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.