Twenty months ago, I wrote a couple of blog pieces about having moved back to Delhi, or so I thought, as in moved back to Delhi, not wrote the pieces, they are there for all to see. But you see, as I have said many times, India can be a cruel mistress, though in my case it was definitely being cruel to be kind. When India is working against you, there is nothing you can do about it, no amount of kicking and screaming and fighting, planning and scheming, bemoaning or ignoring what she is trying to tell you will change that. Conversely, when the time is right, she will work for you, quite spectacularly. Of course she will still remind you who is boss, throwing in the odd little challenge here and there but that is what makes India, well India.
She booted me out eighteen months ago in the cruellest way possible and in so many ways I am glad that she did. At the time I wasn’t; it was another setback in a long line of setbacks, another failed attempt to come back home to India, and then there followed yet more traumatic months. On reflection, I can now see that there were lessons to be learnt, character traits to change, paths to be thrown off and new paths to follow. But then, ‘one fine day’ as they say here, she determined that the time was right, pieces started falling into place, the beauty of this being that it was without me engineering them. The next I knew, a job had been offered (actually 3!), plane tickets were bought, friends invited me to stay and almost before I knew it, I was back. Back home in India and an India that is working with you is a fabulous place to be.
A very dear friend invited me to stay in their family home whilst I got settled and found myself a place to live. Their family home, being the Indian equivalent of Downton Abbey, replete with a team of six full time staff, wonderfully comfortable and in a superb location, I jumped at the opportunity and rather hoped that it would take me a while to find a home of my own. I gave my impossible set of demands (limited locations, 2 bed, first floor, overlooking a park, large balcony on a ridiculously low budget) to my real estate friend and sat back, ready to be pampered for several weeks at least; previous experience having taught me that even without such demands, finding a home in Delhi would be incredibly difficult. Read: https://memsahibinindia.wordpress.com/2014/11/20/finding-digs-in-delhi/
But like I said, when India works with you, she works with you. On our first morning out house-hunting, we found the perfect place, and I mean perfect. It met all my demands and was bang on the top end of my budget which made it within budget. The only snag is that the landlord lives on the ground floor, but I gave him strict guidelines and all seems to be well. However, he is, shall we say, on the weirder side of normal, but that is a whole new blog post in itself. For now we will just mention that he is severely OCD.
So, despite my friend’s protestations that I shouldn’t move until I not only had my staff in place but trained, I was keen to move in and so I did, without a thought, within 24 hours. I left the safety of Indian Downton where shopping was done, meals were not only cooked but delivered to wherever my bottom happened to be parked, clothes washed, dried, ironed and placed back in the wardrobe; where one ring of the bell would have a glass of water/juice/perfectly poured g&t, cup of tea, brought within minutes. Yet I was eager to get settled and start my new life, never mind being in in danger of getting sofa sores, and I wasn’t sure I would be allowed to administer my own medication! I left.
On my first morning in my wonderful new house, I awoke, on my charpoi (Indian bed). Not only did I not have a bed yet, there was no hot chai beside me to ease me into the day and no smells of food drifting up from the kitchen. In my eagerness to move, not only had I arrived before my furniture, I had had no time to figure out where the shops were, never mind stock the fridge or, horror of horrors, find a maid. I was lost, furnitureless, and foodless. Grumbling at my impatience, me as well as my stomach, glass of water in hand, I stumbled out onto my balcony. As I paused to admire the view of the park, and watch the birds flitting between the trees, I heard an unintelligible call, I knew that! I couldn’t make out what he was saying, but I knew what it meant. The fruit vendor was one door away, slowly pushing his cart laden with mangos, watermelons, papaya, apples and bananas. I was saved! Leaning over the balcony, I used my best Hindi and promptly ordered a weeks’ worth of fruit for a mere INR360 (£3.60) , I had breakfast. He was closely followed by the milk man and being British, I knew I would have a couple of tea bags stuffed into the back pocket of one of my travel bags. They were found, de-fluffed and plonked into some boiling water, fruit was chopped. India saved the day. Now where was the newspaper delivery boy?
Two days later as I was figuring out how to find my old maid from 6 years ago, my landlord appeared, have I mentioned that he is severely OCD? Useful as it turns out. He was freaking out that I had been in the house for 3 days and it hadn’t been cleaned. I am not sure what gave him the idea that I hadn’t been skivvying away, dusting and polishing in all my spare seconds, could be something to do with the fact that I was leaving the house by 0800 and not returning till midnight ish, but behind him, was his trump card, his maid whom he promptly volunteered for 2 hours a day. Now having your OCD landlord find and train a maid can only be a bonus, not a speck of dust is left lurking even out of sight, never mind insight. Washing up is done, charpoi made, floors mopped and clothes washed. Which just left the matter of ironing. But not for long! A quick walk to find the nearest shops had me source the man on the corner of the street (most streets have them in Delhi) standing under a shade with a huge, heavy, coal filled iron. Twenty pence an item was negotiated, it’s amazing what limited Hindi from a white woman and a smile can achieve and not only that, he collects and delivers. When India is working for you, who needs Downton?
Marilyn MurphyJune 28, 2015 at 10:10 pm
Great story, Philippa. And a great life lesson … when it’s not working it’s only because there’s something better!