THE road contractor got down from
his Mercedes and wiped a few tears
rolling down his cheeks, “We contractors are a misunderstood lot,” he said as he stood on the edge of one of the largest potholes in the city.
“Misunderstood?” I yelled, “Do you know the number of people who have died or injured after falling into your potholes? Do you realize hospitals are full of those suffering from spinal injuries caused by your bad repairs?”
The contractor held up his hand and gestured towards his worker who was filling up a hole, “Ask him how many meals he had yesterday?” “Three square meals!” said the worker revealing the beginnings of a protruding tummy. “And some local dharu too!” “Can you imagine what he would have done without these potholes?” asked the contractor. “Because of this one pothole, he is given a whole monsoon of work. He fills it in the morning and the pothole opens by evening, and day after day the poor man has employment!” “But that’s because of substandard material you are using!” I cried indignantly.
The contractor wiped his cheek again and looked sadly at me, “It’s a pity you have such a hard heart,” he said, “Can you imagine what would be the case if I’d used good material? Do you know every shop in the suburb offers me material a hundred times better than this? But instead why do I use the worst material possible? Bitumen that doesn’t bond, sand that is past it’s prime, cement from a third rate manufacturer? Why? Why?”
I put my head down and tried not to show my ignorance. “Because I want to see the poor don’t starve!” whispered the contractor, “My heart beats for the poor. The driver of his Mercedes grinned at me as I looked at him, “Look at this poor driver of mine,” continued the contractor, “the poor man would have been forced to drive an ordinary Honda City or Suzuki, but today I have given him a sense of pride and self worth!” I looked down feeling even more ashamed. “Can’t a few lives be lost here and there, a hundred or so broken shoulders and bad backs be a worthwhile sacrifice for us poor people?” asked the road contractor as he nodded encouragingly at his worker who had stopped mixing any bitumen with the sand. “Learn to feel good my friend, next time you fall into my pothole!”
I nodded, filled with pothole guilt as the road contractor got into his shining Mercedes, his driver giving a snooty look as he lurched forward and splashed water on me from the same pothole that had just been repaired, even as his boss grinned at him encouragingly and the worker smiled as he saw his evening drink taking shape in the newly opened pothole..!