Monthly Archives: April 2012

We Sold Our House!

1/22/2005 – 4/18/2012

It’s with mixed emotions that I write that we sold our house. It was our first baby.Long before Varun arrived, I have spent hours first selecting the house and then prettying it up – selecting the colors, the artwork, curtains, updating the landscaping, the list is endless.

We have a lot of memories associated with this place – birth of our son, birthday celebrations, baby showers of dear friends, cooking experiments, BBQ and booze parties…Many a trips were planned sitting on the back patio sipping hot tea and enjoying the warmth from the fire pit. Many a afternoons were spent lazing under the sun-umbrella with a book in hand.

Many a evenings were spent chasing Varun in the backyard as he ran to pluck blueberries from the bushes or rolling in the front lawn. He has seen squirrels, rabbits , horses and even deer on occasion as they ambled down the trail behind the house.

He learnt to walk on the deck and climb the stairs. He learnt peekaboo by hiding across the railings of the stairs. The kitchen and the deck were his play areas during the day.

The loft was our playground in the evenings once the sun went down and the Greenbelt behind went dark.  It was a safe place to wind down, snuggle and generally sit up with visiting overnight friends and cousins to gossip.

Why Sell then?

We thought long and hard about selling the house. We were going back and forth between renting and selling. We even put out a rental ad on Craigslist and got multiple offers in 3-4 days. One of them came to see it within couple of days of listing and made an offer to take it. In fact it was probably a week before we actually left the country that we decided to sell the house (more on how we sold it later).

We did a whole lot of number crunching using various spreadsheets to compare rent v/s sell scenario with different rates of appreciation, different monthly expenses, taking into account our new salary, rent that we would have got, our mortgage and insurance dues, housing allowance that we were offered as part of relocation, probable sale price of the house, repairs before sale/renting etc, tax impact in US and in India. The online calculators were more generic so Vipul created a custom excel spreadsheet based some of the online ones specifically for our analysis.

We reached out to a few  experts – our financial advisor, 2-3 different realtors, seattle bubble blog community as well as friends who were in similar situation ( had a house, moved to different city and rented) for learnings in hindsight. We got rent management details analysis from the rental agency MS was recommending (Adoba) as well as from CBB property management arm. We explored rental option of finding our own renters and using a 3rd party agency for managing repairs/problems as they are reported – similar to insurance with deductible.

We researched and drafted a rental agreement ( pet policy anyone!), met with contractors, stagers, landscapers, cleaners, tax experts etc to get estimate of costs.

While it made emotional sense to keep the house and rent it, it made financial sense to sell it. Online calculators seemed to indicate that even with a 5% YOY appreciation in real estate we would be better off selling the house. At that point, it looked like, keeping the house around in hopes of prices going through the roof, was more speculative than investment strategy.

What nailed the decision was mainly we didn’t want the hassle of being a long distance landlords. We are really lazy people and don’t really want to complicate life than it is already and this seemed the right decision.

Decision made

Once we decided to sell, we zeroed in on our agent (Denise Sinkevicius with Coldwell Banker Bain), the contractor for repairs (Donn Keith of WE  Contracting and Electrical Services), stager (Lisa Lucas of Lisa Lucas Designs) , cleaner and landscaper ( T Mo recommended by Denise).

As we were going to start the work once we moved out, a project plan was put together of activity, date and owner. Delays if any were tracked and communicated by Denise. There were a few hiccups but we were listed on 3/15. Pricing was reworked at last-minute due to low inventory in Redmond Ridge.

Check this marketing eflyer out – http://vicaso.com/18806 . Amazing, right?!! It made me want to buy my own house all over again.

Luckily, two very busy open houses later, we had two offers within four days for near asking price.

We went with the higher offer, countered, reached mutual acceptance and then waited for the long dance of inspection, appraisal, walk through and finally closed today on 4/18.

It feels weird not to have any house related mails or phone calls to follow-up tonight.Its that empty feeling that you have when something major is completed. There is a twinge of regret, there is part relief but mainly there is a sense of closure.

Now, we have to look for another place and make it HOME.

Psst – Stay tuned for cost breakdown and details of how we sold the house as well as the drama that happened between mutual acceptance and closing.

A Wedding,an ER trip and a Move

Yea, that’s how I would sum up last week.

The week started on a high. Rather it was the previous weekend that began on the positive note – long weekend ( Good Friday holiday), a trip to Mumbai for my dear cousin Neha’s wedding, meeting all my cousins and nephews, exchanging tips on jewellery and fashion and all the fun that goes with weddings.

Varun had a ball with his cousins – running behind the older ones, jumping on the stage and generally being in spotlight.

He didn’t really want to come back on Sunday night, but since we didnt want to use any vacation, we came back. Since our return, weather here in Hyderabad has changed. There have been thunderstorms almost every evening with the most beautiful lightning strikes I have ever seen. Some of the photos in paper with lightning on Hussain Sagar lake are breathtaking. Can you imagine if they look so good in newspaper print, what they would look like on hi-res photo media?

Well, the city cools down with cloud covers and thunderstorms, but this has caused a onsluaght of viral infections at the day care. Varun slept early on Monday and Tuesday night and we rejoiced that maybe sleep Gods had blessed us after all.

