Veni, Vidi, Vici !

What M hasn’t been telling you in the previous post is that she’s brave. She has been bravely living in a lot of difficult-to-live-in place lately, the kind of place I could never have imagined existed. But I agree, her new place is awesome.

I, on the other hand, haven’t been a ‘nester’; instead a ‘move’-er all my life. Yet I still find it extremely difficult to set up a home just anywhere. I have to have a proper place to stay in. It has to conform to my standards of how I want to live. Also, I’m deeply sentimental about my surroundings and belongings. Thus, any thought of moving promptly has me wondering if my walls will miss me or if my clothes will like their new cupboard. I am terrible at discarding old things. I carry all of them stupid, silly things (from fair tickets to coffee receipts) along with me. They’re all memories, although reminiscent of Rebeca’s bag of bones, I’m afraid (Rebeca from One Hundred Years of Solitude)!

A long chain of not very pleasant discussions led to me having to move out of my very nice and caring landlady’s beautiful room (and a massive, luxurious bathroom) last month. And thus, house-hunting began.

I looked at one house.

I spoke to one girl (who I’d never met before).

I finalized the place. Period.

Easy.

I guess I am lucky with finding places. I just am very unlucky that I have to try and stop thinking about my previous bed, my previous fan, or some other such thing.

The new place is bigger and lovely. The new girl in my life (we shall refer to her as K) is lovely too. She was a blessing in the tiresome period when I was agonizing constantly about shifting and my massive amount of luggage. These past few days have been exciting, independent, and comfortable enough. I’m glad I’m snug before winter drops all over us. I’m sure my walls don’t miss me and my clothes are definitely happy. As always, V has been the rock of strength and the hammer to drive many nails home!

Looks like we have two cheesecake parties lined up!

 

A Room of One’s Own

I’ve always been a bit of a nester. I was one of those people who arrived in my college room, and had to sting up fairy lights, make home-made cushion covers and arrange my books by size and genre before I could feel truly at home.

The last few months in Delhi, therefore, have been a bit of a trial. Who knew that finding a room would be so difficult? The plan was to live in a girls’ hostel (abundant as they are in Delhi) while looking for something more permanent – preferably a room in a shared house. Having been moved on from my first hostel when the landlady’s (absent) husband decided that he didn’t much like the idea of a foreigner living in his house, I found another, and the real hunt began in earnest.

A series of rooms found in north Delhi near to the University were vetoed by friends more streetwise than me – “not safe for foreign women to live alone in that part of Delhi.” Plans to live with Udita were sadly brought to a halt when we were not able to find a mutually convenient location, so that she could get to work in Greater Noida, and I could commute to North Campus. Susanna? Super keen, but tied into a six month contract she couldn’t escape from without losing her deposit.

Both however took turns to accompany me on a search around the city which ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. The room in Vasant Kunj? Great, except the living room didn’t have a roof. Hauz Khaz? Lovely, but the landlady lived on the floor below, and wanted to impose curfews and ban guests. The one near GK? Wonderful on paper, but would have involved living with two Indian boys who gawped at me as if they had never seen a girl before, and (judging by the house) seemed not to have been introduced to the concept of cleaning. And the hundreds of rooms that came up in Defence Colony? Too, too lovely, but viable only if you have a spare Rs30,000/month floating around.

Meanwhile, the hostel situation started to take its toll. People at home assumed that it was the privacy – “how can you share a room with two other girls?” that would be the issue. Funnily enough, that was never really a problem. My room partners were laid-back, friendly, and we developed that easy type of female companionship that you can only really get when living in such close quarters. Priyanka would ask me to paint her nails, Mridu would help me with my Hindi homework, we’d moan about the food together.

No, what got me – I guess – was the lack of autonomy. The inability to deal with situations – to think for yourself and solve problems. When it became clear that one washing line for thirty girls just didn’t work, stringing up a new line caused political discussions the like of which I’d never experienced. When we found ants in our mattresses, putting them out in the sun engendered the sort of telling off I’d not encountered since childhood, as Aunty explained how I was defacing her house. When mice and cockroaches became a problem, we couldn’t authorize pest control to come ourselves, but had to hand the issue over to another’s judgment. My habit of working at the upstairs dining table rather than on my bed (our ground floor room had terrible internet signal) was vetoed, and I developed the expensive habit of spending my mornings in Coffee Day with my laptop. Something had to give.

