Monthly Archives: September 2011

Delhi and the shape of my mind.

12 days in New Delhi (I may wish to get a day counter, which tells me exactly how may days I’ve been here since I seem to hate doing the math). LOL, if the stuff in brackets is longer than my text, which one should be in brackets? Yes, well that was an unexpected turn. My expectation was that I’d write a bit about how I’ve started to accept living in New Delhi, not my grammar usage!

Reboot.

Yeah, it takes a short while to warm up. Should we go chronological, or should I just list my achievements? Ho hum. I like the reverse order better. So lately, we’ve figured out where we’d like to live and made a successful bid for a place in Defense Colony. Verbally all’s been accepted, but the signatures are what count. Hopefully we’ll be done with that this week. We’ll start moving in during the second week in October. So dear family and friends, you may start booking our guest rooms starting Oct 15 on! I’m looking forward to having all of you over! My general blog readers (few that you are) will need to know me a bit better before you get invited to stay. That was a big achievement and I’m super glad of it.

Delhi Belly – I’ve seen the movie and this far escaped the predicament. Sarah, on the other hand hasn’t. Delhi’s got quite a few problems; water, traffic, electricity, hygiene, and population to name a few. Delhi Belly is the condition where our local bacteria seek to conquer your digestive system with their aggressive attack. Your body is at first overwhelmed and loses ground, ceding control of your bowels to the nefarious attackers. For most, your body then proceeds to rally all your resources, incapacitating you for a brief fever, and hits the bad boys back, slowly gaining control of lost ground. For the unfortunate few, failure to fight back successfully means you will end up in hospital, where you’ll get a whole lot of extraneous support from specialized doctors who’ll make your condition go away. This can be serious stuff. Good luck!

At the end of this turf war, the attackers leave behind an embassy and declare peace. So every once in a while you may get another brief upset when consular ops are carried out; nothing as bad as the first time. This far I’ve managed to avoid it. I guess the higher you rise, the harder you fall.

Hmm. I must’ve pressed an odd key combo, or something. Will Smith’s “Black Suits’ Comin’” just burst out of my speakers. Took me a few seconds to realize that it wasn’t my phone or anything else.

Achievement number 3. Finally starting to get familiar with Delhi. It’s taken a brief while, but Delhi’s quite easy to navigate. We picked up a detailed map on day 3 and it’s been a bit help. Easy to navigate does not mean that it’s fast or fun driving here. It’s bad. I’m unable to compare it with Cairo bad, but it might be. There are 2 major ring roads and major streets going north-south, but with the general road conditions, poor driving etiquette, and two, three and four wheelers all vying for road space while driving under 60 kmph and long traffic lights switching intervals, transportation can be painful. Public transport has improved significantly in the last few years with major infrastructure improvements like the Metro and flyovers on major highways. Yet, the way things are designed, there’s a traffic light at the end of every block and maybe even in the middle depending on what’s nearby. E.g. There are at least two traffic lights on Aurobindo Marg between the outer and inner ring road in addition to the ones at the ring road intersection. People seem to respect traffic lights and police do enforce this behavior with motorcycle cops chasing down the culprits and fining them heavily. My understanding is that all fines need to be settled in court. I’ve yet to experience this, so I’ll share my first experience as and when it happens.

Delhi is also a city of parks, small and large. In every South Delhi block you’ll find small grassy playgrounds where one may rest and let the children play. In addition almost every block has some larger green area where one can go jogging. Near where I’m staying, there is the large Deer Park where one can go for a walk or just enjoy the sun. Around Defense Colony, there are small parks near the market area and a couple of large playgrounds across the drain near the west gate of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (approx. 800m). And a short drive away is the famous Lodi garden.

Rickshaws (Tuk-Tuk), Metro and buses are the means of travel for those without vehicles. Buses seem to stop every kilometer, and have a set route which seems to hit all the busy streets. Avoid them if you’re in a rush. Rickshaws are fun, and risky despite the slow speeds they move at. You pay 20 Rs for the first two kilometers and an additional 5-6 Rs for every kilometer thereafter. So, you’ll have covered 6 kilometers before you shell out your first dollar. Most drivers will refuse to use the meter. However, if you negotiate before you hop aboard, they’ll respect the agreement without argument, a fact I’ve found to be refreshingly pleasant.

