Society Living

I’ve found a flat! It is oldish and needs a lick of paint but the rooms are big and it has a kind of covered balcony.  It is in a Society – a sort of housing co-operative. There are 5 buildings covering almost a city block. I’m in building 2, on the 6th floor (with a lift) so shielded from traffic noise from each side.  It is 1BHK, that is a bedroom, hall and kitchen. (Hall is the sitting room) The owners live across the landing. Mrs Chabbria and her husband and daughter Preeti, who speaks great English. They have been very kind – getting a plumber when every tap I turned on refused to turn off again. Other good features of a society, because of their size and number of people living there, is that they have services that people offer to the tenants. There is a fruit and vegetable man with a cart that comes between 10-12 every morning. There is the ironing man who collects your washed but creased clothes on a Monday and returns them pressed on a Friday. That is quite a long time to wait for me, as I don’t have that many clothes. However, he also irons sheets which is a total luxury. For 5 rupees. There is the milkman and you can have the newspapers delivered. The kids who live here  treat the spaces between the buildings as a permanent playground full of joyous yelling and some games of cricket go on pretty late. The flat is a reasonable 15 Rs rickshaw ride from the office and most importantly, near the fancy grocery in Pune, Dorabjees, where you can find all kinds of food, Indian, European and American. It is the Pune equivalent of having Fortnum and Mason on your doorstep. You can spend a serious amount of money there but the pleasure of finding a bar of dark chocolate or some feta cheese are worth every penny. I spotted a packet of oatcakes the other day but it’s too hot at the moment.

Once I had moved into the flat, I had to REGISTER. I have put that in capitals because it is a word used a lot in India. One afternoon was spent registering the flat to me at the police department. We needed myself, the owner, the broker, Girish from the office, and a witness. You couldn’t make it up. Lots of shouting and moving round the office with endless papers, different officials, numerous signatures, thumb prints and money. The sound of official stamping of documents sounded more like those drummers from Japan, Kodo.  It was 2 1/2 hours of hilarity and exhaustion. One official kept moving his desk forward with a big push to get the crowd of people to move away, shouting loudly at the same time.

Girish has been a fantastic help to me. He is about 25 and in his first job at an NGO – he gets paid a complete pittance – even less than my VSO allowance. GIrish and I have woven in and out of Pune traffic on his motorbike going to see endless flats before finally the one in the Shastri society came through. Everyone here on a bike or scooter or even in a rickshaw looks like they are about to commit a bank robbery – a cotton hanky or scarf over your nose and mouth because of the pollution. Girish told me the other day he is getting married. Great, says I, tell me a bit about your girlfriend. Oh, I haven’t met anyone yet, he said. But my family is looking for someone. And I want to be married within six months. It’s time, I’m 25!

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