A Better Day

Alright! Things are happening. In the morning on my way to work I get an SMS from Karilyn, our personal Mumbai expat guide, who tells me that all I need to do to get gas in my apartment is have the building’s doorman flag one of those gas delivery guys on the bicycle down. (Thanks!)

Of course, this was after I had already gone, for a third time, to the gas distribution office, where they promised gas is on the way. My driver even insisted to have a word with them himself. So when I got that SMS, I tried to get his confirmation – it took a little while, but eventually he enthusiastically exclaimed: “Yes Yes, Sir, bicycle much cheaper, watchman smart man, 10 rupees tip! Bicycle no salary, 2 rupees commission!”

Ok, so that makes a lot of sense. Screw that office and their customer number!

Then, at work, I get a call from the long lost furniture guy. The furniture is ready for delivery in the evening. As it happens, when I got home, not only did I have new big shiny (ok, I exaggerate) gas cylinders, but I also had some yummy food in the fridge. So I thought, I should go with the swing of things and call the TV guy, who had never showed up to install digital cable. Amazingly enough, he said, his guys will be over in ten minutes.

Alright, so it wasn’t 10 minutes but more like an hour and a half, but they showed up – incidentally pretty much as the same time as the furniture guy. So the house was full and the confusion complete, when the TV guys asked where’s the computer? I didn’t quite get what they needed a computer for, but it turns out that the cable guys were under the impression I want internet cable access. Well, apparently some sort of typical misunderstanding, but I couldn’t argue with that and just said: “Sure, who cares about digital TV, just give me your broadband cable internet access – how fast is it?” – “64 kilobytes, Sir” – “You have something a little faster?” – “Yes, 128 kilobytes, Sir” – “How about 256?” – “Yes, we have, too, Sir” – “Alright, if that’s the fastest, I want that.”

So while the two cable guys started playing around with my router settings, etc., the furniture guy, his sister, and their cab driver were spreading out the furniture on the terrace, four chairs and two little tables, with gorgeous wood carvings and golden inlays. At least I think it’s gorgeous, because our terrace was a bit dark already. But then I noticed that one table was smaller with the other table, so I asked what happened here, how come this is smaller? I couldn’t really get a straight answer or explanation, aside from an unsuccessful attempt at convincing me that that was what we had wanted, so I said, ok, you can either come back with a table a bigger size, or you’ll have to give me a discount.

In reality, I found this more amusing than anything else, but I am kind of starting to like this whole bargaining business. Anyways, so the response was that they can make another table with the same size, but it would be a different design. Smart move on their part, because even though there was zero logic to that, I didn’t really want to risk getting a plywood table top in exchange, so I said, ok, I’ll keep it, but I am not paying 10,500 rupees (which was the originally agreed on total). Ok, so the game begins, but these guys are pretty good and I knew I’d lose, especially after I then started with a half arsed counter offer of 10,000 rupees.

Of course, they looked very shocked, and just said: “500 rupees less? No, Sir, impossible!” – “Ok, how much?” – “200” – “300” – “No, Sir, impossible, 200” – “250”, at which point everybody was pretty much laughing. “No, Sir, impossible, 200.” Alright, so I give them 10,500, because I didn’t have exact change and I ask, so do you have 200 rupees change? Well, of course they didn’t, so the whole bargaining procedure was completely useless, and that really made me laugh. Alright then, what the hell! So they took the money, everybody is smiling and then, as they are walking out, he asks, “Oh, and taxi money!” Well, that was a nice try, because I know we had argued about free delivery weeks ago, and they had eventually agreed, and so I just said, no way, that was included, and so they didn’t argue with that and off they went.

Meanwhile, the cable guys had real problems with my router, so eventually they gave up and connected my computer directly. Fine, I’ll figure it out myself. So we started a little test drive – and it turns out that 256 kilobytes broadband connection actually manages a blazing fast speed of 90 kilobytes per second. Well, that’s pretty shitty, but for now it’s better than nothing. Plus, they are coming back for the digital TV setup tomorrow afternoon.

Daily Life

I am afraid this will be another whiny blog entry, but such is life. So on Monday it was raining some more. Well, a lot more, and the office was closed. Our maid still made it on time, which was great. Unfortunately, she ran out of gas while boiling some rice – literally, and not because of the rain. Our apartment has a gas cylinder beneath the kitchen stove, and if it’s empty, then you call for a new one, and it gets delivered.

So far so good, except today is Thursday, and there’s still no gas. Calling the number for the gas man didn’t work – first, because I didn’t have the number, then because the number didn’t work. I guess I am not the only one whose phone isn’t working because of the rains, so I had to go there myself.

