When a big bang happens in the neighbourhood


Sitting in the portico of his home exuding an old-world charm, 82-year-old E.J. Ambrose was pouring over newspapers spread out on a table before him.

Living just a stone’s throw away from H2O Holy Faith, one of the two apartments to be demolished at Maradu on Saturday, reports on the impending demolition, unsurprisingly, had all his attention.

His ancestral home, built way back in 1882, has survived the vagaries of time and the exertions of pre-blast demolitions. “The house is reasonably strong, and we expect it to be unaffected by the blast as well. We are banging on the assurance of the authorities that the blast will have little impact on life and properties,” said Mr. Ambrose, who felt that there was indeed an element of surprise since there was no precedent for such massive demolitions in the State.

Sicily Antony, a 73-year-old housewife in the same neighbourhood, however, was tension personified, with the demolition just hours away. She had adequate reasons to be anxious as her house had already developed some cracks.

Those cracks appeared on the day they demolished the car parking area of the apartment, said her daughter-in-law Tashy.

“Our family has been here for over two centuries, and we moved to this house from our ancestral property in the neighbourhood just 13 years ago. This house is the sweat of my son’s hard work,” she said even as she bemoaned the alleged lack of clarity about the time when they could return to the house after being temporarily evacuated before the blast.

Her 83-year-old husband Antony is suffering from cancer, so the family has chosen to move to their daughter’s house at Nettoor rather than to the temporary shelter arranged by the authorities.

Nazeer, a migrant worker from Uttar Pradesh who had been engaged in pre-blast demolition work for the last couple of months, was nonchalant about the whole thing when stopped on his tracks.

“Humara kam tho katam huwa. Kal angrezi log sammalenge (Our job is over and tomorrow the demolition team will take over),” he said before striding away drawing deep on the cigarette.

All the while onlookers were stopping and taking selfies from the Kundannoor-Thevara bridge, which turned the preferred vantage point for the soon-to-be-demolished apartment and a makeshift parking space by curious motorists.

“No destruction is a pleasant sight and this is particularly disturbing for me as I had transported sand and cement during the construction of this structure. It could have been used for the benefit of the poor rather than demolishing it using the taxpayers’ money,” said Pushpan, a driver from Aluva.

Babu, a 72-year-old security guard from Edappally, however, backed the demolition and, in fact, wanted more such illegal structures to meet with similar fate. “The tainted politicians and officials should also be thrown behind bars,” he said.

Raja, a 24-year-old from Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu employed with a premier hotel in the vicinity, had left his lodging at Maradu earlier for his afternoon shift to make time for a selfie with the apartment as the backdrop.

“The demolition of even a small house is so painful, and this is such a huge one. No matter whether you are rich or poor, seeing your beloved house going down in a heap can be so harrowing,” he sighed.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 7:42:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/when-a-big-bang-happens-in-the-neighbourhood/article30538980.ece

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