The apartment is a service apartment, which means it is always being let out to transient workers like me; nobody has intended it to be a permanent home, so it has the usual chips, cracks, splotches, and quick fix patches. It's spartan, but clean, roomy and bright. It feels a lot like Rogers Park, I’m going to Loyola and just moved out of my dorm and into an apartment with another girl and we got all this furniture at an “antique” shop on Broadway near Wilson Avenue (if you know Chicago, you’ll know what I mean).
The colors are nicely coordinated -- dark woods, white leather and white walls, maroon, orange, or lavender accents, white marble tile floors. In a few places, the wood is just bare plywood – like my bed which is a platform bed bigger than the mattress it holds. You can tell there used to be bigger mattress because the platform under the mattress has a border of black paint to match the box sides but the border stops short of the mattress and shows about four inches of raw wood stamped with the manufacturer’s markings. But that's ok because I read in the local newspaper that the majority of Indians still sleep on the floor, certainly many from necessity, but also for some by choice (try googling "sleeping on floor in India").
I decide the place needs some decoration. There are a few small paintings but also two empty shadow boxes on the living room wall, just black rectangles hanging there, and a bare bolt in my bedroom where another wall hanging or mirror used to be. I make a mental note to look for decorative items.
We have a nice balcony with potted palms and a pretty view, especially at sunrise, sunset and night. It looks into the interior of the Diamond District, which is mostly a park and swimming pool for the residents. Being a pretty serious birdwatcher, I was really excited to step out on the balcony and look for my first Indian bird.
There it was … a rock dove! AKA, a pigeon, the same thing you see millions of in Chicago and every other city.
Later I did see a different bird with dramatic bands of white on its wings when it flew. Turned out to be a common myna, which is more than just common, it’s like the starling of Bangalore. So, maybe the birding scene is not going to be that exciting here.
There is a little apartment directory by the telephone. Just like in a hotel. It says there are two restaurants, two groceries, a beauty salon, a fitness center, a dry cleaners, etc. but it could be outdated. I decide to get out and investigate on my own.
But first, how about a shower! It’s a two-bedroom apartment. One of the other trainers, Deepali, will be my roommate but she won't get in until Monday. My room has a separate bath (shower only, no tub) across the hall; Deepali’s room has a private bath. I have a full-size bed, she has twins; bothj bedrooms have room-size air conditioners, lockable cupboards and wardrobes, full-length mirrors and small writing desks; I have a sliding door out to the balcony; she has a TV. So I guess it all evens out.
The bath is equipped with the basics -- towels, soap, shampoo. Inexplicably, there’s a mothball in every sink. I’ve never seen this before. Maybe it’s a trick to keep bugs from crawling out of the pipes. Or it’s a low-cost air freshener substitute. Yes, that’s it. Later in the week Sharlene, another trainer, told me that her apartment on the first floor was subject to intermittent swamp gas odors from the drains. There's a lot of press coverage about water and sewer management issues; Bangalore has had so much growth the past few years, infrastructure is really stretched to keep up.
I get in the shower. No hot water. Great! There’s a small hot water heater attached to the wall above the toilet. Pipes go up into it. I wonder if maybe some valves need to be opened. It’s too high for me to look at closely so I take a cold shower. Later that day, while trying to figure out the light switches, I discover there’s a wall switch outside the bathroom that turns on the water heater. Maybe that is the problem.
I’m freshly dressed and ready to take a walk. The building manager knocks on the door. “Here is today’s paper. Is everything fine in the apartment? Would you like cleaning today” “Yes, it’s fine. No, they can come tomorrow.” “Ok, tomorrow then, madame. Enjoy your stay.” That was nice.
Now, how about that walk? No, wait a minute. Paul hasn’t heard from me in two days. I should send him an email, he’ll be waking up in Chicago soon. The apartment comes equipped with wireless internet so I switch it on. There is some very faint scribbling on the modem, a number that looks like 4567890. Once the computer fires up, I get the prompt to enter the network password. I enter 4567890. The wireless reports that it is connected but I can’t get on to the internet. Great! Another thing to deal with.
Maybe it’s just a temporary outage of some sort. Well, I'm not going to fool around with it now, I just want to get out and walk around.
To be continued: the Diamond District up close.