Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The 'finding a flat' odyssey

Alright guys, the day has come that I finally don’t want to keep you in suspense about my flat situation. As you know, I was mentioning in earlier blog entries that I was struggling to get settled in Delhi. This is due to the fact that living in Delhi can be quit expensive, although we al have the impressing India is a cheap country! The house market here can easily earn the attribute ‘incredible’ like most of things here, but why is it so expensive? First, I should tell you that most of the expats are living in South Delhi, because it is close the Jawaharlal Nehru University, to the offices of Multi National Companies (MNCs) and although close to Gurgaon, which is an outpost 30 km out of Delhi and hosts many, many MNCs. South Delhi is also a nice area with parks and some Bars and Clubs. Therefore it is easy to imagine what’s happening to rent prices in that area. Foreigners are usually paid very well and can afford high living standard and also rent prices, but this is not the main issue. The problem lies in the subsidy policy of most of the MNCs, because their employees often have to pay for a certain rent limit, the rest is paid by the company. That means it doesn’t matter, how high prices are and if you like a flat or an apartment you just bid the highest price! It is a classical market failure and landlords and agents are pretty aware of that. But let us get back to my story, because I can’t go for luxury apartments anyway and were looking for a basic flat, most likely a place where I could get a real Indian experience. Most of the people I know are paying around 15000 Rupees (250 Euros) for a room in a shared flat, but don’t think that they get some really nice place. All of us are faced to power cuts each week, some don’t have running water for some days… Some rooms don’t have windows and others are just far away from work.
From that perspective I was lucky enough that I could stay at another interns place for some days (thanks to Hannah) from where I shifted to a friends place for more then a week (thanks to Caro). That gave me the time for browsing for the right flat. If anybody every comes to Delhi and needs a room to rent, you should get enrolled into the yahoo group ‘yuni-net’, an expat forum which deals with all sort of issues people face here. From subletting rooms, finding roommates to selling bikes or giving travel advices there is something for everybody.
The days in Caro’s flat were pretty much fun, because a lot of here friends were coming and going every day. I could also make friends and get more advices on the flat market. We were exploring the neighbourhood in Safdarjung and I literately fell in love with that district. It is pretty much the Indian experience what I was looking for, and could still give me all daily needs and the security I was used to. After having seen all lot of markets, buzzing life and open streets as well as construction sites, Caro and Gitanjali show me the more relaxing side of Safdarjung. It was a very impressing and stunning moment, when we suddenly stood in the District Park, a peaceful green garden with some old ruins and a lake.

The Indian society is just coming out off the centuries of arranged marriages and the parts of women and men in relationships are also slowly getting to become more equal, but still it is almost a bad behaviour to show love in the presence of others. Therefore it’s really common the young Indians go in the parks, hiding from other and can finally be together. Anyway, it is not a guarantee that it works out as the case of the above picture is showing.

Just next to District Park the Deer Park - another place where creatures which love to hide - accommodates a lot of deer as you can see on the next picture.

Another nice facility in the Safdarjung district we discovered at the same weekend and learned loving it already. My Berlin friends will probably understand, when I’m saying I found a second “Sandmann”! The place I’m talking about is a billard “club”, which entry sign was hanging almost on the level of the ground, because its stairs are going down into the basement. Club is also not the right word, but if you like random places, where you can bring your own beer (usually a beer in a club in Delhi costs at least 360 Rupees/6 Euro) and play billard and pool at 4 different tables for a price, which makes expats laugh, then ask me for how to get there...

They streets of Safdarjung host all sort of shops, from the guy, who sells men’s articles to the plastic shop to the grain and flower shop to the food stand to the tailor to the pharmacy to the juice maker... every shop is specialised on some kind of product range. Fruit and vegetable marketeers are pulling their wooden wagons through the small, dirty and smelling streets. Along Hindi temples and ashrams you’ll find a lot of dogs straying around, and also holy cows...You really get an “Indian experience”! As you can see, I really fell in love with Safdarjung. Thus it was obligatory that I was looking for an apartment in this area, especially since it’s only a few minutes away from work and rent prices seemed less expensive than in other parts of South Delhi.

The decision was made. I wanted to live in Safdarjung, so I just had to seek for some people, who were in the need of a roommate and then I soon could have settled. Different it came, because I had to notice that there were not too much room offers in my favourite district and after seeing only one place in a week, I decided to get my own flat and look for a roommate on my own. From the homeless arrive I have run through the stage of a room seeker to finally become a roommate-seeker. But not so fast, I still had to find my future flat. How I did that? Well, I think this was Indian-Andreas way of trying, because I was just asking people on the streets. Initially, I still asked them for only available rooms, but some-when I met a guy, who was finally showing me different apartments from the really shabby class up to proper Indian styled places. The last place I couldn’t resist so I was even willing to pay for the two rooms and also a high agent fee since it turned out that all the motorbike rides to the different flat were not just favours to me! Anyway, I had a good feeling and thought that it’s easy the sublet the other room. At the end it should have turned out as a very much cheaper option than these other expat apartments, but I already tell you that this flat was not the last place what I called my home. Anyway, I spend a nice week in Arjun Nagar, in between two temples, where people regularly gathered for singing mantra and holding other religious ceremonies. Just in front of the building was a muddy road where marketeers were selling all the standard vegetables (lady fingers, aubergines, potatoes, carrots, onions, ...) and fruits (mangos, bananas, apples, melons, coconuts, lemons, ...) of India. The entire flat was empty until I bought a mattress and convinced my landlord to get me a fridge, stove and some dishes for an extra monthly rent. I even put some plants from the roof-top inside the living room to make it look more cosy, but after letting some potential roommates come and visit the place, I had to find out that it was not everybody’s wish to live in a quite Indian area! Watch some of the pictures and ask yourself, if you would have moved in.

Paying for two rooms, not finding a roommate and living alone made it easy for me to imagine the easy-going living in the GTZ offered apartment, which is coincidentally also placed in Safdarjung. Luckily another intern just finished his work and left India, so I could get a room in the place where I still live now and will stay until I’m leaving for traveling. Since it is subsidies by the company I can happily gain from the properly working van, the air conditioning (which I we never use), the big veranda and roof-top, the everyday coming maid, which cleans house, dishes and out clothes and most importantly the company from my roommate Sven and housemate Jessyca. The fact that the flat is furnished also makes it more livable. Maybe my new place looks a bit messed up, but as I mentioned we have a maid coming every day and besides washing our cloth, she also cleans our apartment. Now, after having settled in meanwhile, I’m still struggling to find new people for the old flat so that I can get some money back.

So at the end you probably understand why this blog entry had been delayed for so long and why I called it an odyssey. I’ve gone through the stages of being a guest in Hannah’s and later Caro’s flat, have had my own flat for a time long, were looking for a roommate and at the end I ended up in another flat being a roommate to Sven. Quite a good experience in the first 5 weeks, ey!?

1 comment:

  1. great!!! i'll be reading regularly. count on it.