Long time at base camp

Comparatively, rough rocks [for the foundation] and bricks were a more satisfying exercise. Rocks were available from a land clearing operation nearby. And, a neighbouring farmer had fired a whole kiln worth 100,000 bricks made from local clay and sand. Building sand was available in the dried up stream at pointReturn site, but there was not enough of it, though.

Being a small project I thought it best to buy all materials and get quotes for the labour component. It turned out that rates are quoted per 100 sFt for a brick and mortar structure with RCC roof. The going lump-sum rate had been Rs 6,000 when I had enquired 3 months earlier. Now, it was Rs 8,000. A highly recommended mason, wanted Rs 10,000 because of the extra width of the roof which I had specified to accommodate four plastic tanks. I agreed.

On June 18, deemed an auspicious day, I woke up before dawn to keep the date for a pooja at 9 am. The highway was full at that hour. Giant buses ferrying IT workers, college students and commuters were running four abreast. I picked up Raju at Tambaram. As we rode in tight formation, Raju was calling various people to co-ordinate the morning. Then, in a moment’s distraction I swerved out of line by no more than 8″ and was instantly hit in the rear by a bus. It will cost me a tidy sum to repair the bad dent, but luckily no one was hurt. Not a great way to begin the day, I told myself.

As if to affirm my hunch, the construction project ran into a standstill after an elaborate pooja and handing over a cash advance. Some listless work went on that day and wound up early. The next day, the builder went missing. No phone calls were answered. A supporting team of three led by Kutty in the village waited but no mason showed up. I spent hours trying to reach the builder. In a few days, I learnt the pointReturn project was to be put on hold until he completed a major work elsewhere. I was counseled patience: “It is quite normal for contractors to sign up for everything that comes their way and try and execute them all over time”. Well, I am not endowed with the requisite patience [-though, I think I am having it kicked into me!]

I terminated the deal with him. But who was I going to finish the room with? After many dead leads, I decided to contact an old friend, a big builder, used to building high-end homes. It’s like asking Boeing to help with my scale model plane. But it worked. HomeTech’s Satish let his supervisor Bhupathy decide on helping out. And Bhupathy agreed.

Work resumed on June 27. It’s neither cheap nor fast but I have some reliability, accountability and a time line. Bhupathy’s team can only spare two or three days per week but they are efficient and fast. Ten days after they began, the concrete roof was cast on July 7. The room should be done before this month’s end.

Like I said, the building has much to atone for. Hopefully future constructions will have the advantage of time and support made available from the concrete basecamp. This always helps in pondering green choices. Ahead of that, I can start collecting plant materials and farm tools around the strong room, so that the real work of planting can begin.

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