This is a photo of me and my landlady. She owns the block of houses I stay at in Coimbatore, and stays in the front house. She has several attached apartments, and rents them to various families. She comes to check out what is happening in the apartment some mornings, and tells us that we need to clean more often, and offers to have her maid come by to help us clean. I think she must think that we have no idea how to clean up after ourselves!
She doesn’t speak much English (none) and I don’t speak much Tamil (none), but with hand gestures me manage to understand each other mostly.
One morning we woke up and there was no water in the taps! We’d just gotten home the night before from a weekend trip, and were both in desperate need of a shower before work. So we went downstairs to ask the Landlady about it, and she came up. After 15 minutes of misunderstanding what she was trying to say we finally figured out that one of our taps had been leaking all weekend, and kept draining the water tank. So they had turned off our water at the main tap on the roof – we simply needed to turn it back on. And remember to turn the flush off properly on the toilet so it didn’t constantly run and drain the water tank that everyone shared!
We have the apartment at the back of the building, up some stairs. It’s a two bedroom flat, with access to the terrace (which is only really used by the others to dry their washing). Its a wonderful huge terrace with a nice view over the buildings around us, and it seems like a shame that they don’t use the space. The equivalent terrace in Australia would be covered in potted plants, have an outdoor table and chairs, possibly even a table tennis table.
Now it was a bit of a battle to get this lady to agree to have two single, white, girls stay alone in her apartment out the back. This was for several reasons I think, mostly out of concern for our well being. I was told that crime was on a rise in the city of Coimbatore, and there was a highly publicised incident involving an old woman found chopped into pieces, which placed fear into everyone’s hearts. After this it was very difficult to find people who were willing to have two girls stay alone in an apartment they were renting out. I guess I can understand that sentiment!
Despite this (this is for you Mum), I’ve never felt unsafe in the neighbourhood. Obviously it was quite a novelty at first for everyone in the neighbourhood for us to move in, but everyone quickly got used to it. After going to a few of the shops in the street a few times, I’ve found that no one really gives me a second glance anymore.
The Uncle in the phone shop out the front of the house always says hello when I come home from work, and the boy working in the rice shop next to it has helped us out almost every day that Scooty decides she doesn’t want to go to work. He comes over with a huge grin on his face and gets her started. The woman at the eatery across the road has a good natured laugh at our expense every morning when we are trying to kick start Scooty.
The woman down the road who runs the vegetable shop is wonderful, and always greets me with a huge grin and helps me out in figuring out what all everything is: who would have thought spinach could look so different! And the pani puri cart guys always say hey as I walk past… I think they were quite disappointed the day I started walking past them to the vegetable store!