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... :)


  1. Moan away- it's not been an easy time for you by a very very long chalk. Hope things settle down soon.

  2. We're here to listen... and I have a feeling I am going to experience help issues soon when I go to back Bangalore.

    Hope you get a reliable help soon.

  3. Hope you get settled pretty soon. Great to see you blogging after so long!

  4. Oh dear! Hugs! Thank goodness for blogging. And so very glad to see your post. You have been missed :)

    Sending good vibes your way for all 3 helpers to be the best you need.

  5. sorry there can be one Moaning Myrtle in the blogworld and that is your truly. I am very "proprietary" when it comes to my medals! and i believe i copyrighted it a month after it came into use.
    I guess I had a very different experience of Hyderabad as a tourist. Did I tell you I had read White Mughals and the visit was more like hunting down all the places mentioned. Perhaps I read the city differently for I found it pretty easy to negotiate, and it was strange that there were so many Urdu encounters for me.

  6. I went through my blog for I remember posting about my days there once. and what have we, I named it Hyderabad Blues too. though of course my blue is less "Lady sings the Blues"!!

  7. Well you will never find help like the Mumbai ones anywhere in the world. Their professionalism is unique to the city. And that holds true for all folks, there is something in the air there I think.

    And the famous Hyderabadi 'parso' - have you come across it yet? 'Parso' means day before yesterday but in Hyd it can mean anything from last month to last century!

    And babe, it is not called 'Nawabo ka shehar' for nothing. Everyone thinks he/she has descended directly from them and acts accordingly :)

  8. And the greatest thing is school - that is fine, everything else is okay. Just think - what if that bit had not worked out?!

  9. Wow your life in Hyderabad sounds exactly like mt life here language problem managing a household with little help tugging the kids wherever you go and no friends :( will call sometime and commiserate wish we could go drown our collective sorrows at the bar ! What happened to Ayaan all ok ?

  10. Oh, poor you. I hope things settle down soon.

  11. no choxbox parso also means the day AFTER tomorrow (a lot like KAL which is tomorrow and yesterday)...what the universe (or the Urdu universe)is telling you is to live in the today. Forget yesterday, the day before, and the days after!!

  12. Hang in there! Without kids and a language barrier, I am still finding moving cities difficult - so I can imagine. Electricians, plumbers etc are a big hassle everywhere - in Bangalore, we used to use a service called Repairman that was like an agency and was extremely prompt and had courteous, knowledgeable staff too. Do check online if there is something like that in Hyd. As for the language hassles, the only solution probably is just to immerse oneself, make all the mistakes, get laughed at and eventually pick it up!

  13. @Aneela: LOL! And yup ‘parso’ can mean day after tomorrow too, but in Hyd lingo it is mostly used only to refer to the past. Guess the past continues into the present there - at least it did when I was growing up there, it had thi smassive laid-back attitude seeping into every part of life. Now of course the whole IT-isation has happened and so it has become much hipper and ‘today', but I guess some its past psyche still lingers on. And esp’ly if youa re coming from Mumbai, the change is huge - many of my cousins’ wives from Mumbai still crib about it.

  14. Oh dear.. this sounds bad. Unfortunately shifting with young kids is quite bad.. the language barrier only makes it worse. Cheers to school .. that's some relief. It can only get better though. In the meanwhile many hugs.

  15. hugs dear! I am sure things will fall in place fast...its so difficult to uproot yourself from one place and settle down in another especially with two kids...good part, Ayaan is fine with school..what a relief na...hope the maid and all get sorted out soon..loads of postive energy coming your way :)

  16. Anonymous12:34 pm

    welcome back! i have been checking ur blog waitin for ur comeback. Shainy

  17. Awww..hugs Rohini. Good that you atleast started moaning on the will help you vent out a bit instead of taking it out on the family. Your post just reminded me of what I went through when we moved from the US to Bangalore. Give it time - things will get settled eventually. I have a lot of friends from Hyderabad and they praise the infrastructure of that city a lot more than Bangalore. So lets hope you see the good side of this place once your maid/childcare issues etc. are settled. And no movers are good I suppose. I have heard nothing but horrible movers and packers stories from almost every one regardless of the town or country (in my case). Good luck with everything!

  18. Oh my! You're really having a tough time! Moving cities is never easy. I hope it just gets better for you and till then, we're all right here anytime you need to rant and vent!

