Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Finding a Place to Live In Kolkata

Originally we had planned to move to Salt Lake, a planned section of the city, but those who live there say it takes 45 minutes to an hour to get to the office. Right now, I'm about ten minutes and really didn't want another commute from hell, so we decided to look elsewhere. The office is just around where Ballgunge and Tollgunge meet, so we looked in both.

The first day of looking we looked at three different properties. The first, a fully furnished place was situated on a main boulevard close to work with a lot of architectural detail - too much. The floors were beautiful white marble, but the space felt cramped, dark and there wasn't much to really like. The furniture was WAY over the top - I couldn't have lived there. Anyone who knows me, knows that I like very clean, simple lines with little or no ornamentation (I expect my artwork to decorate). My furniture should keep my butt off the floor - very utilitarian, and with multiple uses if possible. He wanted 25,000 Rupees for the space, plus 4 months deposit. So, no go.

The second place was in a brand new building on the seventh floor. It looked very modern on the outside, with massive backup generators, and architecturally, the external design with visually stunning. The elevator inside was something else and when we stepped out onto the 7th floor, I stumbled over several pairs of shoes. I knew this was not going to be the place because I already disliked my neighbors. It was way too hot, no electricity working, many of the finishes weren't complete and I really did not want to move in with a punch list of stuff that still needed to be done. There was also a significant mold problem in the master bedroom which they were telling me was because of construction. Uh uh. I'm the daughter of two architects. It's because of a defect in the the construction (or design or both). I'm not dealing with it. They wanted 30,000 rupees a month with a six month deposit.

The third place was the place on Southern Avenue that we had planned on renting. They agreed to 25,000 rupees a month, but would not budge on the 6 month deposit.

Get this. A typical rental agreement is 11 months, and basically the landlord is asking for more than half upfront, an entire 7 months of rent. I find that excessive. Plus I'm told not to expect any contact with the landlord once we sign the agreement, so what's in it for me? So time to look again.

The streets in Calcutta are on sensory overload. Everyone moves around one another - all driving here is based on a dare. Whomever is going faster or looks crazier has the right of way, plus you share the street with bullock carts, bicycles, cows, packs of wild dogs, lots and lots of people, buses, trucks, trams, hand rickshaws, bike rickshaws, motor rickshaws, motorcycles, mopeds, scooters, handpulled carts overloaded with goods going to market, construction materials, etc. ... and no one uses a lane (they're not even marked - I think they gave up on the notion), and no one heeds the traffic lights or the traffic cops. Drivers use their horns constantly. It's noisy, polluted, hot and sticky, and overall, a most unpleasant undertaking.

The sides streets, on the other hand, are quite beautiful. They are so skinny, most of the two way streets only have enough room for one car. The trees are so overgrown, they are entwined across the tops of most streets, so they are dark, quieter and more peaceful. You can only see the windows of the ground floor, so the windows on the remaining 2-3 floors have just tree limbs for a view (they must get their sun from side and back windows...)

This past weekend, we traveled south to Javadpur in the most southern part of Tollygunge to look at Ekta Tower. We looked at the penthouse apartment on the tenth floor and it was amazing!!! There's about 1,800 square feet of living space, plus a 1,000 square foot terrace. 3 bedrooms, 3 baths (the cat gets his own bathroom again), plus a large living/dining area. We have balconies in three directions, and we're literally the highest point we can see. :-) They were asking 35,000 rupees and 6 months deposit again, but our agent talked the owners into a great decrease in the rent and a 3 month deposit in exchange for a 3 year agreement with a 5% increase each year. We made a verbal agreement yesterday and just need to wait for the papers. In the meantime, I have to scramble to get cash. I'm hoping to have my bank account set up next week, so at that point I can see what I can get wired in to pay for this, plus Will's school (more sticker shock - just under 200,000 rupees to get him in the door, then about 3,000 per month).

If it weren't for the corporate group helping me with getting set up, I would be completely lost. I was able to get myself registered with the Foreigner's Registration office this week, but only after making the trip once with help, and a call during my second attempt. The people in corporate have helped with arranging suitable temporary housing, arranging a car/driver, setting up my bank account (the amount of paperwork for foreigners is massive), finding an apartment, suggesting restaurants, even providing helpful phrases in Hindi and so much more. I doubt an American company has ever provided all this to their employees coming from overseas. I am completely overwhelmed by the hospitality and generosity of the people here.

And of course, "I'm worth it" as the L'Oreal commercial says. We work six days a week, 9:30 to 7:30 M-F plus 9:30 to 2:30 on Saturdays. It doesn't feel like a long day, but by the time I get home, I'm done. Will heats up dinner for me (he's such a good kid), we watch a bit of TV and then bed. **Yawn**


Tracy said...

The new place sounds SO wonderful! It looks like things are falling into place...with the wonderful help~
Take Care!

Anonymous said...

Yes, India can be overwhelming to the senses. But then you knew that already, right, from your last stint, right? But what seems bearable as a teenage can be downright annoying when you're older. Still, Kolkata for all its problems, is still a better place to be expatriate than some of the bigger metros like Delhi and Bombay.

slammerchef said...

why the hell you go there an educated lady like you should not even make a blog cause Kolkata do not need people like you all you do is Bag go and look at "HARLEM" in u r backyard first. Kolkata is better without Anglo Saxon we kicked them out 67 yrs back they still keep coming I ask myself why, If you dont like get out of there. u stupid old american bag or whatever!!

Santanu....... said...

Hello Jean....I am a Calcuttan in America...and I am writing this after such a long time that you have most likely moved out of the city (I see it was posted in 2007)....so chances are that you may not read it at all...I hope you had a good stay over there...as I am having here (in Seattle, been 3 months)...I must say the street names you mentioned brought tonnes of nostalgia as I have always been a South Calcuttan....I hope you got a chance to get used to the crowd and witness Durga Puja....the one thing I am sure I am going to miss during my entire stay in America!

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