The local contractor who had undertaken to deliver and skin the poles on site, went incommunicado for two days after delivering 500 poles. When the skinning crew of four arrived on Day3, the poles had dried out quite a bit. They upped the asking rate per piece in view of the hard work. The season of scorching days had begun and skinning became slow. I called Ravi. He suggested I dump all the poles in the pond and draw them out for skinning, one by one. As simple as that.
Only the pile of poles were 200′ from the pond and each weighed between 10 and 20 kg. Sami the farm hand on a retainer, took one look at the hard chore, and made him himself scarce. So Raju, Chellamma, Annamalai, and Myself – a motley crew unsuited to the task in terms of both skill and muscle- began dragging the poles. Working with suppressed bad humour under a pitiless sun we managed to dump all the poles in the water.
The skinning did become easy. You could fairly peel a poles like a banana. We were ready with 500 bald poles by the date set by Ravi. I reported my readiness to him. His response curled like a warning smoke: there were some difficulties with sourcing granite posts. There would be a few days delay. After a ‘few’ days the issue was truly on fire. General Elections had been called in India and officials were afoot ensuring a ‘safe’ public order. Explosives for the quarry industry were throttled and granite posts went unavailable within a few days. After a week, Ravi declared all his leads were turning cold and he was not sure when he would begin work.
The poles were lying about where the skinners left them. In a week termites put in an appearance.
I called Ravi. He said: “Build a loft on top of four granite posts and hoist the 500 poles over for safe keeping”. As simple as that! The motley crew was at work again. I had the required granite posts lying around. We augured four holes, built a loft and began dragging the poles back for their return journey. Over three days that seemed would never end, the poles were hoisted and saved.
There they rested for seven weeks. Ravi and I knocked on every possible source of granite posts. Those must count as busy days too. Finally on April 21, paying a premium, we managed to corner the requisite numbers and work began. 13 wonderfully experienced workers arrived, each a master. They set up a kitchen and camped with the barest facilities. And they worked hard. Every evening they’d go off campus for their rendezvous with moonshine. The days were 40degC+ but the men were hardy and diligent.