Back to the movers. Just Dial had very efficiently given me the names of movers in Delhi University area. Within minutes of receiving the sms, I got calls from movers as well. About four or five of them came down to see the apartment and with one of them, who had quoted about Rs 5500, I had agreed on the price of 4800.
I had never been a haggler before and had mostly forgotten to haggle in the United States, but had become a full time haggler after moving back to Delhi. You haggle on the streets, you haggle in shops with a fixed price tag and you haggle in restaurants as well when you come in with a big enough group and boldly ask for a discount. It is expected that you will haggle. Prices are set with a margin for expert haggling. And I was so proud to have brought down the prices by almost Rs. 700. Every Rupee mattered to me and more.
But I hadn’t bargained for my tendency to be swayed easily, especially now and especially if it meant saving even some more money. I had a Man Friday, L, who I was aware was robbing me blind in all of the time I knew him, but was available whenever I called out for him to fix my AC or the broken pump. I never did get my husband’s support in these things, inspite of the fact that the University would have done most of these things for free. Either I reminded him ad infinitum to get things done or got them done myself. I chose the second option and got myself a Man Friday who cheated me on a regular basis.
I mean who charges Rs 500 for a MCB? But the other option would be for me to go to the shop to get one. I could, technically, but I just didn’t have time. With a stressful job, a 4 hour travel to and fro, a child to attend to at home and a household to supervise, time was the one thing I valued the most. I figured that a few hundred rupees here and there didn’t matter. I decided to turn a blind eye.
L came sauntering in one evening when I called him to fix my TV and on seeing some suitcases being packed immediately declared that he could save me Rs. 2000. Sensing my antennae raised, he told me if we could pack everything ourselves, he could get a truck for a thousand rupees, get labourers for another thousand and get packing material for some more money, ultimately not costing more than Rs. 2800. I was ecstatic and decided not to call the mover and packer after all.
A day before the move, when I was knee deep in old clothes books and photographs, he coolly informed he that he would of course take a thousand rupees for helping with the move and how he considered me a sister.
A word of caution to women in similar situations as mine. Run a mile in the opposite direction when you hear someone wanting you to be their sister. I know single women would tend to sigh with relief if someone called them their sister. After all, wouldn’t it be better to be the sister rather than the object of unwanted amorous attention?
However, Delhi males are generally notorious for their libido, and try to get what they can, when they can, however they can. When they declare they want you to be their sister, KNOW that if they realize they cannot get some, they will make you their sister and try to get something else. I had encountered this in another form, when a recruitment consultant I had grown close to declared I was his sister and coolly cheated me out of recruitment fees for one of the two recruitments I had done for him after my joblessness. But of course, I was his sister and he wanted the best for me.
My net savings had now come down to a thousand rupees only. I still slogged on with my packing, with visions of the thousand rupees coming handy for so many things. But when he asked for another Rs 500 to give the truck wallah, I put my foot down. There was more to pack, I was going out of my mind with all the packing and would save just five hundred rupees? This was plain ridiculous!
I took a quick decision and asked L to un-book the truck, which he probably hadn’t booked in the first place anyways and called the mover the evening before of the move and asked with trepidation if he would consider moving my stuff. He readily agreed and I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
I slept with a lot less stress that night, knowing that professional packers would come and sprinkle fairy dust to make everything fine. I would not have to worry about wrapping each glass in newspaper or the TV in a mattress and a bedsheet (yes, I know it’s ridiculous).
The movers arrived almost at noon the next day. And glibly assured me we could still move out by 4 pm. They brought only one packer who immediately got to work. Even though I had packed most of my stuff, there was still almost an entire day’s worth of packing to do. The movers left to get the truck and around 6 pm happily informed me that we would move at 9 pm and reach the destination by 10.30 pm. I was not comfortable, even though K said we should move. I could not think of putting Ik through so much discomfort. It would probably be midnight till we could unpack or even eat. I was tired from two days of stress. I asked the mover if we could do it the next day. Their relief was palpable. I gave them an advance and agreed on the next day. I had a niggling doubt if they would run away with the advance, but it did not make sense for them to do so, so I let that go.
We ordered in, having packed all our kitchen things. I had expected Prof X to come home for dinner, to have the last meal together as a family. I thought he would understand this and come home, if not for me, then for Ik. But sensitivity was not one of his strong points, a contentious issue over the years and the reason for many shouting matches. But now it was all over, so I decided not to say anything any more. We slept on mattresses on the floor. Ik and me. Prof X and me had separate bedrooms for a long time. The AC had been taken out and I could see the sky from my bedroom window for the first time. It was pitch dark. Except for blazes of lightning in the sky. It was going to rain.
Ik came close to me, holding me tight. He was scared of the lightning and thunder. I held him tightly as well. I was about to break the snow globe of his childhood into a million pieces. I had failed as a parent. I could not give my child the basic tenet of a happy childhood. A father and a mother to come home to from school. Childhood, as he had defined in his tiny brain would change forever after tonight. But I was helpless. I repeatedly apologised to my son as I held him tight, tears streaming down my face. I was awake for a long time that night, sensing Prof X come into the room and kiss Ik. Listening to the rain drops fall mercilessly on the parched ground and taking in the smell of fresh earth drenched in rain, I just prayed to the universe to make things ok for Ik. I would be his mom and dad together…..I had the strength. I just needed a job.