24-Oct-2012

Settling In


We seem to have finally convinced people to rent us a house and are gearing up for the move. I began to go through our list of goods to mentally plan which box had to go into which room. I am quite sure that we had around 40 boxes. But when I saw the list, I realized the actual figure was double that.

Wow.

This despite a month of concerted efforts in Mumbai when I gave away tons and tons of stuff. Clothes, shoes, books, electronics, general junk.

On closer look, I realized some of the parcels contained just one bed headboard or box drawers under the bed. Not so bad then. Yet, quite a few boxes seemed to be mysteriously marked as ‘decorations’.

Do we really have so many decorations? Infact, what exactly are these decorations?

Houses in Singapore don’t seem to come with the generous Indian lofts that let you store unnecessary stuff unseen.

Infact even the cupboards don’t come with too many shelves. They have a couple of elegant rods in which I suspect you hang your limited and tasteful collection of designer clothes. Not designed for a person whose clothes, when ironed and folded used to fit snugly into multiple shelves

The sad thing is even if I do a further culling, I don’t want to dump stuff into the garbage. I would have found enough needy people back home, but here I am not so sure who to donate to.


Update –

Since I wrote the above bits, we have actually moved into the house. The first couple of days went in just enjoying the unbelievable luck of finally finding a house (which now sounds stupid to me because we would have of course found a house at some point!).

I was apprehensive about this house because we found out 2 new buildings are going to be constructed in that area, in addition to the one ongoing building. Then we realized that every area in Singapore is always going to have some construction nearby. I made my peace with it and have realized that the ongoing construction is really not so bothersome.

The one pleasant surprise has been the view. We look out over a series of low rise, posh buildings and lots of trees. This is apparently a bit of a luxury since most buildings would overlook other high rises.

After the initial euphoria of moving in died down, the tiring process of settling in began. This is the part I normally love – thinking where things would go, how to set up the house etc. Unfortunately between work and not keeping too well, this is the one thing I am unable to do at the pace I like. D, meanwhile is also super busy getting things like cable, phone, internet etc up and running. Plus a lot of unpacking will also depend on getting shelves for cupboards.

Like everything else, I assume the house will be set up in good time. Meanwhile, I am trying to see the positive side of living out of boxes (Verdict – there is no joy in that)

It is overall a nice feeling though, to come back to your own house instead of an impersonal serviced apartment.  

I remember an ex-colleague who moves countries every two years. He just has a suitcase full of some clothes. He just rents fully furnished places wherever he lives. When our stuff was getting packed, I was really tempted to simply my life and just have a suitcase too. Now that I am unpacking at the other end, I realize how nice it is to sleep in the same big wooden bed that says ‘home’, to see a bookshelf full of books you know and to have the morning cuppa from the same old green mug your friend gifted

Oh familiarity apart, some of my stuff is definitely going to be thrown out. Especially the ‘decorations’ which turned out to be code for souvenirs picked up during our travels.


Update –

Again, there has been some progress (?) since I wrote the last few lines. It has been almost ten days since we moved and we have seen one full weekend. The kitchen has been set up. To avoid washing all the utensils till we hire a maid, we cleverly use the same set of vessels everyday and stock it separately. There is a rack with two plates, a few spoons, 1 cup, 1 bowl, 1 saucepan.

As one can guess, no gourmet meals are being prepared. Just breakfast. It is the good old food courts for lunch and dinner. Talk about simple living and high thinking and all that stuff…

The weekend was meant to be my massive ‘Operation Clear-Up’ time. Instead it turned out to be the ‘Hunt for a bed’ day. Moving countries means you don’t have a frame of reference if you want to make a big buy. On recommendation from friends, we hit the first mall, where much searching turned up something which was twice our budget (the rest were well over that).

Hmmm. Do we change the budget or do we change our quality requirements?

Then we hit another mall which had more affordable stuff. Finally, it was time to enter the holy portals of Ikea.

I have heard so much about Ikea from the folks when they used to visit the Sis in the U.S. that I was really looking forward to the trip. Over here, friends say that Ikea is part of any parent-visit itinerary.

Ikea turned out to be ok despite the build-up. They really do stock tons of tremendously useful stuff which you never think you would need till Ikea shows how it can be used.

