As everybody knows, there is a race on between the municipality and the monsoon. Who will be first? Whether the municipality will finish all its roadworks and the Churchgate subway first or the monsoon will arrive before that and turn the city into a quagmire of loose wet cement and mud and pits overflowing with water?
I was talking to a municipal engineer at Churchgate about this. "Who will win, municipality or monsoon?" I asked.
The engineer looked down into the pit dug out for the subway, observed the three labourers who were presently employed on the job, and said: "I can only say this: we are exerting ourselves to our utmost limits to beat the monsoon. After that, if the monsoon wins, it will not be because of our not trying."
One of the three labourers had moved into the shade of a pipe and was smoking. The other two were crushing supari in the palms of their hands. I asked the engineer: "What is your deadline?"
"Well," 1992 is our deadline, though mind you, it can go into early 1993," the engineer said. "However, we would like to finish before the monsoon next week. I mean that is the target we are aiming for and everybody is working towards it."
Down in the pit, the labourer who was smoking was now crushing supari and the two labourers who were crushing supari were now smoking. "Are you planning to work round the clock, day and night, to beat the monsoon?" I asked.
"You know, the monsoon is a tough competitor, you can't just work eight hours a day and expect to beat it," the engineer said. "Once the monsoon hits the Kerala coasr, we are planning to put one of our three labourers on night duty. Of course, he will be given off during the day."
The labourer who was eating supari was climbing out of the pit to go to Bharat Café for a cup of tea. The other two were sitting in the pit and resting. "Have you considered employing more men?" I asked the engineer.
"If we want to finish before the monsoon, especially if we are going to have an early monsoon, we will have to employ more men. There can be no doubt about that and we have made provisions in our budget for that," the engineer said. "We may have one, or maybe even two, extra labourers."
Just then I found the two other labourers also climbing out of their pit. "What's happening?" I asked.
"Lunch-time," said the engineer.