Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Pains of being a TENANT

Well, I really need to make an effort bringing myself to write this incident!! Life is tough for tenants until they buy their own places. At least it has been for me after this incident, I wonder how it is for all those couples who are working in Gurgaon and have come from different cities.

It all started from the fact that we had to change our current place since our landlord’s son is getting married. He was putting up in Australia till sometime back and now they are getting him married fast so that he stays in India. (Same old story…). Our landlord and his family are real good people very courteous and absolutely non – interfering which makes them one of the best. I and my hubby Prashant have really lived peacefully here for about 10 months now. All was going fine and then suddenly the marriage came up and we were looking for a nice place to shift. We did not get anything in Sector 14 even after long search through brokers too. We then started searching in Sector 23 and 23 A.

Our 1st sight of the house
A week back we went to a broker who showed us 3-4 houses on rent but we liked one and only – White Beauty. This was a big three floor building with ground, first and second floor. It is completely done in marble and appealed to us at the first instant. We went there in the evening and the broker told us that the landlord did not live here. He had another house nearby which was identical to this one but a lane away from this one. Coincidently, we met him here only so need not go to his own house. He was a Colonel and about 75 years old – he spoke like a lot and lot means TOO MUCH. He wouldn’t let anybody speak anything at all. Anyhow he had yet not shown us the house from inside – the 2nd floor was on rent. The broker went away and the landlord took us to his own house and showed us the second floor of that house. He said since both the houses were identical so anyone could be seen. Some one was still staying in the place which we were supposed to occupy and he did not want to offend them since he had good relations with them. He said he didn’t mind showing the original place on 29th when it would be vacated. He showed us the ground floor of both houses in order to convince us that both houses were identical. He said that it was 26 on that day and 29th and 30th the tenants would vacate the place after which we could see and shift whenever comfortable.

We did not have many options which were as nicely done so we agreed to pay him the security thinking that he and his wife were good people with reputed backgrounds and this was their only condition. We gave the security amount but I was firm on one point that once we entered into the actual place on 29th only then the deal would stand final. To this his wife agreed but said that the security would be payable now only since then they would not entertain any more requests. She was quite adamant so we thought that since the place is really nice so we could agree to this condition as such she promised to refund the security in case we did not like it on 29th. We had almost finalized the place and landlord told us to shift on 30th itself and that he would arrange for the old tenant’s to shift fast.

Our 2nd visit BUT to the actual house (DEVASTATING)
On 29th we tried calling the landlord to know whether the tenants had shifted or not and that we could come and see the place. We somehow could not get in touch on phone so we moved to the rented place. The couple was shifting and we introduced ourselves. (NOT KNOWING WHAT THE ACTUAL PLOT OF LANDLORD WAS!!!). They told us that they were paying 3k less than what landlord was charging us. We were SHOCKED. When we actually saw the second floor we were very disappointed. It was in a deplorable state and very shabby coz of the current shifting going on. I instantly refused to shift here and so did Prashant. That couple told us the actual story then…….. landlord gave them a short notice of shifting to the first floor below since his daughter and son-in-law were coming and forcibly asked them to vacate or pay 10k straight for 1st floor since it was bigger!!! They were helpless since their child was small and was going to a crèche just opposite to the house so they could not search house instantly and were forced to shift. The landlord suddenly raised the rent of the second floor and did not even show us the actual place since it was in a bad shape though it was built in the same fashion as the floor at his second house. They requested us not to tell the landlord that the couple had told us anything about the place. We promised them so and went to landlord’s house.

He received us warmly. We requested him to show us the place so that we could finalize on the place – whether to shift or to search for another. He sounded shocked and his wife doubted us for having searched another place. We denied doing so and they started interrogating all the more asking us whether we had seen the rent place without them. We denied even that. Finally we forced him to show it to us but he insisted on knowing why we did not get our luggage with us.

Finally it all ENDED!
They were behaving strangely but still they both took us to the rented house and introduced us to Pinky and her husband – the tenant couple. We pretended not to know each other. After seeing the place we got back to his house and sat down to discussion. We asked him to repaint the place before we had shift to which he point blankly refused and said that we were moving away from our requirement and goddamn promise. They both created a big scene and his wife indicated about not giving the security money back too. We were saved only on one statement that I had given on the first day saying that we would take the place only when we saw the actual place and in case it did not appeal to us then we would take our security back!!! I thank god for blessing me with this good thought on the first day. Imagine loosing 10k for nothing!! We sat for about 4 hours at their place and then got our security amount back. It was a nasty experience and we have decided never to make such a mistake again. The house was some 2919-P, Sector 23, Gurgaon as far as I remember. For all those searching a rented place in Gurgaon – never visit the place. We learnt a lot from such an experience and were shocked to see that even educated people from reputed segments like army etc behave like this!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Narkanda – An Exciting Trip

I would like you all to steal some moments from your busy schedule and read this small excerpt on a unique place. In my opinion this place is specially for a couple planning for some sweet moments together but families would find the place worth enjoying and most of all kids would find it thrilling. Imagine where is this cottage situated - it is right on a HILL – TOP. It’s hidden among dense trees in a small clearing. You see not a single soul generally except for the two servants manning the entire cottage.

