The first month of the fellowship was always going to be the most important month of my fellowship journey, I knew about that but exactly how it would transpire I had no clue till I moved to my work location in Mangaon, Raigad. I had joined my organization at Mumbai on 30th July and it was planned that I would be travelling to Mangaon on the 1st of August. Needless to say, I didn’t unpack my bags.

However, the next day, in the morning, I was informed that I won’t be traveling to Mangaon as scheduled as my place of stay wasn’t ready yet. Come evening there was a change of plan again as we received the news that I would indeed have to travel to Mangaon the next day and pay a part of the security deposit of my new place of stay there and get the rent agreement done. So, I traveled to Mangaon the next day and went to see the place that I was going to rent. It was a small studio apartment and perfect for me. However, it was in bad shape. The paint and at some places even the plaster on the walls had peeled off. There were no electrical fittings, and in case of the bathroom the electrical connection was busted, and the kitchen sink’s plumbing was broken. And that’s why when I was told that I would have to pay half of the amount of the security deposit so that all the repair work could be done I did so readily, because I had come to believe that I was going to stay in that apartment for the next one year.

However, it wasn’t to be. See, there were two parties involved in this – there was the apartment watchman and then there was the landlord himself. The landlord, a young guy, probably only a couple of years older to me, works as an X-ray technician and that too at odd hours. The watchman in his sixties is the all-hearing, all-seeing, all-knowing person in the complex with an ingratiating smile to hide his artful dodgerness. To his little credit though he was the one to let us know about the vacancy in the apartment I was about to move in. The landlord because of his demanding job had a certain reluctance to enter into tenancy and had entrusted the watchman to take care of the renovation of the house. The watchman on the other hand, owing to his mercenarial tendencies, knowing fully well that he’s not the one who’d be getting the monthly rent was as reluctant to take it up.

Between the two of them, there was a lack of communication, mistrust, and varying motives. The result of that was a shoddy renovation of the apartment. It took almost ten days and finally on the 9th of August, when I travelled to Mangaon for good and reached my place, I was appalled at the state of it which was no better than what it was ten days earlier. The paint on the walls was still wet, however, that could have been because of the incessant rains, I consoled myself. There were no electrical fittings but that’s okay I said to myself. I could run to the market and get an LED bulb, I thought. However, when I found out next that there was no electrical power it irked me beyond belief.  Not to mention that there was no cleaning done of that place after the painting, the lime crunching beneath my feet as I toured and inspected the flat in horror of what other shoddy repair work may reveal itself.

Immediately, I reported it to my supervisor who had helped me in getting this place. He came and was equally aghast with the sorry state of affairs and railed on the watchman. The watchman in turn blamed the landlord. I called in my landlord. He picked up the phone and said that he’d come in a while. Ultimately, my supervisor called in a few hands and they helped clean the place.

Slowly, the day was drawing to an end and I was stranded in my apartment without any furnishing or light and the landlord nowhere in sight. Panicking, I rushed to the market nearby and bought a mat and a bucket. At least, I can sleep on the mat for today, I thought. When I reached back home, it was nearly dark. Finally, I decided to bite the bullet and tired as I was because of the traveling, I changed and slept on the mat. Barely had I slept when I heard thunderous pounding on my door which was enough to wake up everyone in the neighborhood. In trepidation, I opened the door to find my landlord with two other people. They entered and one of his cronies got busy with the MCB box. Turned out he was an electrician, and he along with the others tinkered about the electrical system under pale cones of cell phone flashlights until they got the power back. But it was hardly a relief as there was still no fan and I ended up sleeping in the heat, on the mat on the hard floor.

But the fan was put the next day. And the kitchen sink plumbing was done three days after that. Two weeks after that the painting was redone because it had started to peel off barely days after it was done the first time. And finally, at the end of the month, after numerous calls, and because he had to collect rent and couldn’t evade me anymore, the landlord came and brought along with him his electrician friend and got the bathroom light fixed (I still tend to forget to switch on the bathroom light when using it, being accustomed to using it without light for a month). And, it was thus how the miserable month finally ended with thankfully everything falling in place right at the end.

Or, so I thought. I was done writing this piece but then the watchman dropped by, flashing his ingratiating smile and gave me the electricity bill for last month which is a whopping 1290/-. The bill reported a faulty meter and that it had been billing the same amount for every month since the past one year. How did it pass by the landlord or the previous tenants for the past entire year, I could not fathom. Sigh! I think it’s time again that I should go have a chat with my landlord. Wish me luck!

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