When moving to a new city, there are a few must-do’s. You must find and try the local cuisine. You ought to at least make an effort to figure out the transportation system (or in my case, turn it into a paradox). You might want to explore, going beyond the typical tourist attractions.
But there is a rite of passage that most newcomers – regardless of city – dread: the apartment search. It differs everywhere I’ve lived. In Washington, DC, the row house reigned supreme – but that meant finding roommates. In New York…well, I don’t even want to get started on the NYC apartment search. Thank goodness for my cousins Amy and Evan, whose quick thinking and connections landed me the greatest NYC apartment EVER. (Steven, if you are reading this – take care of my place man!)
So, having been here in Hyderabad for a week now, I figured it was time to kick off the apartment search. And, pardon the idiosyncratic phrase, this ain’t your mother’s Craigslist.
First of all, Craigslist is practically non-existent in Hyderabad. There’s a site called Quickr that people use, but it is a bit of a mash up. Between the sketchy ads online and the fact that I’m still not 100% comfortable with the local geography, I ended up going around with two brokers.
My friend Karthik characterized the brokers as such:
“Sarosh – shows you fancy places in a car.”
“Vijay – local chap on a bike. Hold on.”
On Saturday morning, I met Sarosh at Ruci & Idoni, a restaurant/bistro that bills itself as “India’s first New York deli.” Don’t worry, Katz’s/Carnegie/anywhere on the East coast, you’ll be happy to know that there’s nothing New York and nothing deli about this place. It’s more like Dean & Deluca, with prices to match.
Anyway, I digress. I saw 3 places in 90 minutes with Sarosh, each apartment further and further beyond my set price range. I did, however, learn that the Hyderabadi apartment stock is primarily 3-bedrooms, as many buildings are constructed with multi-generational families in mind and not bachelors or even roommates. 2-bedrooms are scarce – and of low quality, Sarosh said, and 1-bedrooms basically don’t exist. I was glad for the info, but the places he was showing me were out of my league. Politely, I told him thanks and that I would be in touch. He dropped me off at the office…and I prepared to get down to work.
Not 10 minutes after I’d reached the office, I got a call from Vijay.
“Hi sir, are you ready to see apartments, sir!?”
Wherever he was, it was loud outside and he was excited.
“Sure, Vijay, can you pick me up at the Acumen office?”
Vijay replied, “No problem sir, be there in 3 minutes sir!”
True to his word, Vijay rolled up 3 minutes later aboard his Bajaj Discover bike – I’m pretty sure it’s a 150cc but it might have been more powerful still. Grinning, he told me to get on board, and “we’re going to see some great places sir, you will love them sir, let’s go…and please hold on sir!”
I swung my legs over the back, grabbed the rear hold bar, and off we went. To Road #12, then Road #10, then Road #2, then to Jubilee Hills, then back to Road #1, Road #11, in and around back lanes. Being a good Indian driver, Vijay does not slow down for traffic nor for red lights. He just honks the horn (to let other drivers know you’re there) and weaves through whatever’s between him and the next place. I smiled broadly as we pulled a brazen U-turn on a crowded road and thought to myself, “it’s the journey, not the destination…unless the destination is the morgue!”
That was Saturday, from 11:00 to 5:00 with a short break for lunch in between. It was hot, exhausting, and at times exhilarating (the exhilaration was mostly thanks to the motorcycle rides, not the apartments.) We saw beautiful flats and dumps; places with and without furniture; places with terraces and balconies and others in basements or on ground floors. Gradually, Vijay started to get the picture – I didn’t need a huge apartment, but quality (of fixtures, doors, floors, kitchens), location, and the amount of natural light and fresh air really mattered to me. We got back on the bike. I said a short prayer to no one in particular…
Sunday, it continued – another bunch of places, this time in Banjara Hills and also in Masab Tank. Of course, all’s well that ends well. And 21+ apartment viewings (I lost track after a while) and 48 hours later, I have a place that I’m pretty sure I’ll take. It’s a 3-bedroom, 3-bath, 3rd floor apartment off Road #10 (see the map here) in a quiet area with great natural light and lots of air circulating. It’s furnished, so I don’t have to worry about that, and is convenient both to the KBR Park (running track!) and the office.
I’ll finalize the details tomorrow with the landlords, a very nice couple who live directly below, and hopefully, by the time many of you are reading this, I will have conquered the Hyderabad apartment search!