Here's an insider's look at expat apartment living in Mumbai. Bungalows (houses) are rare in our area so most people live in high rise apartment buildings. This is ours - we are on the top floor of a very long elevator ride which I use to make friends with fellow neighbors. We share a common "garden" with about 10 other buildings but it's only open for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening.
As you enter, you stop at the security gate for them to raise the bar. Visitors have to tell the apartment number of their guests or take their best guess.
You pull under a covering to an open lobby with a security desk and your choice of 4 elevators. The guards always wave and stand up when we come through but more importantly, they stop anyone else from coming up to our floor without signing in and wearing a security pass.
There are four apartments per floor but often one person will buy two on one side and made a massive home. Our front door is on the left and is one of the plainest. People "build-out" their entrances with paneling, stone work, paint, furniture, plants, or temples. Shoes are left outside the door. We arrived home to a pile of shoes and knew the air conditioning repair guys had finally shown up! But what we really need is a double door like the one on the right so you can stay safely locked in while checking out the many people who make it passed security. Assault is, sadly, prevalent so you need to be very cautious about who you let inside.
Garbage collection happens twice a day - 10 am and 4 pm. You simply put anything you want to throw away just inside the door to the stairs and two guys ride up and down in the elevator with big cans to haul it away. In four months, I've only seen them once. These guys are pros!
The main areas of the house...Most of the oh-so-lovely furniture came with the apartment but we spruced it up a little with some artwork, bookshelves, and a piano to save my sanity ;)
The kitchen sealed the deal. We looked at dozens of apartments that all had narrow galley kitchens that lacked ovens and dishwashers. Pretend you hear an angelic choir singing because that's what I did.
Through the kitchen is a small laundry area where all our drinking, cooking, tooth brushing, and vegetable washing water sits. We use two 20 liter jugs a week which a delivery boy replaces as soon as we call. Through this room is my least favorite invention - the duct rooms.
Each room in the apartment has an individual AC compressor and and each sink has a mini hot water heater - a geyser - which take up a lot of space and create unwelcome heat. The geyser is the small white thing on the left and needs constant resetting (not a normal thing - just an old thing). To activate your hot water, flip the black switch UP - the red light indicates power is on. One cold shower and you learn really quickly to remember that step.
We had the hardest time finding a dryer that actually dries. People line dry their clothes here in these duct rooms (which are roasting hot) or out a window or on a balcony. The problem is that each duct room is wide open to the outside which translates into dust, dirt, and pigeon droppings. We finally found a good sized dryer but it's a steam dryer. Somehow it pulls the water from the clothes, converts it to hot air to dry the clothes, and then collects the remaining water in this container underneath which needs to be emptied every so often.
Down the hall we have three bedrooms, an office, and four bathrooms that each have a door leading into dusty, dirty duct rooms.
This handy gadget dehumidifies the air and gives my hair a chance to look normal around the house. Two of them work 24/7 and both are full each morning when we wake up. Light switches are another really tricky experience. The few electrical outlets are located halfway up the wall on some of the light switch panels, but you have to remember to turn on the outlets or nothing will work - not even the air conditioners. Indians find it wasteful to leave the sockets on so workmen, cleaners, or even guests will switch them all off but I don't notice until my phone isn't charged or dinner isn't cooking or the house is roasting hot. The dial turns on a fan and the little circles on a switch mean there's another switch somewhere in the apartment that operates that same light. There are SO many switches that we still have no idea which one does what or where the twin is. When Ty locks up for bed I can hear "click, click, click, click, click,click" as he searches for the winning combo.
I've saved the best for last - the perks of long elevator waits and 10 minute rides while you stop at every conceivable floor - the roof top terrace! The flight of stairs just inside the front door lead to this oasis.
This wonderful little place we've found to get away from the craziness of India is finally starting to feel like home and that's made all the difference. Now, bring on the visitors!