In the little coffee parlor that is frequently our haunt in the early hours of eventide, the conversation turned to the enthusiasm and regularity with which our beloved Municipal Corporation excavates our roads.
"What this city needs is more roads and fewer excavations", said a Latte, who had evidently thought deeply into the matter.
"They can't foresee ALL public work requirements. It is a growing city and public works are alway important in the smooth running of any metropolis", said a Macchiato, whose cousin was rumored to be running a road construction company.
"Only corruption in this city, I say, only corruption", said a Bitter Almond Pastry, bitterly
A lull followed in the conversation and our eyes automatically turned to the Sage of our group, Mrs. Shenoy.
She smiled, as if to herself. "If Mr. Shenoy will kindly trouble himself to fetch me another Iced Eskimo, this time taking care not to spill half of it on his shirt as he fetches it here, I will tell you the true story about the digging"
The same question had occurred (said that elegant woman) to me one evening as I stood at the intersection near our house, surveying the devastation strewn about by a diligent team of the Corporation's faithful.
I knew it could not be anything so simple as an essential service. When the corporation wants to provide an essential service it does not dig roads. It black markets that service. No, it had to be something deeper than that. Something far more important. I decided to find out exactly what it was.
A trip to our ward office proved fruitless (or bootless). Our ward office, an interestingly designed building which has the ventilation of a morgue, the color scheme of a bordello, the layout of a laboratory maze and the liveliness of section 54 of the Income tax Act, houses the Ward Officer, a shifty eyed, rat-faced man who knows a sum total of six words, namely "This matter is not my responsibility".
Adjudging the situation to be hopeless, I decided to drop into the Engineer's office. there seemed to be an animated discussion going on inside. Like any self-respecting person, I refrained from entering the room and eavesdropped instead.
And good thing too. The discussion within clarified the matter for me. Without going into details of the conversation, here is what happens
1. The Executive Engineer, the Assistant Engineer, the Sub Engineer, the Assistant Sub Engineer and the Executive Assistant to the Sub Engineer open the sweepstakes.
2. Bets are taken on what color it is at say 20 feet below a location at a suitable arterial road.
3. Odds are offered by the bookmaker, usually the Executive Engineer himself
4. The road is dug up on the appointed day and the color inspected by said worthies, and bets are settled accordingly.
5. The road is left open for fifteen days in order to allow the color to be reinspected by sceptics
6. If anyone (such as myself) should ask why that road has been dug up, a standard set of responses is offered
a) "This matter is not my responsibility"
b)"This matter may be my responsibility but I have not yet officially taken charge"
c)"This matter may be my responsibility and I might have officially taken charge but the matter is subjudice and I cannot comment upon it"
d) "This is an archeological excavation for an Indus Valley Civilization site"