Mumbai apt – getting warmer, maybe?

Looked at more apartments all day yesterday, got a blister despite wearing my Keens — so you know that’s a lot of tramping around! It’s actually a great way to get oriented to the layout of the city and see different neighborhoods, especially because I had a chance to stop in at a bookstore and pick up my new best friend, the Eichler Mumbai City Guide, a street atlas.

I see why I don’t understand where I’m going most of the time 🙂 since, as the atlas reveals, the same road within a few blocks is called Turner Road, Gurunanak Marg, Perry Street, and a couple of other things besides. And mostly the street names are not posted.

But I’m already getting better at knowing sort of where I am, and I’m even able to direct a ricksha driver to my hotel now without having to stop and ask the way. Hooray.

I think there are three top contenders.

Apt A

This is the apartment of a family friend in the Gujarati neighborhood that I mentioned yesterday. It’s still in the running because it’s reasonably cute. But it has water damage and probably won’t be ready for a couple of weeks at least – possibly as long as a month since it needs to be repaired, then painted, and there are holidays in between. Doable, but not terribly appealing because I’m really eager to settle in and start writing; lots of ideas are popping into my head just being here. And other things, like where I take yoga and which bank I choose and what kind of Internet service I get and so on, will depend on where I live.

Should I be more patient? Or should I move on? It’s smaller than the other places I’m looking at, but somewhat cheaper. BUT, it’s not quite the bargain I was thinking it might be, especially since I’d need to move to (and pay for) a temporary place and then move again.

Apt B

This one is by the sea, on Juhu Beach, the neighborhood I liked a lot last time I was here. The space itself is similar to many others I saw, but it has huge, nearly floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room and the main bedroom, with unobstructed views of the beach and sea.

Don’t picture something tropical; Mumbai pollution is so heavy that even the ocean is quite grayish. But it’s fresher air than probably anywhere else in the city. I can definitely imagine being happy waking up there looking at the ocean and beach every day. It’s on the 5th floor; higher up means quieter, for sure. It also has a smaller 2nd bedroom that would be quite nice as an office/guest room.

But it has some serious drawbacks. The price is quite a bit above what I’d hoped to spend. Not impossible, but it does mean that I probably wouldn’t be able to save much money over the year — something I was really hoping to do. Or I’d need to cut into my travel/fun budget. The rent is nearly double the first place, and about $400 more than Apt C (below).

It has no refrigerator or stove, meaning I’d have to figure out how to buy or rent those (probably around $250 to buy a refrigerator), and possibly also a mattress. Of course people make such purchases all the time but since I never have, it feels a little scary.

It’s also a place I saw through a broker, which means a broker fee of one month’s rent, and more paperwork which might also take some time — a day or two, I think, though, not weeks.

And it might feel a little isolated. It’s the furthest north of any of the places, further from the train lines, probably about an hour into the main city unless there’s absolutely no traffic (right).

Apt C

I’m leaning toward this one. (I wish I’d taken pictures as I was touring the apartments!) It’s on Altamount Road, a very nice (“posh,” according to Giselle) neighborhood in the heart of the city. (The other two places were in the northern suburbs.) It’s on the 8th floor so it’s quiet; the owner calls it a little haven in the city, and I think that’s right.

I liked it right away when I walked in; after everything we’d seen on Thursday, Giselle and I were both wowed. It’s airy, spacious, with high ceilings and nice windows. The owners live in the UK and it comes fully furnished with all the appliances, even wifi.

But (you knew it was coming) … it would be shared space until the end of the year. A bit complicated to explain: It’s a 2-bedroom. One bedroom is usually closed up and the owner use it when they visit, which is 1 month a year (December). The other bedroom, the one they usually rent out, is occupied until the end of November. So basically I’d move in, stay in the owners’ bedroom from now until Nov 30, and then shift to the other room for December. So it would be January until I really had the place all to myself.

I was really turned off by that idea until I saw the place — no way would I be able to afford a place like this if it weren’t for the fact that the owners have this sort of special arrangement (and, I think, prefer to rent to expats). It’s pretty great compared to everything else I saw in that price range. It’s big enough that the spaces are separate and I don’t think I’d feel too cramped… but the bathroom is shared.

And I’ll be traveling for about half of November anyway. And maybe I could use December to do some of the research travel I need to do?

And — although I’ve been used to living by myself for a long time — maybe it would actually be good to be around people for the first couple of months, especially people who really know the neighborhood/place where I’m living and how to do stuff.

I wonder if I could also ask to pay reduced rent — half, even? — for the months that I’d be sharing the place?

It also has the benefit of being around the corner from my favorite bookstore/cafe in the city, where I had my book launch last year. Although of course that’s not a reason to choose an apartment, it did feel nice to pop into the familiar spot afterward and have lunch and feel sort of a sense of ownership of the neighborhood. And it’s in the main city, which means it’s near museums, performance spaces, etc., even though I know the “in” thing now is to live in the suburbs.

It’s a reasonable walk to Marine Drive, i.e. the shoreline; not really a beach but more like a promenade.

I talked to the owners by phone and they seem nice enough. I’ll talk to the other tenant in the morning; she’s apparently an Aussie who writes for the Indian edition of Vogue. She has a visitor staying there until Tuesday afternoon, though.

The apartment also “comes with” someone who cleans every day and someone else who cooks three times a week — mixed feelings about that, as noted yesterday, but at the same time that’d be one less decision to make. And at least they’re not live-in staff, which would feel *really* weird to me … although there is actually a “servant’s bedroom” behind the kitchen (that’s currently semi-storage). Yeah, whoa.

Apt ?

Now it’s Sunday, as well as a holiday for Hindus, so the realtors etc aren’t working. I had lunch with a family friend and am having a mellow day and thinking about this all. Tomorrow I need to make a decision about whether I’m going to choose one of these places, or keep looking and move to temporary digs for 1 or 2 weeks. I’m supposed to check out of my hotel on Tuesday… I could stay longer on my own dime, of course, but at $100/night that seems like the least desirable option.

So I could spend Monday seeing more apartments. There is a woman agent I haven’t worked with yet who I’d like to give a try; would love to be able to give my business to her.

But I’m not sure I’m going to see anything that gets me beyond these choices. I think I’ve seen about 10 or 12 in addition to these, at both higher and lower price points. There are lots of apartments in the “hmm I guess this would be ok” category, but now that I’ve got my standard-setters, I’m not sure how much more time I want to spend looking, vs. getting settled in already.

But (on the 17th hand), what if there’s a fabulous apartment that is just waiting for me to keep trying another few days?

Or I could just make a decision and then spend Monday getting the paperwork ready, exchanging the money, etc. … and move on to writing, living, etc.

Right now the latter seems appealing! But I’m giving myself at least till noon Monday to decide.

Do you have a vote?

5 thoughts on “Mumbai apt – getting warmer, maybe?

  1. Hooray!! Well done! I was just going to post that you always make the most graceful decision, and to trust yourself, and here you are already done.

  2. C. Definitely likely to be the best long-term option, and minor inconvience for short-term. Being in the heart of everything is not to be undervalued! And I think you love it.

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