  19. y'know ro, i think mumbai spoils you in that regard. even the same chain of stores in mumbai and chennai have very differing levels of customer care, chennai being on the significantly lower side (a malaise i find is true in bangalore/mysore as well, so why not in hyderabad too?).
    i hear you, its tough. wish you the very best to settle in, fast.

  20. Thanks for the warm welcome, the good wishes and the license to whine, everyone. I stall try not to over-use it.

    [Aathira] Fingers crossed. Hope you have an easier time. How are you doing?

    [Aneela] No way. I have the India rights on Moaning Myrtle. You moan in your own ilaaka.

    I have been too caught up in my domestic issues to catch a glimpse of the fun/ historical side to the city. I hope to get around to it some time.

    Loved your post. Can't wait to go see those places again. Will re-read White Mughals and pick up Age of Kali too.

    [Chox] Really? LOL! I did not know the 'parso' thing. Like Aneela, I too thought it means day before or day after, depending on the context. And yes, I am deeply thankful for the school working out. I realise that most of my cribs are entirely self-sentred :p

    [Mum's Delight] Ha ha. At least you have a more scenic view. Ayaan was playing with a swing and it swung back and hit him in the face!

    [Apu] Our complex has a carpenter, electrician and plumber on call but they take their time about showing up, like everyone else in this city.

    [Divs] Whenever someone mentions that they relocated from abroad, I feel like a big wimp for complaining about my cross-country move :)

    [KPBM] I feel better knowing it's not just a Hyderabad thing :)

  21. Hugs ro, hoping things settle down soon for you. This sounds insane :/ How is Ayaan now?

  22. sigh. Hope ou get to see light at the end of your somewhat tunnel sooooooooon. Tho' the school bit is some light for sure!

  23. @Aneela: You've been to my city?! Wow! Off to read your post.

    And yup Ro, there is masses of history there. Chowmohalla palace has ben opened recently and is awesome. The Salar Jung Museum always is seen by us only partly despite visits every time we visit Hyd - there is never enough time to check the whole of it at one shot. Okay, I'll stop sounding like Hyd guide or some such and merely point you to this one, its decent -

  24. aww Ro ..much good luck. Was looking forward to ur post on how u r settling down in the new city. I have a cousin co-sister who has been in Hyderabad for almost 5 years now with 2 kids ..please let me know if u would like any kind of help ..I'll forward u her number. She would be happy to help.

  25. Anonymous3:47 am

    I have moved around so much in last 4-5 years and every time when there is external parties involved it gets delayed. I hate whole process of packing and unpacking. I can see what you are talking because right now I am busy unpacking my stuff at new home :)

  26. Good to see you back, Rohini!! Hope things ease up soon.

  27. Anonymous7:13 am

    Good to see your post.

    Hope you get settled soon like the rest of your family.

  28. Great to see you back Rohini, was missing your posts! Settling down in a new city, especially with a language barrier thrown in - i'm sure it must feel daunting at times. But i hope that with the children settled down soon, you will too and all the niggling items will work themselves out!

    For when you have time, or to take your mind off settling down, I tagged you in my last post. You're one of the most well-known mommy bloggers I know so I'm sure you got tagged already, but in case not, here you go!

  29. Hi Rohini,

    firstly welcome back...missed you!

    secondly, i would suggest you keep the expectation bar quite low for the city..i can totally empathize with your situation as i too had moved to Hyd from mumbai..

    hyderabadis take their own sweet time to complete any given task (if at all) and one needs to constantly supervise and improvise their work to avoid re-work and follow-up..

    Dont worry..things will settle down soon..

  30. oh gosh, poor you! Hugs...unfortunately no advice to offer. Hope things get better soon.

  31. Hi Rohini

    I am a regular reader of your blog and today I choose to delurk. First of all congratulations for running such a nice blog.

    What made me delurk is your observations on the language issues. I have had the opportunity to work with people from various language backgrounds (Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, Punjabi, Marathi).

    One common thing I noticed with my friends or colleagues from the northern states is that they expect all the people down south to know atleast some amount of Hindi. why if I ask?
    because according to them Hindi is something everyone should be knowing, because it is our national language.

    It would be great if all Indians can speak a common language other than their own mother tongue. But let me tell you the practical difficulties on why many people in the south cant know Hindi just like that.

    A person who knows Marathi/Gujrati/Rajasthani/Punjabi or even Bengali can manage to speak Hindi very easily according to my observation. I guess they must be having the same root language.

    But Dravidian languages(Tamil for sure, maybe Telugu too I am not sure) is as different from Hindi as it is from Spanish / French. It is simply impossible for a maid/ milkman / vegetable seller / to know any Hindi.Add ing to this Hindi is not a compulsory language in schools. So even schooled people may not know to speak.