I initially had plans to visit Simla but when we reached there the place seemed hot and crowded. I was surprised at the high temperature there. It also does not look as neat and beautiful. We then moved on to Narkanda. On the way we found a cool place called Kufri. This place was pleasant and was much lower in temperature with chilly winds. We loved the low temperature here but did not find the place worth spending 2-3 days. We moved further to Narkanda and found another small place called Chhail. This place again was a little low in temperature but it was a quite one. Further on the way, we came to a beautiful spot amidst the forest and mountains. It was a little diverse from the normal route – say about 20 kms at a very high altitude. It was as if we had come to plains. A big entertainment centre was newly constructed. We tried exploring and enjoyed the place thoroughly. On the way to this place, there were no people but when we reached there were many people and kids enjoying the place. Beautiful songs were played and there were small joints for foodies. A separate space was given for a variety of swings where not only kids but families too were having great fun. We spent about 4 hours and enjoyed every bit of it including a ride on Yaks!

With the time running fast we started packing-up in order to reach Narkanda before dark. Since we drove on our own we wanted to search for ATMs at Narkanda from where we could draw cash for fuel and hotel expenses. Amongst all this we were forced to enjoy the serenity of the nature with its beauty at the best. With the beautiful hilly breeze touching our cheeks and with cold shivers running down our spine, we drove towards our destination Narkanda. We reached there well before dark and were searching for a good hotel to stay. We considered many options including one decently maintained hotel by tourism department of the state. We considered a few more and while talking to a few locals we got a small thread to the LAKESIDE COTTAGE. We wanted to give it a look but there was one factor discouraging us that it was a little away from the main town market. In fact it was at a higher altitude too so in case we planned to go to the market walking sometimes then coming back could cause a trouble sometimes since we were not acquainted with the ways and were not used to traveling uphill. The cottage belonged to a family which lived in the plains but owned the entire hill on which the cottage was made. When we visited the place we took an instant liking to it.
It was like staying at a farm house so close to nature in fact surrounded by trees and birds.We reached in the evening and confirmed our 3 day stay there to the owners. We were not left with much of money since we could not find any ATMs after Simla (In case you visit places above Simla do carry more of cash!!). Also, in case you go by your own conveyance then you will find the petrol pump in Simla and do take the fuel there. We did not know where to go but thankfully we took fuel from Simla and did not face any problems ahead.

Our beautiful stay at the cottage began from this night. We had a cook and a peon cum servant provided by the owners. Car parking in itself was a mission since the road to the cottage was very narrow and then the clearance in which the cottage was built was not sufficient to reverse the car but we managed. The entrance started with a small staircase which led to a garden.

Towards the right was a small cottage house which had the dining hall and the kitchen. Towards the left of the garden was a staircase actually going down towards the valley. After about 20 steps we found a beautiful cottage which was the place we would stay in. The entire hill slope was covered with apple orchards though we could not find the apples which the servants told us were seen in September to November season.The ambience was nice. Just opposite to the entrance was a natural lake around which the owners of the cottage had made a pedestrian for walks in the mornings/evenings.
Tired with the long drive we went to our room down the staircase amidst the valley.
After sipping the hot coffee served by the servant we came upstairs, took a stroll nearby and came back for dinner since venturing into an unknown forest area did not seem a convincing idea! Even after being so tired we felt refreshing with the atmosphere there and watched TV for long, listened to songs in the garden and sat there regaining our composure after the hectic city life. I sat there for long thinking about myself and the special moments of my life. It was rejuvenating. I am sure the people visiting the place would love the ambience, the hospitality and the scenic beauty around the cottage at rates as cheap as Rs.5000 for 3 days / 2 people / food inclusive!! Does it sound attractive?? To us it did.

By the time we felt sleepy, our room was neatly done in a colorful bed sheet and small pillows.