We checked out the bed and with that research was completed and on Monday, a final decision made.

The unpacking faces another week of slow clearing up. There is a long weekend coming up and instead of travelling or doing anything exciting, we are going to be stowing away stuff.

I am rather looking forward to that!

07-Oct-2012

House hunting



It has been a month since we arrived on the shores of Singapore, clutching our suitcases, our hearts aflutter. It has also been a month since we started looking for houses and I must say that our experience so far has been less than pleasant.

Agent A (short for any expletive starting with ‘A’) took D around in a plush BMW, complete with tiny, expensive waterbottles and showed him 9 houses, of which 1 met our requirements. Unfortunately the landlord changed his mind before I could even look at it. Agent A showed us a few more houses and then pretty much told us that we could either take our pick of the sorry ones he had or face the option of staying on the streets (metaphorically speaking of course. No one stays on the streets here. I think you get arrested or something).

We were a little tired of Agent A. He had a disconcerting habit of talking non-stop. And he did little to shield us from some of the harsh realities of searching for a house in our specific situation. Infact, he seemed quite keen to update us on why we were not ideal tenants and pretty much presented us that way to others. We persisted with Agent A since he had come with some recos and he had told us in no uncertain terms that he would only work with us if we used him exclusively. (And I think we were so busy running around doing other stuff that we were too tired to listen to well-meaning friends telling us to lose him). When we fixed up other house viewings surreptitiously on the side, Agent A found out and moaned for an entire car ride (Thank God, Singapore is a small city. I wouldn’t have lasted a Bombay car ride). Two weeks passed by and we finally settled on a house which passed muster. Sadly the landlord pulled out of the deal in the last minute and Agent A washed his hands off us.

Singapore’s landlords have their own agents. So it is effectively the agent who meets you and passes on information about you to the landlords. I guessed that without having the benefit of meeting us and being dazzled by our scintillating personalities, landlords were rejecting us.

So last Sunday, we set out with another agent to see a house in which the landlord was actually residing and going to meet us. We were at our polite, courteous best during the visit and shortly thereafter negotiations began. Then, suddenly we find out the landlord has changed his mind.

So much for impressing with our personalities…

It is probably just a case of market supply not fitting our requirements at present. Besides, one month is not really a long time to get your bearings in a new city. So we are working with other agents now, all of whom are far nicer and we are widening the net and giving up some of our original criteria.

There is another issue that has come up during househunting.

Living close to an Indian community was not a search criteria for us. So we were primarily shortlisting based on access to the public transport and proximity to our travel locations. Now that it looks like those apartments are not working out for us, we have included condos that are a 5 – 10 minute walk to the metro. So I ended up making inquiries about a condo which turned out to have a huge Indian population.

So far, I was indifferent to the ‘should have Indian neighbours’ criteria but now I am forced to actively consider it. Especially when a friend’s friend I spoke to gushed about the satsangs his parents attended, the yoga class his wife had signed up for and the Art of Living courses he went for. “You can get them all in the condo”.

I got deep into thought.

One of the things I loved about my Bombay apartment was that it was a very cosmopolitan building. Fifty percent of the houses were owned by the navy and the multicultural crowd moved in and out. The rest had an assortment of parsis, gujjus, maharastrians, south Indians and so on.

In Singapore though, should I want the same thing or is it good to have a lot of Indian neighbours? On the one hand, there is the advantage of having an ecosystem handy (Indian grocery stores etc), the immediate availability of help and assistance (I assume Indians would be less shy about helping each other out) or the shared festivals. On the other hand, if I wanted all this, I could have as well stayed back home. Another friend described how their multi-cultural condo had a small celebration for the mid-autumn festival, lighting lanterns and eating mooncakes. It sounded fascinating.

Will the curiosity stop after a while and would I crave familiarity?

For now, I think that if I wanted Indian company, I would just have to reach out to any of my friends, all of whom are Indians. On the other hand, living in a mixed crowd would be the easiest way to get more out of my Singapore experience.

Nevertheless, the slightly desperate position we are in now, I am not sure if we would really have a choice.
  
The house hunting story is not yet over but I do hope it ends soon.