Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Turkey Has Landed

It felt a little bit like being on one of those HGTV shows where the prospective renter goes around to 3 400k condos with a friend and a broker, or a friend or a broker, or a friend-cum-broker (points for philological analysis explaining cum), and gives commentary like "Well the view is really great but I wanted more rooms, and the second one is big but I'd have to paint it." Sushil Singh of aforementioned BHU was enlisted by the Delhi Fulbright Office to help me with housing, and she deputized one of her postdocs (I think that's her status, Phd is def'ly finished), Nisha, to execute the task. We'd had a few offers already; one, two blocks of rooms in a hotel, 4 rooms, 2br, kitchen, but with a hotel hallway between the two sets, reasonably big, with huge plant covered balcony overlooking 3ish acres of lovely rice paddy and your standard brackish Varanasi river, furnished and provisioned, gas and electric included, at the end of a dirt road and with a walled off 2000 sq' of grassy play area [Rs20k/mo]; two, an unseen 4 room apartment in a more lux building, airconditioned (we pay for the power), furnished according to our exact specifications, fully provisioned, and on a main road [20-25k/mo]; and three, an also unseen flat in the middle of town, 3 rooms, no more details [~10k/mo?]. Each of these had been found through a friend of a friend of a friend, two of whom I met randomly in restaurants (less dicy than it sounds), and a third found, unbidden by me, by a rickshaw-walla who I immediately distrusted and disliked.

Upon informing Prof. Singh of my quoted rates she nearly fainted, and declared that I should under no circumstances pay that much. Call me at 9 tomorrow, she said, and I didn't because she called me then, and I reported to her lovely home whereupon we discussed academia, and then I talked American politics and Indian economics and inflation with her husband until breakfast, whereupon someone mentioned that we should go look at some housing, it being around 11. I had commissioned a car for the day with the only cautious driver in N. India (whom I am all but ready to put on permanent retainer) and so we followed the postdoc to the first house. It was large, airy, 4/5 rooms, including a smallish temple room. It would be refurbished, furnished, and painted. I liked it, but the pigs rooting in the garbage a block from the house made me nervous, and when we got up on the roof, Nisha's brother showed me the weed-choked lot behind the building and pointed to a mound of plastic bags and other chafu. "That is where you can throw your trash," he said. 7k/mo.

We then followed Nisha and her husband to Mahmoorganj and a cul-de-sac which houses the Sarv Dharm Mandir (All Dharma/Religions Temple, though I don't guess their ecumenical leanings go beyond Hinduism) and Nisha's home. Uncle-ji across the street has had an upstairs flat for years and years, which he really only uses to house family guests. 3 rooms, one airconditionable, papayas and coconut palms in the yard, and flowering creepers up the stairs to the flat which is on the second floor (here always called the first floor, as opp to the GROUND floor). Nisha seemed very eager for me to take it because she'd be close by to lend a hand. Uncle-ji allowed as how me might be able to include one more room from the adjacent apartment. How much? we asked. I don't know, he said, we've never rented it before, so, uh, how does 5k/mo sound? I'll have to check it out. Several someones paraded through with chana masala, ladoos, cold water, and a third round of sweets by which time I was really insisting on no more, and I said we'll take it. He'll clean the place up in the coming week, Nisha will get started on arranging maid, cook, and launderers, and Gungun (sp?)

seems genuinely excited to have two American neighborhood playmates. She is very sweet and a little shy but very dramatic in her gestures and facial expressions.

Nisha and her husband Manoj, along with her father, had me back for tea and aftersold the neighborhood to the nines. It's called Sigra, sort of just north of Central Varanasi, and at least our part of it is quiet, really clean, and really, really safe--Uncle-ji has two German Shepherds. They take shifts, he said, day and night. Not to play with, eh? I asked. No, you can play with Aluskha. But not the night-time one.

So we have a home in Varanasi, and just in time. Pictures forthcoming--for now, here's our neighbors, for whom I am, and believe I shall renewedly be, very grateful.


margaret said...

Yay! Do you get to eat the papayas? Do you like papaya? How is "Gungun" pronounced?

Susannah said...

good work, turkey! how long do you expect to be there? is there room for a live-in babysitting aunt?

ehirunner said...

Babysitting aunts welcome. There is an adjacent apt which Uncle-ji wants to keep empty for houseguests, but since he's leaving in a month, I think mebbe I could use it for my own houseguests.

I think maybe we can eat the papayas, though I won't. 1 time eating papayas and is going on bus, is coming many many road curve, many many diesel fume, many altitude, and is coming back papaya. I can't stand the smell of them since. Right now they are quite green.

guhn-guhn, meaning the u sound in should.

We'll be here for about four months, altho the pending arrival of HHDL in January may bring work to a dead halt. OTOH, what's a trip to India without an HHDL flyby? Heads up, Dad!

Valerie said...

House sounds good! I too have palms and papayas. Green papayas make yummy green papaya salad. Ripe papayas must be eaten with a squeeze of lime. There is no other way.