the hole and the dispute

In the middle of the driveway in front of our flat is a gaping square hole that will one day break someone’s car, or perhaps someone’s leg.


This hole is an access hatch for sewer pipes, the first step for some of our household’s human waste on its journey to being discharged, probably untreated, into the Yamuna River. When we moved in, this hole was covered by a fitted cement slab. But a few months ago, that slab broke when the doctor who lives on works on the ground floor drove his massive and hideous Tata Sumo DX directly over it. The cover shattered and fell into the hole. The Sumo’s wheel followed (but was easily reversed out).

The driveway is common property among all members of the house: The Doctor on the ground floor, The Office on the first floor, and Flat #1 through Flat #4. (We occupy Flat #4, but we rent from The Office, so we’re not actually responsible for anything; The Office essentially has two of the six shares of the building.)

The driveway is common property, yes; but the sewer pipe serviced by the hatch channels waste only from Flat #2.

And so the dispute is on.

Flat #1, Flat #3, and The Office, with its two shares of the house, all think Flat #2 should pay for an iron cover to put over the hole. Flat #2 thinks The Doctor should pay, as it’s his car that did the damage. And The Doctor thinks all parties should cover the cost equally, as the driveway is shared property.

This dispute is the latest in a string of insults and issues magnified into hatred by time and proximity: problems of construction noise, unpaid stairway painting bills, stolen scrap metal, ruptured garbage bags, dog noise, dog damage, dog stench, and the misdiagnosis of a (former) tenant’s fatal disease.

As the only uninterested parties in the house, we’re the only ones not exchanging cold silences and averted eyes as we pass on the stairs.

Two temporary concrete slabs have unsuccessfully been applied, and quite a collection of shattered concrete is gathering in the hole.

No one is giving ground. The stalemate continues. And so does the string of profanities from drivers plunging their wheels halfway into the hole; and so does the potential that one night, one of us is going to step in the hole in the darkness, and one of our legs is going to get totally broken.



12 responses to “the hole and the dispute

  1. Forget about cars, what about some kid falling down there? It looks big enough.

  2. Well, if you break your leg, at least there’s a doctor nearby.

    What? Too soon?

    In thinking about who should pay, it’s a bit of a sticky wicket. The doctor is directly responsible, but a concrete cover in a communal parking space was bound to fail eventually. That said, Flat #2 has an vested interest in getting their sewer pipes protected as soon as possible.

    An amiable solution (and one that almost certainly wouldn’t be accepted by the parties involved) would be for the doctor to pay half the cost of an iron cover (since he actually broke the concrete one), and for everyone else to split the remainder (since it’s community property).

  3. One logic can be:
    The doctor should pay for a replacement (concrete). Everyone else should pay the difference to get an iron cover which would not break. Since its a shared property, the person who broke that property should pay for the exact replacement (and no more).
    Another logic:
    The existing cover should have been strong enough to handle the doctors Sumo (no matter how ugly it is). That way, doctor is not directly responsible for breaking the cover. Hence everyone pay equally for a cover that can withstand a heavy vehicle going over it.

  4. Ooh yeah, that’s much better than mine. The doctor should pony up the cash to replace what he broke, and everyone (including the doctor) should split the difference to pay for an improvement.

  5. This is an apt metaphor for why India is fucked.

  6. How about the landlord taking some responsibility, he/she should have in put something there that can’t get broken like an iron cover. Oh yes, I am not talking about US, its my lovely home , so I guess who so ever is worried about their leg or car, should just pay and move on with life!

  7. There should be a stimulus package for this sort of thing, right?


    Be careful around that thing!

  8. Many kids have fell inside such holes (sometimes bigger) and lost their lives. Some lucky kids also have been rescued under the camera eyes on 24/7 news channels,who play it out like reality shows. Yet you will continue to find open holes all over the country. In fact, these hole covers are stolen systematiclly from colonies. I am not at all surprised by petty skirmishes amongst residents that you have written here.

  9. Iron cover will be stolen pretty soon. It can bring in decent money while a concrete one doesnt. Thats the reason most property owners dont use them

  10. Write to the Ethicist!

  11. how much would it cost to fill that hole?

    what would you use to cover it if you didnt want it to get stolen?

  12. It sounds like you’ve got Fort Knox housing in India.

    Run, Dave, Run!

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