Meeting simple needs.

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I just discovered this post I had saved to my draft folder in June 2013 whilst living in Gurgaon, India. I would like to share it now as it has an interesting ending…

I have the best driver in town. He is diligent, pleasant and has the sweetest smile. He refers to me as M’am, opens my car door and carries my bags.

He simply makes me feel like the Queen of  Gurgaon.

He earns a paltry income (provided by the company) and I often tip him  but yesterday I sensed to give him a little extra. Now drivers here can be notorious for sharing all their financial woes: the brother who needs money to reach Mumbai, the daughter getting married, the wife in hospital with kidney stones and the son’s school fees are just the beginning of a money tap that doesn’t stop dripping.

Moti is not like that.

As he opens the car door and I say goodbye, I hand him money and explain that I have been prompted to give it to him.

Next day I complain to him how one of my six air conditioners broke down and what a nuisance it is when I am trying to stay cool. He quietly tells me he has exactly the  same problem but his is just an air cooler and worse still, the motor has blown and will cost him  half  his monthly salary to fix.

I say to him,

Moti, my God knows everything;  He even knows about your broken cooler.

Wide eyed he replies,

He does?

That’s why He prompted me to give you money yesterday and that is why I am now going to give you some more.

You did not ask me for money Moti but I want to help you.

He jumps out of the car and bows as he opens my door and I quickly interject,

No Moti, not to me – just say thank you to God.

Shyly he looks up and says

Ahh, Thankyou God!

 

About eighteen months after writing this, Moti was involved in a serious accident – coming off his motor bike and landing on his head-without a helmet. Rushed to hospital he spent several months in the ICU comatose and with paralysis in some limbs. We had moved to new work in Mumbai and Moti was now employed by our son Peter so we hopped on a plane to visit him. Some Indian hospitals are in a sad state and Moti was in one of them. We asked a doctor if we could get him fresh sheets and a clean blanket but were told to not bother as they would probably be stolen in the middle of the night. By now Moti was out of his coma but having lost his memory he didn’t recognise me.  A look of fear had replaced his sweet smile.

Over the months many prayed for Moti.

His prognosis looked dismal and yet within 12 months he was well enough to return to work as a driver completely healed and with his memory restored.

Moti with his wife outside Neemrana Fort-Palace, Rajasthan before the accident.

 

 

 

I’m baaaack!

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OK, so what has been been happening here in extra sunny Gurgaon?

It’s now 42+ C and the cold water is too hot to shower under so I happily bathe by splashing water out of a big bucket. The water comes from tanks on the roof  that get heated by the sun by day and never get a chance to cool by night. I fill half a bucket with the hot water that flows out of the cold tap and let it sit for the next day’s ablutions. Using this method, I have to add chlorine to it as any water left sitting around develops slime. Ugly but true.The beauty of the splash method of bathing is that you can be a big kid and make a big mess and it all dries up in minutes. The flip side is that India has some lovely spicy smelling ayurvedic soaps and an abundance of coconut oil to make your hair shiny.

This leads me to share with you the joys of getting a manicure and pedicure – combined for under $10. All beauty treatments are very affordable to expats and if you are that way inclined you can spend most of every week in the local salon – head massage, body massage, foot spas,  facials, body scrubs, shampoo and blow waves, oh, somebody stop me!

As for me, I try to limit myself  to once a month lest  I become a hedonist.

We had a major storm the other day with cracking thunder and wind gusts of 140km per hour. The force of the wind made the rain run horizontal at least that is how it looked to me. I opened the  front door leading to the elevator foyer and that blew out the heavy framed doors leading to my terrace!  The glass didn’t break but I had to literally tie the doors shut.

Apart from some debris on the terrace and water in the apartment I was relieved to find out it had broken the 92% humidity and the temperature dropped by 14 degrees to a comfortable 30C.

This is just the beginning, the monsoon is still weeks away.

One major joy of being here is eating a mango every day (is that bordering on hedonism?)  Alphonse, the king of mangoes are three times the cost of your average mango but I have not found a mango I did not enjoy. I love all fruit and the ability to buy fresh farm produce straight off the carts parked on the side of the road. Thirsty? How about a fresh coconut juice straight out of the shell. Ever tried sugar cane juice? That’s freshly crushed and delivered to your car window. Water melons, musk melons, peaches and lychees are all there to savour.