Our room had a window just opposite to our bed which was overlooking the valley. The hilly atmosphere was so soothing and relieving that I woke up around 4 AM in the morning just as if the nature was welcoming me to the most awaited and precious view of snow clad mountains so that I might not miss it!!
I wore my jacket and went out to look at the mesmerizing dawn with a streak of yellow appearing from behind the snowy mountain. I tried capturing them in a picture too but did not come out to be very clear in the picture. Have a look.

I let out s silent prayer to god for blessing me with this moment and went back to bed to relax leisurely. We woke up, had breakfast and left for another destination called Hatu Mandir which was again at a higher altitude and believe me the way to the temple actually called for a lot of guts but then the place we finally reached was worth all the risk.
....................................................................The way was very narrow and risky. On way I first found ICE at this place!
In case another car came from the opposite direction you just wouldn’t know since there were so much curves and turns on the roads. Moreover, there was extreme risk when two cars crossed since the road was too narrow. We were stuck at one such moment and just missed slipping down the valley since we gave a high acceleration and somehow managed to cross fast! This probably was the most risky moment in my life though might not sound as dangerous to you in words but it took our breath away. When we reached at the top the Hatu Peak and Mandir which were two places worth visiting not because of their own beauty actually but because of the surroundings. This was on a adjacent hill to the one on which our cottage was made so when going to this place we first came down hill from our cottage and then went up hill – an experience worth remembering.
We found another family there and then coming back wasn’t as dreadful since we had become accustomed to the ways.
Before coming back to our cottage we went to a small town market downhill and took a few eatables – biscuits and fruits were the only things available. I missed eating candies there and ice creams too since there were hardly anything available. No ATMs, no banks and hardly handful of shops. We came back to the cottage and relaxed well before we got up in the evening for our evening coffee. We had dinner at the fireplace in open which felt like a luxury having steaming hot food amongst a small clearing in the tees. We also went to walk at the lake side which was nice after having lots at dinner. The days at the cottage were pure adventurous and we think we were very lucky to have got to stay at such a beautiful place venturing into the forest ‘greens’ and enjoying nature.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Jaipur – The Pink City – Through my eyes

I hold a special place in my heart for this city and it is so because this is my home town! I have been born and brought up in Jaipur and believe me there could not have been a better place for my birth and upbringing which I could have chosen. This city is the capital of Rajasthan and no wonder it deserves to be!! Jaipur has more than 2000 villages and it is in the east of Rajasthan. This place has high temperatures and less of rains generally. Its temperatures generally range from as high as 48 degrees to as low as 23 degrees.

The city was the first which was planned in Rajasthan. Raja Sawai Jai Singh ruled this city and had made it with the thought that it would be victorious always hence, its name Jai (victory) + pur. Some also say that it was named after the Raja ‘ Jai’ singh. The city is called pink because it is made completely with Pink coloured stones. The city is divided into two parts - walled city (old city) and new city which is the newly developed part of the city after the governments came into place. The walled city is completely into Pink stone. It is encircled by pink walls and these walls have big gates. A few of them to name are – New Gate, Ajmeri Gate and Sanganeri Gate. There are many well known markets popularly called Tripolia Bazar, Nehru bazaar, Johri Bazaar and Bapu bazaar to name a few.

I would like you to visit my birth town through my eyes. Some key places you should not miss when you plan a visit to Jaipur are below. I have tried attaching the best of pictures which will help you decide which ones to visit first!!

Amber Palace: The palace is made for those eyes who love historical beauty or for architects who have the aesthetic sense to admire these old beauties. This palace is situated on the road of Delhi to Jaipur. It is a fusion of Mughal and hindu architecture. In the complex of Amber fort there are beautiful gardens with fountains. Another tourist attraction is the elephant ride within the complex.
People purchase ‘Prashaad’ from the shops outside the complex and then there is a series of stairs which one needs to climb (don’t worry it is lesser than Vaishnodeviji of course!!). When you look at the staircase they are too many in number but when you reach on the top, there is something worthy of all the sweat! It starts with the gardens in the left and a small lake on the right. Whenever it rains the place is full of water and boats glide on water with crowd cheering at the fishes in the water. People get flour for these fishes and kids enjoy playing with them. You can actually bend down with the flour and you see more than 100 fishes rushing to the treat! It is so amazing.

When you move forward after this boating and reach the Amber fort you need to check out while you walk. The elephants stop your way as they mightily walk down the squadral with people on their back. They are painted with vibrant colors and have a colourful back on top. You hear people cheering down to their known standing safely away as the elephant crosses with their loved ones on the top.

More to go on my next blog!!