#1 India, Living in Bangalore, Oct. 5, 1997

Dear Everybody,

After my retirement in April, 1997, I was asked by Kaiser Permanente International to work for them. I agreed, but only for part-time work. At first I worked out of the office in Oakland, CA, doing exploratory trips to Singapore, Kuwait and India. Then I was successful in getting a project in Abu Dhabi. I began work on this project and with a colleague, was also still in exploratory talks on a project with a partner-company in India. Since I had entertained the idea of living in India even before working for KPI, I suggested to my boss that I live there, which would make it easier to work on both of these projects.

On one of my trips to India I found a house to rent and made arrangements to move there. I would be living in Bangalore, in the neighborhood of Indira Nagar. The house is a duplex in which I would rent the bottom floor with my landlady and family living on the upper floor. It has a living room, dining room, kitchen, three bedrooms and three baths. It’s in a pleasant tree-shaded neighborhood. I moved in October 1st.



I also have a phone/fax now, but unfortunately I still haven’t managed to get my landlady to accomplish getting the right codes from her husband’s office to ‘open’ the line for international calls. Since I didn’t get an instruction manual (it’s coming, ha ha) I’m not sure if I have it correctly programmed. In the meantime, I go to one of the big hotels to get my email and phonemail.

And my landlady INSISTED that I should get a maid. I tried explaining to her that we Americans are not really used to live-in help, and value our privacy. I wondered if it was because she thought that the lower classes need the employment, but I have decided it is nothing so laudable. When I asked where I should take my trash, she again reminded me that this is why I need a maid, implying that it would be inappropriate for ME to handle my trash! I think it is the upper middle class’s way of preserving the system. I finally agreed to have somebody come three mornings a week. My landlady said that she would find somebody for me.

Well, this really is where I wanted to live, isn’t it???? Yesterday I had called the Bangalore Gas Company to get a cylinder for my kitchen stove. I told him I live in Indira Nagar. He said that I would have to go downtown and meet with the manager to get signed up. When I got there, they said that I would need to go to a local office in Indira Nagar. So I called the local office and spoke to a man who said that I could come the next day at 9:00. I got there about 9:30 and he arrived at 10:15. He smiled during the whole conversation, but it was this—and that—and this and that—very difficult to follow, but finally there would be an agreement “just between the two of us” (for me to avoid paying about $150 to become a ‘consumer’) and I would deposit $100. When I leave I would get back $68. Fine. In the meantime people were shouting about their problems and I had to wait in his office for an extra half-hour. When he sent his boy with the cylinder, the boy said the regulator that came with the rented stove wasn’t a GOOD one, and so I sent him back for a GOOD one, which cost additional, of course. However, my new ‘maid’, a young man that my landlady’s ‘boy’ knows, had just arrived to talk to me. He was helpful during the discourse on the stove, and agreed that the regulator should be replaced. He is going to come each day at 10:30 and work a couple of hours until the work is done. So now I have a stove (!!) and a maid (!!)

Then today and last night and still tonight, it is raining buckets! My landlady said that she had never seen it like this—really BUCKETS! I read in the newspaper later that six people had been killed when houses collapsed.

Some, but not all, of my rented furniture has come, and of course there are problems with the mattresses not fitting the beds. They’re just a little too long—actually I think the two beds are a little too short, because the mattress on my bed fits fine, and these are identical. They also sent a dressing table that doesn’t match and also had a broken mirror, which I sent back. And are the dining room chairs ever stupid. Boy, is this a ‘buyer beware’ economy. But I shall buy a pretty tablecloth to match my new dishes and nobody will notice. I think I’m going to rent a washing machine, also.

I went shopping (in between rains, although I got pretty wet coming home in the autorickshaw) today and bought a clothesbasket, salt and pepper shakers, and a milk container. Oh yes, I now have 30 coupons for ½ liter plastic containers of ‘toned’ milk. I mean like plastic bags. What do you suppose ‘toned’ means? The landlady recommended this dairy; they come by and ring a bell, and her boy goes out with the coupons and fetches the milk.

Tomorrow I will pick up the curtains that I am having made for the two bedrooms (the third doesn’t need them—windows look out into where no one can look in). More hassle. I wanted 36” widths, but the material is only 29”, so it took two phone calls from the tailor to solve this. I told him he would have to piece it—he cautioned me that there would be a small ‘joint’ in half of the curtains, then. My landlady says that I MUST get curtains for the front windows. I wasn’t planning on it since you really can’t see in that much since there is a wall and gate (you can look through the gate) but she is insisting, although she’s kind of a control freak anyway. She’s terribly into locking and not trusting, and cautioning me. I can’t decide if she’s just paranoid, or if I should be more cautious. I think she’s paranoid.

Today I treated myself to a nice lunch at a hotel. Actually the lunch was only so-so, but there was a group of about 25 women in the dining room who had lunch and then played their version of Bingo. It was very interesting watching them interact. They took it so seriously! I also noticed that most of them were obese or at least well overweight! It seems to me that I didn’t see that even a few years ago. It’s probably the American junk food and sodapop!

Well, I really do like being here, even with its frustrations, which will be less after I get fully set up. On my list still are getting a newspaper delivered, getting the ‘maid’ organized, getting the rest of my furniture, getting my phone to work internationally, getting a CD player—they brought one the other day without any speakers—“don’t you have speakers?”!! I also will get a washing machine. I guess it goes in one of the bathrooms—the connections should be interesting. Maybe I can hook it up in the maid’s bathroom since I won’t be using it as living quarters anyway. There are just lots of promises and promises that never come true. I’m trying to look at it as a cultural difference, but!!!

I have found a neighborhood place to eat breakfast. It’s a block away, and they have the usual idli and dosa, which are pretty good. You eat standing up, but the price is right, as well as the distance to travel. For a masala dosa (the pancake-thing with potatoes inside) it’s eight rupees which is 22 cents. Now, mind you, the ambiance is ‘colorful’ but I haven’t gotten sick and they’re very busy, so I think it’s ok. I also did lunch ‘take-out’ one day with a vegetarian rice dish—very flavorful and good—20 cents. I brought my own pan. These dishes also have chutney and the dosa has chutney and sambar.

Indians live very noisily and nobody seems to mind—much horn honking, yelling, dogs barking, vendors calling—and the houses are close together here, so for the first few days it was an adjustment, but now I’m used to it.

Well, that should give you a picture of life in the city.


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