Taken for Granted . . .

When you move half-way around the world, you quickly realize how much in our daily lives we take for granted–and how little sense many of those assumptions really make once you adapt and reflect. Okay, when you have to adapt and reflect . . .

Room air conditioning units . . . really?

For example, we knew we would have room air conditioning units in our new flat, and I recall thinking how archaic that would be, to have to walk around (on our marble floors) and turn on/off and adjust six separate, likely troublesome, old fashioned noisemakers. Worse yet, we were instructed to turn off the A/C when we were not at home. What? It rarely gets below 85f here and is nearly always in the mid 90s now (with really really high humidity) and it isn’t even the hottest season. We’ll see about that!

So, now we’ve been here a month and in many ways it feels like we have lived here forever even as we discover each day how little we truly know about India and its people. And guess what, I work at home a fair amount each day, and . . . I only turn on the one A/C unit in my office . . . and that only once in a while if it gets so stuffy I notice it. Who knew? So, I contribute daily to minimizing our energy usage and keeping those brownouts at bay. Yes, the power does go off frequently, but so far not for terribly long . . . and our building has a generator that operates everything except the A/C.

Each shower has its own hot water heater . . . but the sink is simply cold

Speaking of saving energy, each bath has its own hot water heater for the lovely walk-in shower (bathtubs are rare) plus one for the kitchen. Of course, as with the A/C, you need to turn on the heater 15 minutes before you shower . . . and you better shower fast since the capacity is limited! Again, what a smart idea to conserve energy.

Yep, in all the bathrooms.

And while we’re in the bathroom, there’s this tidy little hose and sprayer I’ve heard called a “health faucet.” Nuff said.

Water filter gives us water we can boil for coffee

For more about water, the kitchen sports three varieties: tap water for washing your hands or surfaces; filtered water to be boiled for cooking or coffee; and bubble top 5 gallon cans (jugs) for drinking water (we typically fill our water bottles from the cans to minimize plastic usage.

Our cooktop and original “oven”

While we’re in the kitchen, we rather observantly noticed there was no oven, just a cooktop and a toaster oven. The AISC property management folks have graciously provided us with a small gas range so Sarah can bake me banana bread–but Shanthi, our housekeeper/cook, still prefers the toaster oven. Given the results of her cooking, she can use whatever she wants and I’ll be happy. Chicken biryani, tikka masala, aloo gobi, veg kurma, idli and sambhar, masala dosa, fresh humus, coconut chutney, peanut chutney . . . Oh, and even veg lasagna . . .the list goes on and will continue to grow as we learn more about South Indian cuisine . . . and North Indian. . . and Keralan . . . and Chettinad . . .

The washing machine on one of our three balconies

Just outside the kitchen, on one of our three balconies (this one is semi-enclosed) is the laundry and storage area. Right, no dryer! I’ve already shown our low energy drying rack. And beyond the door is the staff restroom, Indian style. BTW, most places have no powder room while each of our three bedrooms has a full bath.

Streets quickly flood in any decent rain.

Of course, outside our place, we get to contend–actually our temporary driver Gopi–gets to–with the traffic and the lack of lane discipline and stop signs and, as in the photo, some quick flooding whenever we have more than a moderate rain. This shot is going down the ECR (East Coast Road) the morning after a good rain the night before and we did get to experience a 6pm rush hour storm a couple weeks ago where a 20 minute trip took us an hour. We were lucky that night, as several of the faculty got to sit on the ECR for 2 hours going nowhere. Thank the gods for our drivers!

Hand inscribed artwork

So, a month in our new digs and it’s feeling like home even though our shipment from the US hasn’t arrived yet. Can’t wait to add some of our personal touches to our flat–not to mention start wearing more than the handful of shirts I packed. We did buy an intricate wall hanging at the Kalakshetra Flea Market that was hand scribed by this artist on palm fronds. He uses a tiny needle-like scribe to etch into the dried palm and then washes over it with inks of different colors to make the design. Sarah fell in love with this one and it now hangs in our great room.

Detail from the hanging we bought

As we adapt and grow more in tune with India and Chennai and the people who live here, we realize how quickly the minor frustrations fade and are forgotten, especially when we find smiles like these from my walk the other morning with Gopi up to Broken Bridge with its view from the small fishing village north of Elliot’s Beach over the Adyar River to the elite and expensive Leela Palace Hotel as shown in the header photo. That photo is perhaps India in its physical manifestations at a single glance.

May we never take these new connections for granted . . .

A fisherman cleans his nets after a night of hard work on the Bay of Bengal
The captain of the fishing crew
A future captain . . . or a doctor
The reason they work so hard
He has seen a lot . . .
Proud and beaming
Shy . . . and I love her mother’s quiet look and gesture that says it all . . . (if you are a writer, feel free to borrow this one!)

And today, Ganesha Chaturthi starts . . . not to mention an AISC Board and Faculty gathering at the Crowne Plaza on TTK Road . . . and tomorrow we head down to the Covelong Point Surf and Yoga Festival . . . Stay tuned . . . and take nothing for granted.

 

Author: David Hassler

David M. Hassler was fortunate enough to have become a relatively rare male Trailing Spouse when his talented wife Sarah accepted a job teaching music in the elementary division of the American International School in Chennai, India. His role includes, first of all, serving as her everything wallah, but also allows him time for exploring, discovering, and sharing new places, new faces, and new tastes around Chennai, throughout south India, and beyond. David M. Hassler is a long-time member of the Indiana Writers Center Faculty and holds an MFA from Spalding University. His work has been published in Maize and the Santa Fe Writers' Project. He served as a Student Editor for The Louisville Review and as Technical Editor for Writing Fiction for Dummies. He is currently Managing Editor for Flying Island, an online literary journal. He is co-author of Muse: An Ekphrastic Trio, and Warp, a Speculative Trio, and future projects include A Distant Polyphony, a collection of linked stories about music and love, memories and loss; And on the Eighth Day, A Tale of the Last Time Traveler, a riff on classic Sci Fi; and To Strike a Single Hour, a Civil War novel that seeks the truth in one of P T Barnum's creations. He is a founding partner in Boulevard Press.

12 thoughts on “Taken for Granted . . .

  1. Dear Folks,
    What an education you have shared with us. It is so lovely. i am not a fan of heat but you sound like you are weathering it well. Bless you as you settle in.

    1. You know Susan, I always despised heat and humidity and thought it might be a hard transition . . . but I’ve surprised myself with how easy it can be when it’s just the way it is and you have no alternative to covet.

  2. So enjoy this blog! And your photos of such beautiful people. I just love the wall hanging you found. Always a delight to read about your new life David, and keep the camera with you always

  3. jUST got back from spinning at Lifetime.
    I think about you and Sara and what a terrific adventure you are having.
    Love the smiling faces, which we saw all over our trip to India.
    A special, difficult place.
    My wife and I are leaving for a vaca in South Africa.
    Should be exotic and interesting\\
    Love the blog, keep it coming

  4. What an experience! I will continue to appreciate the little things in life like air conditioning, my oven and hot water. I enjoy reading your blog. The information is fascinating and I certainly enjoy your beautiful photographs.

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