Need  a new broom or brush? Just further along the road you will find another cart filled with handy essentials. There are veggie carts and samosa sellers, bottled drinks and ice cream peddlers. Why it’s a veritable festival of feasts and fancies out here in the streets of Gurgaon.

I may think of Gurgaon as a one-cow town (sorry, horse)  but frankly I love the extra ordinariness here.

Pay Six Months in Advance and Receive Zilch Zippo Nudda

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Incredulous India!

How many countries do you know where you can approach their  No. 1 internet provider and get this kind of  deal?

Prior to Christmas Bill walked into Airtel – India’s largest internet provider – and signed up for broadband to the apartment AND paid six months fees in advance.

Kumar the friendly customer rep gave Bill his mobile number for any further assistance and told him a modem would soon be delivered to us.

Sure enough, right on Christmas Day (it’s just another work day here) a guy arrives  at the door to set up our modem. He informs us that our password for the connection will be available in three days .

On the 29th, having not received the said password we make a further call and are told it will be delayed another three days.
Bill turns to me and asks,

How hard can it be to issue a password?

A week goes by without a password: time to call friendly rep Kumar.
Sorry sir, I cannot help you I am back in my village, laments Kumar.

This is common too.

Any given week Bill will go into a meeting and ask where so-and-so is and the standard reply is,

Oh, they had to go back to the village.
Now after another week goes by,  Bill  calls Kumar who does not answer his phone or even return the call. Remember, we are dealing with India’s largest broadband provider who outsource their broadband connections to the Kumars of India.
A frustrated Bill contacts the general customer helpline and is told by the first operator that our wireless connection has been cancelled.
How can it be cancelled when I am applying for a NEW connection? retorts Bill (closely resembling Basil Fawlty talking through clenched teeth).
Exasperated he hangs up and redials to speak to customer service operator number  two, hoping they will set the record straight – only to be told the same.
Bill firmly requests to speak to a manager, muttering, I can’t believe this is happening.
Yes sir, it is true, apologises the manager.We have no available lines in your area and have thus cancelled your application.
And when were you going to inform me and refund my 8000 rupees? steams Bill.
Within 21 days, comes the reply.
May as well be 21 weeks or 21 years – there is nothing fixed in time here.
and yes thank you for the opportunity to express my  frustration.

New Delhi Swaps Fog for Sunshine

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Didn’t I just post my confession of walking about the house in two dressing gowns against the current chilly conditions in Gurgaon?

When coming to Delhi at this time of the year, prepare for all kinds of weather. One day I am wearing two dressing gowns and double socks, today I am fishing out my tank top to enjoy the warming sun on the terrace.

I thought Melbourne was the only place where this happened.

Just have a look at how the temperatures have risen in the past week:

New Delhi, Delhi, India historic weather for the past week.

 

Michelin Man Vs Gurgaon’s Homeless

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Would you laugh if I told you I have resorted to wearing two dressing gowns  when sitting in the apartment? Just today, I confessed to Bill that I wear his over mine as soon as he leaves for work.
Bill and Ginnie have succeeded in being here for the coldest day in 44 years and we have not been prepared for the big freeze. I left  my winter clothes behind never contemplating it would get down to .4 C As it is, we sleep in pyjamas, on top of a fluffy blanket, covered by a doona/duvet, a ‘mink’ blanket and our dressing gowns. There are eight air conditioners in our place and not one of them is reverse cycle – and yes, they are called Hitachi and made in India. The marble floors exacerbate the chill which worsens at night. We  have a pathetic little bar heater  that you basically have to carry around the house to stay warm. Bill and I even visited  top end hotels looking for some comfort and they were just as cold as our place. The winter spell though bitter, is too short to invest in heating.  As you drive through the streets you see men huddled around fires they have started to keep warm, many are just burning rubbish and the smell overpowers you. All I keep thinking is if I am this cold in my place under all that bedding or wearing two dressing gowns and looking like the Michelin Man then how must the homeless person be faring?  I thought no longer, just bought a boot load of blankets and started handing them out to the street people. You have to be quick or you will quickly be swamped. The passerby wants one too even though he is dressed for the office. My church sent two men on a 1000km round trip to distribute blankets in the most affected region, Uttar Pradesh. 115 people have died from the cold (and counting). They say it wont last much longer than mid January  when we can expect  two weeks of Spring before the sun hits hard for the majority of the year. Till then I am going to stop looking like the Michelin Man and do something that warms my heart instead: see that more blankets get out to those left out in the cold.

