Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hyderabad Blues

We got here about one and a half months ago and it has been one crazy settling-in process. A lot of things are still up in the air and I don't know when (and even if) this city will ever feel like home in the way that Mumbai did.

To start with, we had an awful experience with the packers and movers. Everything was dandy at the Mumbai end but when it came to unpacking the stuff in Hyderabad, things went southwards. They had promised that things would be unpacked and settled in by the weekend. On Saturday, the stuff arrived only by noon, then they took a two-hour lunch and finally packed off at 6 p.m, after announcing that despite previous assurances, they would not be working on Sunday. On Monday, they kept claiming they were on their way and finally showed up in the evening. They unpacked the rest of the stuff but had failed to bring their carpenter to assemble the kids' beds, bookshelves, etc. The carpenter finally showed up on Wednesday, making it a full 5 days before they completed what they had committed to do in 2.

This was our first experience of the Hyderabadi concept of time but was unfortunately nowhere near the last. The first three couple of weeks were an endless struggle to get the carpenter, the plumber and the electrician (the holy trinity, as I only semi-jokingly referred to them in a tweet) to show up and get the house into a basic level of functionality. Whenever called, they would promise to be at the doorstep in a manner of minutes, which usually turned into days. The carpenter has still not finished everything he was asked to do. The broadband provider, after payment, installation and week of dodgy connectivity, had the gall to tell me that they don't really support Macs. And many, many more such incidents for everything from the gas connection to the washing machine technician.

The language barrier is also quite substantial. Before I got here, I was labouring under the misconception that most people here spoke at least a passable degree of Hindi but that is far from the case. Most of the employees at the chain supermarkets can communicate in Hindi and/ or English but dealing with the smaller shopkeepers can be quite frustrating. One of the two receptionists at our paediatrician's office also can't speak a word of Hindi so I have to pray like hell every time I call that the other lady will attend to the phone.

The biggest challenge of all has been finding househelp. Again, language has been a problem and many of the employable maids in the area can converse only in Telugu. After some tough early days, I have managed to find two part-timers - one to cook, one to clean - so at least life is somewhat less gruelling. But the reliability factor here is low. Unlike my Mumbai maids, who rarely ditched without prior warning, not showing up at will seems to be the prerogative of these ladies. So, at least twice a week I am left holding a mop or tied to the stove depending on who has decided not to show.

I have had absolutely no luck finding any reliable help on the child care help front though. For the last one week, we have had a Bengali maid my mom arranged but she doesn't speak much Hindi and I don't see myself leaving her in charge of the kids even for a short time. The other day, Ayaan hurt himself in the play area and I had to take him to the ER (all's well, that end's well on that front, thankfully). Since it was Tarana's nap time, I put her down for a nap before I left and asked the lady to call me in case she woke up. I came back an hour later to find her (the maid) fast asleep while Tarana was crying loud enough for me to hear even before I opened the door. So, on the whole, I don't think she is going to work out. The search goes on.

The first two weeks were especially bad since I had both kids on my hands all day long and often had to get some cleaning/ cooking done on the side. But since Ayaan started school, things have been a little better. But it is still exhausting and I don't have a minute to myself. Even when I go to pick Ayaan up from school, I have to take Tarana with me and grocery shopping is an exercise in frustration with both the kids in tow. The other day, Tarana managed to grab my key ring (car, house and cupboard keys on it) and drop them while she was seated in the supermarket trolley and my hair turned substantially more grey in the ten minute rampage through the store it took to find them.

At this point, I also feel kind of isolated. I don't have any friends here and I am not getting a chance to make any since I don't have the bandwidth or the child care support to get out there and socialise. Forget other people, even a dinner or movie with the husband is an impossibility since there is no one to watch the kids.

And so that, to sum it up, is what has been happening at my end. I just re-read the post and I sound like a real Moaning Myrtle. The upside though is that I seem to be the only one in the family with the settling-in issues. The kids are loving it. It took Ayaan one day to settle into his new school and he is really happy there. Tarana loves the extra space. And Jai is finding work challenging but exciting. Hopefully, I'll catch up with them soon. Till then, be prepared for a lot more whining... :)