Monday 16 April 2012

Mi Casa es tu Casa

I have just received an email from our estate agent in the UK who tells me that my property is being maintained in a ‘reasonable’ order (I don’t like the sound of that!)

He says: “The tenants feel that an annual rent increase, regardless of currently prevailing economic conditions, would be unfair. An increase this year may be uncalled for.”

Co-incidentally, within the hour, our landlord here in Mumbai called to tell us that we can expect a ten per cent increase as from next month. End of.

Mr. Malkani is a businessman and only speaks English when it suits him. You can be in the middle of a sentence when he will suddenly say “hello, hello” and walk off. This leaves me perplexed and lost for words, which is exactly why he does it.

I tried telling him that we had made many improvements to his property at our own expense. We’d had every room painted and put up shelving and safety bars at the windows. We keep the place immaculate and pay 12 months in advance. We are perfect tenants and therefore (using our own tenants’ words) an increase this year may be uncalled for.

“Hello, hello” he says, “rent is ten per cent more” and off he waddles.  I am not going to fight this because the idea of going through the whole business of moving house again is too much to bear. I am also going to acquiesce to my tenants because; on the whole they are good and pay on time, even though the rent for my lovely home does not quite cover the mortgage. We are taking the hit from both sides.

Of course, Mr. M is a professional landlord who bought a white box and stuck some tenants in it. Mick and I, on the other hand, are emotionally attached to our Kent home, it’s where we brought up our children and invested all of our savings.

I wonder if our tenants read one of the ridiculous stories about us in the British press recently where they had us “living like royalty in a five-star luxury compound” with an obeisance of servants. (As regular readers will know, we spoke to a freelance journalist who asked us to say a few nice things about Mumbai and then contorted the facts to suit himself and the nationals) Anyhow, maybe they read it and decided we didn’t need the extra money –who knows?

If only they knew that in reality I have to sit under a tap to wash as the shower has never worked; the toilet seat regularly slides of the toilet and the raised gas hob is so precarious that once again this week I have suffered third degree burns to my hand. (A pan of boiling oil slid effortlessly off the hob and onto my hand, which now looks like something out of a horror film. The kids won’t let me anywhere near them with it!)

Sometimes,  as I sit under the tap, I think about the two state -of-the-art bathrooms we had fitted only months before we knew we were coming to Mumbai. Or when I am cooling my poor, blistered, skinless knuckles in a bucket of ice, I think about my kitchen at home and my five-hob Britannia oven. I used to be able to cook a leg of lamb and all the veg all at the same time. There is zero chance of doing that here when all I have is four dodgy gas rings and a microwave. Even if I knew where to get a decent joint of meat, I wouldn’t attempt it for fear of blowing myself up. No, if it’s the maid’s day off, I’m ringing for take-out.

Can you tell I am having a Bad India Day? Sometimes when I miss my home and family life as it used to be, I ask myself why we are doing this. Why are we living 4000 miles away from friends and family in a two-bedroom white box?

And then I remember… it’s great for Mick’s CV, we are putting money away for the kids’ education and there is also fantastic opportunity to travel. So shut up Lindsey and take the crunchy with the smooth!

Let’s talk about the good things!

When my son came out for the Easter holidays we went to Indonesia and Singapore. We stayed in a couple of fabulous hotels and did all the touristy things: Sentosa Island, the Night Safari and Universal Studios. The children were happy and our short time together as a whole family again was very special and dear to my heart.

I tell you what else was very special and dear to my heart…..THE SHOPS!

Whoaaa! How many malls does Singapore have?  What I loved about it was that every one (except my husband) was in a mad, shopping frenzy. I even saw a group of Buddhist monks swooning in the window of Louis Vuitton.

Yes, yes I know buying designer stuff is only an attempt to fill an unfillable void in my soul but whatever, it makes me happy. It makes up for having to sit under a tap to wash or for having to take my life in my hands every time I fry an egg.

I look around Mumbai and I see people who would have to work for a year to earn the money it costs to buy a designer bag. It’s enough to make you weep. I get that, I understand, but something deep inside me still wants the bag.

So…. some news…..there has been a new addition to the family. One minute I was walking along Orchard Street in Singapore and the next I was in the Mulberry shop buying an Alexa. WTF? I didn’t even see it coming. There was no planning for this baby, it was a happy surprise, unlike my oldest, a classic Bayswater, which, like a longed-for IVF baby, was years-in the planning.

Now my two babies are sitting next to me on the chair and I cannot decide which of them to take out today. It’s Monday morning, 32degrees outside, and I’m off to the Burns Unit for a new dressing. I am going to stop worrying about my house, there’s more to life than bricks and mortar….like bags!  Come on then, Alexa, you’re coming with mummy today!