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Okay, I’m trying here, folks. I’ve started this post about a dozen times, but each time, after a few hundred words, I realize I’m headed down the same dark rabbit hole. So let me get something off my chest and out of the way: Gurgaon sucked.
There. I said it.
And I feel better. Now I can proceed without tiptoeing around the enormous elephant in the room.
Gurgaon sucked. But the people who live there did not. I also want to be clear on that point.
And India as a whole (at least the few places we visited) is beautiful. And the people never faltered in their decency and respect (even when they tried to rip us off in markets, but that is to be expected). It’s just Gurgaon. Oy. What a crap-hole.
Okay, now that we’ve put that behind us, let’s move forward.
You’ll recall from my last post that we were about to head out with a realtor to look at properties. We were expecting an experience like we had in Saigon: a mixture of relatively overpriced housing geared towards expats (but still cheaper than anything in the major metropolitan centers of America) and dirt-cheap local housing. Instead, we saw housing options that ran the spectrum from ridiculous to absurd. The “local” options we saw were geared towards three-generation families all living under one roof. We were three people. The units weren’t necessarily luxury, but they were too large for our needs, and the price ranges started at least double what we paid in Vietnam. And then there was the pinnacle of absurdity: The Pinnacle. The Pinnacle was a high-rise luxury housing development built by the client for which we now worked. This was no surprise – our client built most of Northern India, and its president and CEO was one of India’s wealthiest men. On the plus side, The Pinnacle was directly across the street from my job site. I could have rolled out of bed, fallen several stories and then limped into work. The downside was that a 4 bedroom apartment cost about $5000 per month.
We were already feeling unsure of our place in Gurgaon, but when Handan and I heard that price, the deal was sealed for both of us: this city would never be our home. We asked the realtor to take us back to The Palms.
Handan and I discussed the matter. We couldn’t stay in the room in which we currently lived. That would have cost as much as The Pinnacle. We decided to speak with management to see if they would offer us a deal for a long-term stay.
It turned out that The Palms had a long-term option: several townhouses situated just outside the gate at the back of the club. The townhouses were sited on a back road behind the pool, but still received daily maid service. They even offered free laundry up to three pieces of clothing per day.
The rooms were too small for the three of us, so we asked about two adjacent rooms (that would be an entire floor of a townhouse). Luck favored us. There were two such rooms. The monthly tab for those two rooms was still far more than we wanted or expected to pay in India, but it was far less than the other housing options. And we’d be paying month-to-month, so we could bail at any time. I don’t think that thought was ever far from our minds.
Instead of casting back into memory to tell you about how awful life in Gurgaon was, I looked back at my Facebook posts from that time. I’ll turn the floor over to my younger self now…
August 12, 2012:
For those wondering about India so far, let me sum up: heat, humidity, monsoon, mud, cows, pigs, garbage, potholes, traffic and constant low-grade food poisoning.
August 19, 2012:
Had one of those “I’m-back-in-school-and-trying-to-find-the-classroom” dreams last night. Only this time, I found myself adopted by three Indian wild pigs. They followed me everywhere, even up the concrete slab steps of whatever dream school I was searching in. Don’t think I ever found the classroom – 2212, I think it was.
August 27, 2012:
Top five places not to live:
Runner up: Gurgaon
Special mention: Gurgaon
September 26, 2012:
Another lovely day in India for Handan and me: puking, diarrhea and fever. But hey, at least we stayed home from work watching annoying Indian ads on TaTaSky. Get me the f**k outta here!
November 12, 2012:
It’s Diwali here in India – the festival of light. It’s kinda like their Christmas. Lots of fireworks, gift-giving, feasting, etc. Barish got a big box of candy from his friend’s family, Handan got three huge boxes of sweets from various companies we do business with, and me? Well, I got a package of bed sheets. Yup, bed sheets. Two pillow cases, a duvet cover and a flat sheet. In a pattern that would look right at home in the discount bin at K-Mart. In 1973.
The same company gave my wife (who doesn’t directly do business with them, by the way) two enormous boxes of sweets.
We live in a hotel.
November 12, 2012:
Indians have a profoundly different understanding than we do of what makes for a “recreational” firecracker. The explosions we’re hearing outside right now frequently rival and occasionally dwarf those we heard in Afghanistan. Remember? The mortars the Taliban used to shoot at us? Yeah those.
Woe be unto the rum-soaked reveler who gets the short-fuse. Kablooey!
November 15, 2012 (On the way to Agra to see the Taj Mahal – that’ll be the next post!):
Four hours in a car today listening to Indian pop music felt like a thousand tone-deaf, yodeling banshees were repeatedly stabbing my earholes while simultaneously punching my temporal lobe and spitting on my soul.
December 12, 2012:
There is a man who walks around our neighborhood from sundown to sunup. He has a whistle in his mouth that he blows. Constantly. From sundown to sunup, he blows that whistle as he walks our streets. He blows the whistle even now, at one in the morning.
Of course, I decided this man must die a most spectacular death. But Handan has assured me that he is a man to be commended, not condemned. He is a night watchman, and his ilk ply the streets of Turkey as well. He is keeping me safe from the baddies of the dark. So I have decided that he shall live. For now. But I wait. And listen.
Hey, I did it! I worked through my India angst! From now on, we can focus on cool stuff like our Taj Mahal trip, our Jaipur trip, our Delhi shopping experience and whatever other stories and anecdotes come to mind, so stay tuned for the good parts of India!
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