The gas man is basically a tiny office behind a screen, so nobody can hear a thing being said. After I practically forced my way behind the screen so I can at least try to communicate with the guy, above the street noise and beyond the usual language problems, the conversation went pretty much like this: “I would like to have a new gas cylinder, mine is empty.” – “Eight days, Sir.” – “what do you mean, eight days, I don’t have any gas to cook.” – “Ok, Sir, today or tomorrow.” – “Well, can you be a little more specific?” – “Ok, Sir, tomorrow before 10 will do?” – “Ok, tomorrow before 10 is good, but it has to be before noon, before 12, oherwise there will be noone at home, ok?” – “No probs, Sir, tomorrow before 10 will do?”

So, apart from people really saying ‘no probs’ a lot, it wasn’t really a surprise that of course nobody showed up the next day. In fact, I expected as much, so I made a point of stopping by the place at around 9, asking them whether they will deliver the gas today, before 10, and of course the answer was yes. Well, that was this morning, I know the maid was here untill 12:30 at least, but there is still no gas. And the probably very yummy chicken dish she had made on Monday, before the gas ran out, is gone as well – but that’s because I told her that if there’s no gas today to have the chicken with, then I don’t want the chicken anymore (it’s a bit too hot here to have chicken that was cooked four days ago, and the chicken is a bit too spicy to be had without any rice).

Anyways, so what better to do in such a situation than go out for food, besides, after all, a lot of neighborhoods don’t have any gas at all, but instead stand in long lines to purchase kerosine, which comes in a wild assortment of plastic containers, which are sold to them basically in the middle of huge mountains of garbage on the street.

So on my way to a new eatery that I tried to discover in my neighborhood tonight, I walk by a real modern Reliance WebWorld shop, i.e. an internet cafe, which I had discovered last night. I regret very quickly not having hired a rikshah for the short distance of maybe 200 meters, because by the time I get there, I am already pretty exhausted from the heat and humidity, not to mention my unsuccessful attempts at trying to avoid getting splashed by cars and rikshas that are passing me at very close distance while running over another pothole puddle.

In any event, I get to WebWorld at 9:30 tonight, hoping to check some gmail (which is blocked both at work and on my BlackBerry), before they close at 10 – except tonight they were in the mood to close right in front of my nose, so I am writing this from my BlackBerry. I guess I mentioned that my landline phone is still not working?

Alright then, so let’s find a place to eat. A few near death experiences as a pedestrian later I walk into a place called D’Nosh, which greets me with an American Diner style interior with a black and white checkered bar counter, a large flat screen TV showing some Rap for the pretty pictures of some rapper ladies doing their thing (I am guessing, because there was no sound and the picture was quite distorted due to bad reception), plus, most importantly, The Scorpions followed by Led Zeppelin followed by other crimes to humanity commited at least 20 years ago – of course played by a real DJ at the CD deck, and played at full earsplitting volume with a number of air conditioners and fans adding to the general feeling that I might have walked into the wrong place.

Not surprisingly, the food was equally bad, but I didn’t really care anymore and marked it down as yet another day that I have been unable to find a place that doesn’t try so damn hard to look American. It would be nice to find some place that has music that’s maybe post-1985 and not Bollywood pop, but untill then I should probably stick to the regular dark holes in the wall that just have great food designed to strengthen my immune system. Or maybe I should just stay at home on my terrace, having nice home made food. Oh, wait, there’s still no gas in the kitchen, and I have never heard back from the furniture store that was supposed to deliver some terrace chairs last Tuesday. Hm, I guess I should call them, except their phone is not working either. Oh, and even if it does, no doubt they also expect that somehow someone is always at home to greet their delivery.

I must be doing something wrong, because the TV cable guy certainly seemed quite surprised not to find anybody, not even my wife, at home this afternoon at 4pm when he tried to install a digital cable box for the TV. That conversation went pretty much like this: “Sir, there is noone at home.” – “No, I know there is noone at home, because I am at work.” – “I am trying to get into the flat, but noone opens the door.” – “No, there’s noone at home, that’s why I said twice, you need to come before 12, when my maid is at home.” – “Ok, Sir, tomorrow will do?” – “Yes, tomorrow will do.”

On the plus side, when I got home after that bizarre Rapper/Scorpions experience, I made a very quick kill. Maybe that cockroach had just had dinner as well, but it was too fat and too slow to survive for more than two seconds under my “NEW! HIT! Cockroches – Rs.33 off!” spraying onslaught.