It is Saturday morning, and the baby at the construction site next to our house won’t shut up. OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration: he’s not baby, he’s a toddler.
They’re building a three-story shopping center in our quiet, by Indian standards, neighborhood. The site has been a riot of chaos for a month now. Overlords in mirrored glasses overseeing a sari-clad chain gang. On most days the hideous grind of the cement mixer drowns out the crying children. Toddlers. Whatever.
At night, most of the workers go home, but dozens stay and crowd into the pair of cinder-block shacks that were built when the construction first started. I’ve heard that these builders are nomadic families who travel from one project to the next for six months or a year at a time. The children play in the sand piles until they are old enough to carry cement on their heads; apparently around age four. The ten-year-olds cook for the families on open fires, inside the shacks, breathing in black smoke… while my husband and I lay in our canopied bed, in our air-conditioned bedroom, complaining about the crying baby, and trying to forget that it looks like a UNICEF commercial is being filmed next door.
We wake to the shrill grinding sound of rebar being cut, in the construction site just outside the window. That sound is soon overtaken by the cacophonous grind of a cement mixer, which is again overtaken by the crashing gush of a truckload of rocks being emptied onto the construction site. A cloud of white rock dust presses up against the windows. This is not my beautiful world.
The construction site next door is active from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. Thirty sari-draped women balance trays of wet cement on their heads while a dozen half-naked children play in the mountain of sand. Another twenty or so barefoot men scoop rocks and bend rebar and are digging six giant pits in the red earth. They are building a three-story shopping center. From my dining room window this looks like an archeological dig. I have just found out that the construction will take one year. Huge buzz kill.
We chose this place because be could live like Columbian drug lords for what a one bedroom apartments costs at home, and because it was a quiet sanctuary away from the Bangalore choking traffic and relentless noise. Now, we may as well be living in the middle of the road. Every surface of our house is coated with grit. I’m beginning to suspect that this is why the owners have chosen not to live in their dream home.
Pack your earplugs and dust masks and come for a visit!!!