3 weeks in Pune, still flat hunting

April 21, 2010

Trying – yes pretty trying – to find a flat in Pune after that bomb blast in the German bakery. It is proving quite tough as everyone suspicious of foreigners.  After my first flat fell through, I am perhaps onto something. Tonight I meet the Chairman of the Five Star Housing Co-operative, after the owner has said 99% I can rent the flat. The broker already has a copy of my passport and visa, a letter and brochure from the NGO, a list of my previous experience and now I go for the meeting in person. Wish me luck!

I have ended up staying in Vincent’s flat while flat hunting.  He was the previous volunteer with my NGO and lived in the old city which is packed, hot and noisy. Tiny alleyways and windy roads mean it is an intense Indian experience!  The street noise is constant -bells from street vendors, drivers  honking at anything in front of them, dog, pedestrian, car, goat, rickshaw.

Opposite the flat there is a pile of gravel.  It is in front of a building site, where they work until 10 pm.   The men bang, crash and hammer but thankfully there is no machinery.  At night, one of the cows from the dairy in the street round the corner, likes to come and lie on the gravel, her face against the corrugated iron of the building site.  There are lots of local dogs wandering around. One has a limp and when he walks his tail wags all the time, as his body moves from side to side. He has just inspected the cow and its bedroom of choice.  The cow stays seated for a few hours after dark, surrounded by a riotous mix of rickshaws, honking motorbikes and scooters and kids playing cricket. As it gets quieter, or relatively so, the cow lies down completely to sleep -a big black shape sprawled across the pile of gravel under the streetlight.  When I get up and look out in the mornings, she is gone.

The man with the shop opposite that sells Ayurvedic medicine, is very kind. He drew me a map today of where to buy groceries..  There are no obvious food shops or fruit and vegetable shops. The nearest streets have diamonds, gold chains and shoes but no food. The man who sits all day in a tiny wooden hut outside the flat sells a variety of things, mainly snacks and sachets of shampoo and he has a phone which serves the local community who need to make calls.  He also sells eggs surprisingly. I bought 3, he carefully wrapped them in a cornet of newspaper and I tried not to crush them carrying them along with the other things I had managed to track down. Some lentils to make dal,  yoghurt, water, biscuits and some rather dry oranges.


Delhi for another few days

March 28, 2010
Delhi has been a big shock to the senses, it is hot, dusty and very vibrant. It has many sides – and we are in the middle of them – as foreigners we criss cross over most of them! There is the wealthy successful Delhi where business and showbusiness meet, and those people are very glossy, with western clothes, nice voices and an education. And it is all about status still here, Rolex watches, big jewellery, SUVs. Then there is a strong artistic thread, with book signings or large hotels hosting art events,or a big centre called Habitat near here where everything is free. This “shining” India that they are promoting is so far from what you see in the streets or what we see here with the street dwellers, it is quite hard to comprehend and equate that this is a country where the disparity is like nothing we know. A Mother Teresa van was handing out rotis (flatbread) and dal nearby our residence, the ISI or Indian Social Insitute. All the kids hair is matted, they haven’t seen water for a long time or don’t have access to a tap. The little girls carry tiny babies, to make begging more successful. The babies don’t cry much, and the girls seem to take care with them. There is a temple near us, packed with devotees with garlands of flowers, chanting and it’s televised outside if no room inside! People were killed and maimed in the metro on Saturday as the crowds crushed forward when a train came in. The amazing thing here is how traditional Indian society still is. As I woman, I am glad to be going to a university town with lots of nationalities and young people. The volunteers don’t wear skirts for example, because no woman does. It is showing too much leg. You can get looked a lot, and the attention can be tiresome.  I have bought some tops (kurta) and cotton trousers that are long, as anything cropped or short stand out. We go to a shop called FabIndia that is raking it in. Something for everyone and quite trendy, it is in Kahn market, the more western market, there are all kinds of shops and where if you really want to buy Laughing Cow cheese triangles for a price, you can!
More soon………..Pune on Friday, I’m looking forward to going now.

Getting ready to go

January 29, 2010

Finally getting to the end of all the packing up and sorting out. I can’t believe how much there has been to do to get ready – it has been quite something planning to go somewhere for a year without really having an idea of what to expect!  Pune still seems quite a long way off as I start off in Delhi for a few weeks on an induction with other VSO volunteers who will work in different parts of India.