The machinery came first.
Then the aggregates —
Stone and sand and betel juice.
He waited for the cement
That was held up somewhere.

Fourteen inches, he told us.
That’s how high they’d raise
The distressed concrete street.
Remember, he says, — Babu is
The one who’s paving the way
For your upliftment. Vote, okay?

How high is that? one asks.
Like a foot or something?
A foot and a finger, he says.

What about our pipes
That run into the drains?
He shrugged. Not my problem.

And our sacred pinda platforms
For our jhoti-chita doodles?
He shrugged. Not my problem.

And the third step of the Shrine?
It’s bad omen to have only two.
He shrugged. Not my problem.

Where’s that cement, he asked.
Sir, they are taking it away, sir.
What? Who?
The street residents, sir. Citizens.
What? Why? Hey! Drop that sand!
How do we build the road?
We only shrugged.
We are polite that way.