It has been a while since I last wrote anything on this blog – over a month in fact – and I can’t quite believe how quickly my first month in India has passed.
When we arrived at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport we were exhausted, so waiting two hours for our baggage to come out was not really what we needed. Wearily, we jumped into the car and headed towards what will be our new home for the next two (or more) years. As it was not yet light we couldn’t see much from the car window – our first views of Mumbai would have to wait a little longer.
Thirty minutes later we stood outside the door watching the driver clumsily fumbling with the key in the lock, the early morning Indian humidity dampening the clothes that we had left Sweden in 17 hours earlier.
A furnished two-bedroom apartment is part of my teaching contract here in India, and I desperately hoped that it would be nice. We walked inside.
My heart sank.
A stale smell – not unlike that of sweaty cheese – emanated from the room we had just entered, and a wave of sticky heat hit me full in the face. I could taste dust in my throat. A gigantic TV straight out of the 80s sat on the tabletop alongside numerous abandoned speakers, wireless routers, and TV cable boxes, none of which worked. Behind all of this a tangle of exposed wires lay coated in inches of yellow dust. The air-conditioning units, attached to sickly green walls, belched out hot dusty air, and the ‘sofa’ was constructed from hard wooden boards.
‘Is everything alright?’ enquired the driver.
We nodded silently and he left.
The rest of the apartment was no better: ugly threadbare blinds hung limply at the bedroom windows, the rope disintegrating in my hands when I pulled it to raise them. The kitchen surfaces were coated in a thick layer of grease. When we went into the master bedroom en-suite we were greeted by a fluttering of pigeons, which had entered from a broken door leading out to a tiny storage balcony. A gathering of sticks indicating that the bathroom had been their residence since the former inhabitant’s departure.
The sleep I had been so craving for the last few hours would have to be postponed. I got to work immediately, not even stopping to take a photograph (something that I regret now).
We had arrived in India a week early, hoping to get time to explore our new city. Instead, we spent a week trawling through Mumbai shopping malls in search of curtains, rugs, lamps, and bedding—anything to make the apartment look like somewhere we would want to live. Thankfully, the school provided a settling in allowance that allowed us to do just that. They were also great at sending out carpenters to fix everything.
Four weeks later the bathroom door is fixed, the ugly TV—replaced by a flat screen—is hiding in a wardrobe, the cables have (mainly) been removed and the old routers thrown out, the pigeon-entrance in the bathroom has been sealed temporarily (blog post to follow), the sofa replaced, the air-conditioning units fixed (well, two of three) and the kitchen surfaces scrubbed clean.
It has taken a month, with many amusing anecdotes of the hoards of workmen who have been in the apartment to accomplish all of this (which I will share later), but I am now happy with my home. We still need to get a few furnishings such as lamps, rugs and trinkets. After that I will put up pictures of the apartment.
As for the rest of the complex, it’s really nice. We have a gym, which is always mainly empty when I go. There is a trainer who stays for most of the day, so when I am alone I get a personal training session. It is good for motivation as he lacks any tact whatsoever; the first time he met me he looked me up and down and said ‘English people don’t care about their weight’, before suggesting a range of exercises to ‘reduce the fat’. Well, if that’s not going to get me on the cross-trainer then nothing will! There is also a pool, which I’ll use when monsoon season is over.
Just outside our building is a row of shops including a small supermarket, meat shop, wine shop, and a gourmet store for things that I miss from home such as cheddar cheese and vinegar; as well as a few cheap restaurants and a juice bar which sells great milkshakes.
The area I live in is called Andheri which is in the north of the city, conveniently close to the airport. Allegedly, my apartment block used to house a few Bollywood stars, but now most of them have left for newer buildings. Looking at the building, you wouldn’t think that it would be home to super-rich people, but apartments in this building are super-pricey! Andheri is not that close to the tourist area of Colaba, or the expat area of Bandra, making it an interesting local area that I’m looking forward to exploring further.
I’ll keep you updated.
What do you think of my new home?