Luckily, it did. A room in a shared flat, on the edge of (but not in) a pretty salubrious area came up. The perfect mixture of privacy and company, home-comforts and affordability. I share a bathroom, kitchen and living room but can retreat  to my own room at any time. If I fancy splashing out on Costa I can walk to a swanky market within twenty minutes, but within a five minute radius of my house I have a reasonable vegetable wallah, a small tailor, and a selection of street food.

So here I am, sat on a chair (no less!) at a desk. To my left sits a set of fully categorized books, and to my right the best closet I have ever had the good fortune to call my own. Yesterday, and after only limited chasing, the Holy Grail arrived. A hot water geyser! Yes, after three months in Delhi, I had my first hot shower. And not even from a bucket – an actual showerhead. What can I say? Utter bliss. All that remains now for the house to be truly christened is for cheesecake to be consumed here. Susanna? Udita? Come on over!

Omelettes in the Village

Do you know about ‘The Village’? No, we haven’t relocated to New York – Delhi has its very own suburban village in the form of Hauz Khaz, and in its own knowing sort of way it’s equally trendy. You won’t find a Coffee Day or Baristas on the main drag – instead it’s a series of designer boutiques and independent eateries. All very well and good, but definitely a little out of our price range on a regular basis.

You might ask how two impoverished students such as Susanna and myself found ourselves in such a salubrious area on a Friday evening after college? You’ll never believe it but were viewing property. Yes property!  I’ll explain. We’re members of a Delhi-expat yahoo group. Most emails that we receive as a result of said membership read something along the lines of:

One bedroom available in spacious, luxury flat in Defence Colony. Private bathroom, fully air-conditioned with own balcony. Rent Rs.30, 000/month – electricity, maid, cook, gardener and Wi-Fi charges additional.

This, we (and I think that I can safely speak for Susanna here too) find faintly depressing. But occasionally there’s a gem.

Such a gem – advertising a private room in Hauz Khaz for the bargain price of Rs.8000/month appeared in my inbox on Thursday:

There is a room available to rent near Hauz Khaz Village with a private terrace, kitchenette and bathroom. It comes semi furnished with a fridge, bed, closet and water heater (bathroom) with a private entry. It is overlooking the park and the deer park. The rent is 8000 with 8000 deposit.

Naturally we hot-footed it over there pronto, and viewed what can only be described a quirky apartment. Situated on the top floor of a housing block with a bedroom, kitchen and small bathroom in separate corners of an open terrace it was charming if a little unconventional (and in need of a good clean). Immediately we were picturing rooftop gatherings, fairy lights and al fresco dining. Sadly our hopes were dashed a little when we realized how many other people were interested in the place – and that the boho filmmaker NRI type who was showing us around was being decidedly cagey about how the landlady would choose who ultimately got it.

Slightly deflated we made the short walk over to the village to check out the trendy south-Delhi lifestyle that we could potentially be living. Should we go to the rooftop Keralan restaurant we’d heard so much about? A bar? Or to the famous Living Room for a cocktail and a quick snack? Having heard so much about it from friends and acquaintances we plumped for the latter, and were soon weaving our way up through dimly lit rooms, carefully squeezing past beautifully turned out young women in heels brandishing designer handbags, and feeling a tad out of place in our full salwar kameez sets (we’d come prepared to impress potential Aunty-type landladies, henna).

Perhaps not surprisingly on a balmy Friday night there were no tables, and we were soon making the same journey in reverse, climbing down from the top-floor open-air terrace back to the exit on the ground floor.

‘I saw a guy on the street outside making masala omelettes,’ Susanna ventured ‘Fancy one?’

Twenty minutes later we were trekking back to Green Park metro station – full of eggy goodness and only twenty rupees poorer. Perhaps it’s best that I don’t get the trendy rooftop apartment; I suspect that I’m not cool enough to live in Hauz Khaz after all …