    The reverse, I hear people from south complaining about not able to communicate when they travel / live in the northern states.

    I guess the only way is to learn the local language and teach our helpers/maids our language:) (Kids can do that fast and well too I have seen). I know someone who can speak Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Hindi fluently and a lil of Punjabi and Malayalam:)


  32. I was soo excited that u moved to my favourite place Hyd but by the end of the post, i had to feel a bit sad for u..i have lived at hyd for 23 yrs and i love it..dont worry,hyderabadis are a bit lazy but are very mom moved to hyd as a new bride without knowing a word of Telugu or Hindi and now she says she loves it more than her hometown Chennai..

  33. Agree with Radhika above.

    But from what I have seen, Hyd and Bangalore are the easiest cities to navigate even w/o knowing the local language. I mean try going around say delhi w/o knowing Hindi!

  34. Hey Ro!

    First, am so glad to see you blogging again. Well venting, moaning whatever you call it, we are here to tell you that all of us went thru, go thru or will go thru all this....

    Unfortunately, when it rains, it does pour. I went through a move from Mumbai to Sleepy inefficient Gurgaon, which did the same to me.

    And I almost felt like I was reading about my life soon after I moved there. But it took me close to 3 months to settle in there with some good maids.

    You are on your own, no friends or family around - can be tough! But go to sleep seeing the kids happy, and vent and moan all you want on your blog, because Mama says so, rocks.

    Missed you!

    All the best, Rohini! Take care.....


  35. Good luck! Get settled soon! Moving can be hard!

  36. [MayG] Ayaan is fine. Not even a visible scar. Only my nerves have yet to recover :)

    [JLT] That is a BIG one. I suspect life will get settled a little more once I get Tarana settled into a playschool in a couple of months from now.

    [Chox] Thanks for the link. Will check it out.

    [Neera] Hey thanks for your offer. Will let you know if I need her number.

    [Weourlife] Moved twice before with almost no issues. But that was within Mumbai...

    [MGM/ Anon/ Lawyeramma/ Selena] Thanks :)

    [Aparna] Thanks. I think Kiran did tag me on that. Have been meaning to get around to it. This might just be the impetus :)

    [Uma] Tell me about it. Trying to get my doorbell fixed for over three days now.

    [Radhika] Hey, I know where you are coming from but honestly, I am not one of those people. To start with, my mom's mostly Tamilian, I have travelled to Chennai extensively for work and had it been Chennai, I would have expected different. A lot of people told me that Hyderabad has a reasonably large Hindi-speaking population hence the surprise.

    [Sri] I am sure I will get used to it. Just some initial teething issues and some whining :)

    [Sai] I met someone who told me it took a year for her to feel at home here!!! Hoping it does not take me that long!!!


  38. hugs and more hugs Ro!

    its not easy to settle anywhere when you have lived in Bombay! but when i moved to bangalore, i realized that it takes at least 6 months to start liking a place, forget loving! that comes even later!

    but once you do, you will am sure enjoy the quality of live mainly in terms of time you have to do different things and yes, the sheer space!

    sending lotsa positive maid vibes your way. its getting tougher just about EVERYWHERE really! :(

    till then, whine away!

    ps: its sooo good to hear from you! even if it is whining! :D

  39. [Mama Mia] Thanks for the words of hope and optimism :)

  40. you poor baby. We too moved from Bby to Hyd after we got married and I was beyond frustrated with the pace at which things happened. NOTHING.GOT.DONE.

    I had erratic maids who showed up if I was lucky (unlike the bombay maids) but they werent half as cranky as the bombay maids and if i wanted a balcony washed out or extra plates after a party, they did it with a smile.

    the language thing - moan away. its all very well to say learn - and people do learn. but that is the point of a blog, to moan about yet another issue you have to deal with :) hugs. I am not sure you will find a good baby maid because all my Hyd friends are constantly cribbing that they can't find one. I couldn't find one in Madras either.

    can you find a daycare/playschool for Tarana for a few hours to get a break?

    I mailed you the contacts - call all my friends, they're waiting to hear from you.

    love ya.

  41. [MM] Yes. Actively considering a playschool but waiting for her to turn two. Also she still naps in the morning and seems to be chirpier for it so I'd rather she give that up naturally. Keep meaning to call people but the two kids just eat up the whole day :(

  42. 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.

    playschool mumbai