Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Service with a smile

Right. You’ve just moved in. Next is what?

Next is, apart from putting the house together from scratch, to get essential services from external sources put together at the earliest.

You’ll need your usual newspapers delivered. You’ll require a daily supply of milk. You’ll have to alert the trash man to ring your doorbell every time he passes on his rounds. You’ll need a guy to iron your clothes, somebody to get you the groceries home if you can’t carry them yourself, even a maid servant if you’re not used to doing the household chores yourself.

For my part, I don’t need the maid and the grocery man, but we do need the others. So the very first morning in the new house, the husband and I went out exploring.

Maybe it was the fact that we’d had a cold night following an evening of intense activity brought about by shifting our stuff in one go. Maybe it was the general welcoming vibe from the new place. Maybe it was the fact that despite the mess and the many hours of impending cleaning, I was with the man I love the most in my life and we were heading out to explore the new neighbourhood together.

We went about looking for chai and breakfast. As a piece of fair warning, let me try and talk you out of partaking of breakfast at a zhunka-bhakar Kendra. Thanks to some curious cooking, we got basundi for chai and rocks for idlis. The sambar left us as cold as it was when served. But we laughed and promised to go someplace else the next day. From where we stood, we spied a tapri a fair distance away doing brisk business with breakfast items. Shelving that for the moment, we went to the newspaper guy just next to the zhunka-bhakar guy, and the newspaper stall guy turned out to be the newspaper vendor for the building we currently live in. So the paper issue was solved.

I don’t rely on milk delivered to my doorstep, mostly because I don’t fancy waking up early and groping about for the milk packet. I simply buy Milk tetrapacks. For those who don’t, I would suggest ringing the doorbell of the most approachable neighbour and asking him/her if they would do you a big favour and tell the milkman to ring your doorbell the next morning. In the meantime, stock up on extra milk packets in case the milkman forgets to call on you.

You might need to fix such things as the gas connection and cable TV. Simply enlist your neighbour’s help for the latter and call up the gas agency helpline for the former. If you’re using gas cylinders, you’ll just need to change your address. If you’re depending on Mahanagar Gas, god help you (and I’m being polite). A good idea would be to call their helpline as soon as you decide to shift because they take about 10 days to address your complaint. The wait is long if you need a new connection installed in a building that already has a gas connection. Before they arrive, they will call you but will try and get out of coming at the last minute, so a bit of wheedling is in order. When they come, get the terrace keys from the secretary or watchman, and ask a neighbour if it’s okay to use her kitchen for a brief while when the gas guys need to solder a pipe on a running flame.

The cable guy will charge you for reconnecting a previous connection, and the money thus paid is non-refundable.

Keep an eye out for the guy who irons the clothes. They generally make two trips a day, so decide the time that is most convenient for you. Fix up a schedule with him, depending on how many times a week you do your laundry.

A maid to do the dishes, sweep the floors and even help in such tasks as cutting the vegetables and cleaning out the bathroom once a week is a must if you can’t do these things yourself. Ask around in the building and gauge how much each job will cost you on an average. There is no fixed rate; in fact, the money charged for each chore will depend largely on the area you live in, how many jobs the potential maid already holds, and how many tasks you expect from her daily. Generally, you will get a maid who holds many jobs in the same building. Maids are notorious about scaring other maids trying to get a job in the area where they work.

If you have a small child, research the area for crèches or playgroups. Your job should be about half done if there are kids in the same age group already living there. You might need to arrange transport so consider a crèche that is within walking distance of your home.

In the initial two weeks, your house might be a wreck owing to everything being anywhere but where you need it. It is a good idea to enlist the help of a professional tiffin service provider to get you through meal times. Every area has a woman or a small company providing these services; the yellow pages should help you out.

Also look for places that let out carpenters, plumbers, electricians and such. Here’s a good tip: places selling sanitary bath fittings and such like generally have an in-house plumber or somebody they tie up with. Ask them for their number and let them list your home address. Also, electric and carpentry hardware stores have in-house helpers who can do such things as fixing fans and levelling the doors. Find out where these services are available.

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