Monday, May 6, 2013

Home Sweet Home - A House construction story (with a review of the builder - The Habitat Group) - Part 3

This is the story of my house construction with a review of the builder, building materials and the difficulties faced. The story so far Part 1, Part 2 

Part 3 - The Unwelcome guests

As I already mentioned, I had chosen interlocking bricks for my construction. (To know more about interlocking bricks read this post)

The interlocking bricks were being transported in a small truck and hence the vehicle could reach my site. I was relieved at this coz the manual ferrying of things were actually adding up the cost of construction.

As soon as the first load of interlocking bricks came I got a call from the driver. He wanted me to be present at the site as soon as possible since he was unable to unload the stuff. So it was time for another dash through the heavy traffic in the middle of the day which had become a regular affair for me ever since the work started.

At the site I saw the truck being surrounded by a gang of around 8 to 10 people who looked very much like seasoned goons.  Two among them had terrible scars on their face which I presume to be suffered from a sword. One of them was standing on an artificial limb. His face and look completely matched that of a rough guy albeit having a height of around 5 feet.

Another problem in the offing!!

I went near them. The driver tried to speak to me, but one of the gang members came forward and pushed the driver back.

Am I in the midst of a physical assault ?? The whole set up seemed precisely like that of a gangster attack.

The guy who pushed back the driver came near me. I could smell alcohol. In a strong voice he asked me whether I am the owner of the property. I answered yes.

He came a little bit more closer, the pungent smell of the alcohol was really making me feel uncomfortable.

He wanted me to pay Rs.5 per brick for permitting to unload the brick.

I was in for a shock.

The brick cost Rs.11 and these guys are asking almost half the price for just unloading. I had heard horror stories of the unloading workers backed up by the trade unions who demand huge money for such work and now I am facing the same music.

I cannot talk common sense now, since what is common sense for me may not make any sense for the guy who is talking under the influence of alcohol and the others were looking equally brutal.

Frankly speaking I did not have the amount of money which he is asking in my purse. I requested them to relook their demand but he was not willing to abide.

This process was taking a lot of time. The driver of the lorry came up. Now it was his turn to further up my already soared up pressure. He has no more time to wait, so he wanted me to settle the issue immediately. Is he playing pranks with me along with these people?

I told him my helplessness. He called up the brick factory and asked what to do. I too wanted to talk to the factory manager thinking that he might have a solution for this. With an air of expectation I talked with the factory manager.

It was time for another jolt when he told that I have to bear the lorry transit expenses and the expenses for loading and unloading of the bricks at the factory if I am going to send the lorry back.

I felt like the whole world is plotting against me and no one around is going to help me. My mind stopped working and I felt blank. Simply stood there without uttering a word.

One of the goons (read the unloading workers) came to me and asked me what I decided. I told him that I was negotiating with factory on the amount of money to be given to them once the load is sent back. There was no other way around since adding Rs.5 to one brick will shave off all the savings which I expected to make by the use of interlocking bricks. Also I didn't have the money to pay them right at that moment. ( I did not have an ATM card at that time).
Sensing that I am serious about sending the load back, one of the guys from the gang, who till now was standing at the back of the crowd came forward. He was also a huge person, but luckily he was not smelling alcohol. It seemed like he wants to talk to me.
Soon we were both standing away from the rest of the mad crowd. He asked me how much I can pay for the unloading work. I told him that the factory person is paying Re. 1 per brick for loading and unloading at the factory and I am also ready to pay that amount. But he told that Re. 1 will not work out here. He was talking in a polite voice. So I could talk sense, told him about my difficulties, why I went for using the interlocking bricks etc. He seemed sympathetic and went back to the rest of the gang for a discussion. After the high level meeting with the rest of the gang, he came back and told that they want Rs.2 for the work and nothing less will be acceptable.
Finally I too realized that there is no point in further bargaining and agreed upon this. I told him about my inability to pay the money there itself and showed him my purse. Handed him Rs 500 which was left in the purse and promised to pay the rest next day morning. Took his mobile number also.
Lesson learned: These guys create a very scary atmosphere and will demand a ransom for unloading work. All this will create a fear in the clients. Finally they will reduce the cost which itself will be on the higher side. But to get rid of the menace the clients are sure to agree, just like what happened in my case.
Soon I befriended with this guy and began calling him in advance when some load comes. This made these people happy. Sometimes I paid unloading money in advance, sometimes I paid after they did their work.
Another thing which I ensured was that all the items which these guys want to unload was brought to the site early in the morning itself. Once they get some money they will go to the nearby bar and will soon be under the influence of alcohol. Before consuming alcohol all these are nice fellows and negotiations are easy.
In this way I cracked one of the real problems in my house construction saga.
To be continued in Part 4
The saga so far


KMMohan said...

Sorry for your troubles. You should have known about it as you are a permanent resident in Kerala, God's Own Country (but also 'Devils Own Paradise' if the newspapers and the visual media are to be believed).

I'm an Overseas Citizen of India, but own family and other properties in Kerala. I came over in Sept., 2011 with the intention of building a house in a piece of land I own. By March, 2012 the work started on the site.

I knew I was going to face problems from these blood-suckers who demand payment for loading and unloading whether they do the work or not. So they had to be avoided at all costs. My nephew, a transporter of building materials himself was of great help. He always instructed his drivers to take safe routes to take avoiding those ones where they lie in wait to follow the lorries to sites.

Till I finished the building work in March this year, I never had them at the site asking for what is known in Malayalam - Nookku Kooli(payment for watching others work) !!

I say Kerala is a hard place to survive in if one is not streetwise, or not a crook himself. Weaklings will be crushed mercilessly by politicians, 'quotation teams' aka goondas on hire, bureaucrats, thugs and many other social misfits.

My house was built with 'Laterite Stabilized Bricks' made at Thiruvanchoor, Kottayan Dt. and without plastering. Habitat did the work on labour charge per sq. ft. basis. I'm satisfied with their work spervised by Rajesh Kumar.

The government has introduced an array of restrictions on exploitation by these uncouth lot but they will always try to evade the. So we must also try to evade these leeches.

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Anonymous said...

Very well written, Subodh

Anonymous said...

Can we construct bathrooms with interlocking tiles???? As we heard that interlocking bricks can't be used in places which get frequently wet.

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