easy? Hell, the adventure took me into many lanes over many days. A roller was located 7km away. The owner’s cell phone number was painted on the vehicle. And Babu Reddiar kept dialing that number. Dates were made many times, to come visit the road before quoting and we were routinely stood up. Irritability and blame games began. Finally the machine operator came over and took exactly 15 minutes to say: “I can’t run my machine on this- my wheel bearings will break in ten minutes. First lay a coat of soft earth and *then* I’ll press it for you.”
It had taken us 12 days to receive this verdict. What happened to me will quite easily happen to you in rural India. You will not be able to brusquely over-rule a suggestion made with utmost friendliness. You will be seduced by the logic, assertiveness and certainty of tone. And when you lose your temper at non-happenings you will be equally assertively told that not following the earnest suggestion was no great deal. “We must be flexible and adapt,” you will be told. Do hold back that snarled, “Yeah?”.
So after mourning the time lost and a fortnight after piling the rubble, the ensemble of a JCB, two tractor trailers and four labourers was gathered at 7am on May 5. I drove over at 8.30. Work had been steadily progressing. Two well-heads with gravely, rock free soil had been located; this material was being ferried by the trailers.
We had hired only two of the three tractor trailers used in the earlier phase. The reasoning based on very visible facts was that it was not maintained well, frequently broke down and ferried only part of the load the other two could. There had also been a row about time and pay. Now, I could see this guy lurking about with a long face.
Within 30 minutes of my arrival, the well-head owner requested that we stop carting away the material as he had just thought up a use for it. And with that the operations came to a stop as we searched for a new source. Raju came over and whispered: “Let’s hire the third tractor. Just say yes, without questioning me and I will sort out the probem”. And I said yes.