Root Canals Suck Unless You are in India

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Aroused from sleep by an almighty toothache I asked myself, how come these horrible things happen in the middle of the night? The pain was causing me to have heart twitches and if I had a pair of pliers or an ice skate (see the movie, Castaway) the tooth would  now be gone.  In May, in Australia, a rather brash, arrogant Collins Street dentist told me that for $60,000 he could do a good job on my teeth BUT if I wanted the very best then it would set me back a lazy $100,000.  Can you believe he justified it all by saying something so stupid as this: “Hey, some people drive around in a Toyota, others won’t settle for anything less than a Ferrari.

Hello?

I coughed up $150 for his  inane advice (he didn’t even look in my mouth, just an x-ray I provided) and I  told him that dentists were down there with lawyers, charging exorbitant fees for essential services . The next day his nurse calls to say he is keen to get a start  on my teeth. The guy is deaf as well as arrogant and I simply say, tell your boss I am taking my teeth overseas.

Here I am in India with a tooth/headache of child-bearing pain proportions and I am desperate enough to walk  into the first clinic I find.

A pretty young lady greets me dressed in jeans and I yelp, help I am in pain! Come, let’s have a look, she replies,  I am Dr Simta.  Entering an ultra clean, modern room  I smile at a handsome young man – her dental assistant. It only gets better as she pampers me and soothes me and works on my revolting root. The process is seam less and painless and I find myself thinking weird thoughts such as, I can’t wait to return, she is so nice, definitely the nicest dentist I have ever had – and I have had more dentists than Zsa Zsa Gabor has had husbands.

My thoughts are interrupted as that handsome dental assistant who is also the receptionist (as you do ) hands me my appointment card and the BILL.

I can not bring myself to tell you how little I paid to have the best dental experience of my life but I want to tell every high-priced arrogant dentist in the world that your days are numbered and Mr Collins Street dentist you can shove your Ferrari up your root canal.

Cropped screenshot of Zsa Zsa Gabor from the t...

Darlink, sooo happy you found a good dentist but I never say no to Ferraris

 

 

 

Of Pylons and Running Donkeys

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Two weeks since my last post and for a very good reason: there is so much going on all around me here in Gurgaon,  Incredible !ndia.

Now Gurgaon is not like the India I have been used to visiting these last couple of decades and certainly North India varies from South India.

Most of my travels have been in the south where the crow is the first sound of the day but here in Gurgaon I am surrounded by mute pigeons who like to poo on my terraces. They’re also referred to as rats with wings  but I’m happy to say I haven’t seen one of those here but then again, I just remembered: we were in the Foreign Registry Office (FRO) having our visas flourished with resident status when a rat appeared on the shelf just above the clerk’s head and started gnawing on the archived paperwork there. Not unusual you might think for India, neither are the cows/sheep/dogs/pigs/camels/people that one must dodge on the road but how about a running donkey coming at you against the traffic at night? What made me laugh was Bill saying that it was running; he had to dodge a running donkey coming towards him. I was there folks and that donkey was in a hurry but I would not say it was running per se, perhaps it was a slight gallop or  even a trot but running?  I don’t think so, Bill.

Gurgaon is  infra structurally challenged. You got a pothole in the road? We can throw some tar on that. Roads here look like patchwork quilts of  bitumen and it seems there are so many cars/cows/sheep/dogs/pigs/camels/TRUCKS/rickshaws/bicycles/tractors/motorbikes using them that the authorities never get a chance to just fix up one whole stretch and make it pretty. The best car to drive in here is the one with fantastic suspension!

Adding to the eyesore is someone’s cockamamie decision to run the electric pylons down a major street called Golf Course Road.   Dubai doesn’t do that to  Sheikh Zayed Road or New York with Fifth Avenue and Gurgaon  has the potential to be a great city but it has been allowed to run a mock; as if the electricity personages said, we need more power in Sector 92-quick put up a pylon!  One sector of this city has had no street lighting for months because the local council hasn’t paid the electricity bill – that’s another story.. These pylons criss- cross and mar the landscape including those from my terrace here where on a clear day,

pylons crisscross gurgaon

pylons crisscross gurgaon

I can count 18 just in my line of view.  I would like to have the opportunity to tidy up the pylons but Bill says there is no way they will be moved in our lifetime. I often pass by one that is on a nature strip with its footings spilling onto a road that will soon be a major thoroughfare. Not unusual. Many, many things can be and will be found in the middle of the road in India and I for one am privileged to see it all first hand.