I’m running out of steam. And I’m trimming as I write, to keep my word count low. Practice, practice. Markets. In South Delhi, every block (or half) has it’s own market and another close by. Markets (in Delhi) are places where you’ll find restaurants, cafes, groceries, and a few shops. Some cool markets are INA market, Delhi Haat, Defense Colony Market and South Extension. INA is Delhi’s Khan Al Khalili, predominantly focused on food. Across INA market is Delhi Haat which is a less crowded version of Khan Al Khalili, catering to your need for artwork, footwear, scarves, furniture and food; a must see! South Extension features retail stores where you can get clothing and footwear among other things. Defense Colony market is primarily for going out. Some excellent restaurants are to be found here; Italian, Asian, and Indian, of course. There are a few bars as well and the usual cafes. Another cool feature here is the bakery. They sell some awesome bagels here! You’ll find yourself hitting this place often. Green Park market and Hauz Khas village are great places to hang out as well. Green Park is an average market with some good eateries and cafes along side some video stores, opticians, and other lebensmittel vendors. Hauz Khas village is the cool alternative hangout, featuring some amazing restaurants and bars. I’ve tried Himalaya, which is at the end of the main street, close to the Monument. Excellent food and service. There are a few interesting stores there as well.

I’ve been living the South Delhi life and perhaps I’m as reluctant to visit city center as the residents of South Delhi. I guess I could say I’m acclimatizing well to this place.

Finding an apartment in New Delhi!

I set foot in Delhi on Saturday, 17th of September and started the apartment hunt on the 18th. I and my wife are new to New Delhi and with no clue about rents, locales etc, we’ve decided to play it safe. We’ve so far agreed to hunt for apartments in South Delhi and centered around her workplace in Hauz Khas. With our trusty broker, we’ve embarked on the hunt. Sunday, Surinder, our broker, was fresh and excited. Based on his appointment book we wandered between various neighborhoods. We were looking for a 3BHK with reasonably new finishing and a neighborhood where we could enjoy some walking.

Panchsheel and Hauz Khas were first on our list. We wended our way through traffic to arrive at our first apartment. It was a nice one. 3rd floor, private parking, clean bathrooms with newish toilets and accessories. Our blockers: top floor (temp goes really high in summer) and the kitchen cupboards were awful. Plus the asking price was a lakh. Well, it was our first, and we were still feeling fresh. So on to the next – a nicer apartment in Panchsheel again, but another block. Yet another top floor apartment. We needed to chat with our broker and we were developing a sense of what Delhi had to offer.

After looking at various apartments priced upwards of a lakh, I wondered if we had hope of finding anything cheaper. My cousins advised me of 25-35k apartments in Saket, in Greater Kailash and other places, but every apartment we looked at seemed to be priced way higher. So we kept at it and talked to Surinder – we were looking for something cheaper. Day 2, and 3 we looked through Safdarjung, Sarvpriya Vihar, Gulmohar Park and Greek Park. The apartments were nice, but we hadn’t found a fit yet. It appeared that the style of apartment we were looking for, and the locales that we had in mind were all pushing up the quotes.

And slowly the determining factors emerged:

  • Neighborhood – which determines the professions of your neighbors, the facilities offered nearby, the frequency of water and electricity cuts, and the parking conundrum.
  • Apartment size – how many rooms and what size they are, and the total sq. feet
  • The floor – top floor, ground floor, or somewhere in the middle
  • Finishing – how chic does the apartment look, esp the floors (marble, tile, wood) and the bathroom accessories (age, stylishness and arrangement)
  • Building location – middle of the street, or a corner (which sort of sets you up for lighting and parking space)

The major determinant among these were Finishing and Neighborhoods. In order of prices (based on the sample we saw) Panchsheel was the most expensive, followed by Hauz Khas, Gulmohar Park,  Defense Colony, Green Park, Safdarjung Enclave and Sarvpriya Vihar. The max we were quoted in these areas for an unfurnished apartment was 1.25 Lakh. The lowest offer was 50k.

We’re currently looking at an apartment in Defense Colony. If that works, we’ll have concluded the search successfully with 8 days of work into finding our residence for the next 3 years!

Back in Cairo!

After an amazing month in Germany, I’m back in Cairo! Oh, I missed the warmth, and my friends, but not necessarily the traffic and the rest Smile

Today was a nice short jaunt to Tahrir to collect my passport and get my registration done. Actually took less time that I’d anticipated. I think what took the most amount of time was regular walking around, which is expected for the distances involved. And I was amazed that I managed to get it all done and still feel energetic, which I could attributed to unemployment – got nothing else to do!