Construction Corruption

July 20, 2010
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So much for monsoon rains, Kiran thought, opening a window only to be slapped in the face by an ancient breeze, smelling slightly of oranges. Kiran felt relieved, for after such a difficult season God had blessed the village with a bountiful and ripe harvest.

The cottage where she lived with her mother and three siblings was tiny but elegant and the wooden floors sparkled with lime soap. The house had been humbly built by Kiran’s great grandfather in the times of the Mogul wars. An oriental rug passed down from generation to generation rested in the living room in front of dusty, hardly used television set. Near the entrance of the house, Kiran quickly splashed water on her face, brushing her teeth quickly, as she prepared to leave for the market. She kissed Baba, her sister Samara‘s baby, on the forehead, as she slammed the door shut behind her.

On arriving at the market place, Kiran took in the sights and sounds smelling the each fruit carefully, absorbing its scent, bargaining with the seller for the best price; skills she had learned from her elders. Finally choosing a full-grown watermelon Kiren thanked the seller and trod off, but the watermelon was too heavy and it danced about in her hands. She was to fragile and weak to hold the gigantic fruit. “Aaah! Oh no!” she yelped, frightened the watermelon would smoosh her toes.
Out of no where a man appeared and humbly caught the watermelon with his bare muscular hands.
“Would you like me to carry it back.”
“Please” Kiran replied.
On the way home, Kiran asked the man his name.
She found out his name was Saahid. He was quiet at first. Then after she probed him with several questions he would barely shut up. Kiran felt the need to plug her ears, his constant chatter was growing on her nerves.

Finally, she arrived at the cottage and invited him over for tea. Surprisingly, he declined, saying he needed to get back to work at the construction site. He swung the door behind him, reluctantly, grumbling something about a construction site.
While Kiran was knitting a quilt for her older sister, the man, Sahiid trudged along wearily to Mehta and Murlagh Construction Co. He donned his working clothes in the shack where all the other men busily but silently prepared for the long afternoon ahead. Quickly he munched on a samosa, a fried doughy triangle filled with spicy potatoes and peas, cursing because their was no chutney to eat with.
“Manager’s Coming!” Aadesh, the messenger squealed.
Everyone paused, looking at each other slightly perturbed.
Sahiid’s facial expression became tight.
During the last few days there had been a rumor running around that cement prices were growing exceedingly higher. In one funny story Aadesh had even mentioned that the manager’s blood pressure was going up. Because of high prices, sand and dirt were being used to replace the cement, but this was dangerous and the risks were inevitable.

The manager was coming around today to see which workers wanted to stay with the Co. and which ones wanted to leave. The group was split. Many feared they were endangering the lives of a community where their children’s families could possibly be living. These good men feared they would be the culprits if things went suddenly awry and were the type who dreamed of the worst case scenario. Then on the far other side were the dirty, fed-up citizens who were grateful that the construction job gave them money. To them, the job was the only way they could place food on the table at the end of the day. It was their only feasible choice.

Sahiid was one of the fed-up ones who just wanted his pay check at the end of the day. Hiding the nausea he felt, he mustered up the confidence to walk to the other manager’s line.

Months later the “cheap” houses were built and new families moved in, excited to have places of their own. Kiran was one these people. The family of seven moved in, setting everything up, oohing and aahing over the spacious backyard and luxurious amount of room the new house offered.

After a few nights of sleeping in the new house, Kiran began feeling itchy. Dust was rubbing off from the walls onto her skin. The house smelled sour and made her feel sick. She and her mom sprayed perfume on the walls but the pungent scent refused to budge. Even worse, pieces of plaster were dripping from the ceiling. One piece even slipped onto Kiran’s younger brother, Edmund’s, mouth while he was sleeping. He awoke choking, tears in his eyes.

After one week, Kiran lay in her hammock downstairs. All was quiet and calm, aside from the sound of motors buzzing outside and crickets chirping. Outside the window, Kiran glimpsed the moon, heavy and luscious, a pearl to be reckoned with. The stared at the ceiling, feeling that something was strangely wrong with this new house. She did not feel protected but felt wearily uncertain, like anything..
All at once, and one by one, the house was falling apart and all Kiran could do was gasp like a fish with no air, motionless.
My life is..
She thought
Moments later, she felt relief that she was still alive and a ultimate dread, questioning, “Where are the others?”
She moaned their names across the brittle dust which filled her nostrils like a villian who refused to tell the truth.

The others were safe.

She sighed.

All was well.

Thousands of rupees had been wasted

All was not well.

Over the next several days Kiren’s papa did some investigation of his own and found out that the house he had bought had been made of cheap material. He was furious and filed a lawsuit against Mehta and Murlagh. Sahiid and other men were put in jail. Trembling, as he walked into the cell, Sahiid crumpled the rose he had bought for Kiran.

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