On Wednesday night, Varun went to bed at 7:30 only to wake up at 8:20. And started fussing. Which turned into bouts of cries. He was also rubbing his eyes intermittently while crying and tugging at his ears. It took us a few minutes to realise his right eye was swollen and stuck. He had yellowish discharge on his eyes and I guess he was upset that he couldn’t open his eye at all.

All attempts to clean his eye were futile as he wouldn’t let us touch it. I suspected conjunctivitis but was worried since he had fallen from a chair earlier in the evening if the fall had injured his eye. Vipul was looking up doctors online when we finally turned to our dear friends turned Hyderabad experts Sheetal and Phani to ask about doctor recommendations. They called someone they knew and recommended going to Apollo or Rainbow  hospital since Varun was crying for over an hour. We chose to go to Rainbow as it is a smaller hospital and so is easier to naviagte; as well as it is a Childrens hospital – not a generic multipurpose hospital.

As we are still  in our corporate housing, with the leased car provided by Microsoft, we didn’t have the car with us at night. Rather we didn’t have the driver with the car. We called the driver who was out at some family function. So, we called the owner of the leased car, who in turn called the driver and made him come pick us up. I wasn’t sure if he would come on time, so I called our second set of Hyderabad experts – my cousin Poonam and her husband Bhushan, to pick us up, just incase the driver was delayed.

Fortunately, the  driver came in 15 mins and we drove to the hospital. 25 mins later, we were in Rainbow hospitals ER. The ER was not busy and we were seen immediately. The resident confirmed conjunctivitis and gave us medicines. As I had taken Varun to a Rainbow clinic for his cold/fever symptoms earlier, the ER  treatment was free. She saw Varun was in pain and recommended giving him some Tylenol before sending us home.

Varun settled a little bit on the drive back home and finally slept. It was around 11:30 pm by the time we got home. We were pleasantly surprised that the ER trip was smooth and very quick – though we had gone prepared for a 5-6 hour wait.

Couple of days later, Poonam came to see Varun and check his progress. She stayed overnight and I had the pleasure of staying up late with my cousin and catching up. It was such a casual impromptu visit – no planning, no scheduling – simple joys of being in the same city as your cousin sis!

The joy ended when she woke up to an ant bite on her eye- which swelled and puffed up immediately. Vipul’s parents had complained a couple of times of bites/rash on their arm which we didn’t pay much heed too. But with this, and fearing something similar happening to Varun, we called the team that arranged for our corporate accommodation and moved into another apartment.

This apartment seems cleaner/ fresher than the earlier one. We will see how things go here. With Varun trying to eat on his own and dropping fruit pieces/bread crumbs all over, keeping this place clean is not easy – and it may not be long before the ants are back.

Almost a week since the ER visit, Varun is still sick. We took him to another doctor and he has ear infection in addition to conjunctivitis. At least this doctor spent some time getting to know us ( family history, vaccinations, allergies etc)  and getting Varun comfortable before checking him and prescribing medicines. His viral infection has spread to the entire family. I have lost my voice and have fever, Vipul is feverish while Vipul’s mom is not well either.

Hopefully, by end of this week, we will all get better!

I had a dream…

I had a dream ….

A recurring dream since we decided to move back to India. It left me restless and unable to sleep but it kept on revisiting me every night. It was not the usual dream like other NRI’s returning back home – to do something for the country or do something for people or start something on my own etc. It was thoda hatke, out of the box.

I dreamt that we are back and I have to take a train everywhere. I am on the train sitting on the last row of that particular coach and the Ticket Checker (TC) is walking towards me.
I panic, as I realize that I didn’t buy a ticket. I didn’t stand in line at the ticket counter, guard my purse and somehow make way to head of the line without being jostled by others. Yet, here I was on the train.

Thankfully, I remember that I no longer need a ticket, as I have a monthly pass. The thought lingers momentarily as I break into cold sweat. I have changed my purse, the pass was in the inside pocket of the purse, zipped tight – to keep it safe. I open my purse and in my attempt to find the pass I drop a hair brush and a compact. Ignoring those, I dig deeper to find the coveted pass before the TC questions me. I am about to give up and think of an excuse when I notice it peeking behind a wad of facial tissues which are a necessity in this hot city.

I pull out one tissue in relief and mop my sweaty brow as I take a deep breathe. But, my heart skips a beat, as fresh horrors are realized. I have not renewed the pass in a long time. Nowadays, passes can be renewed online but I had forgotten my password and the customer service representative was less than helpful when it came to renewing passwords. There was the TC, three rows down from me and I was thinking that I will have to pay the fine. I wonder if the fine could be paid online or I would have to get down at the station and pay cash. I seriously doubted they would take a credit card payment.

I pull out the pass and peer at its expiry date which is hidden behind Varun’s photo that I have inserted in the laminate. A stern voice asks for ‘ticket please’ and as I turn I hope the TC can’t read the date as well.

He looks at the card and begins sobbing. Before I can react,the sobs turn into wails and then into a chant – du du du du du …With a huge relief I turn and wake up. Its still 2:00 am, I am in bed, its Varun who is crying for milk. There are no trains, TC’s and passes – but milk to be warmed and given so we can all go back to bed.

Reality Bytes: Almost a month later

Its more than 4 weeks since we left home! Last month at this time we were put up in Four Seasons and spending every spare moment with our friends. All our worldly possessions were wrapped and packed and loaded either in air shipment ( 4′ x 4′ container) or put in a 40′ shipping container.

The day 1 of packing was the hardest day of the move. It made everything real! Home, comfort, security,routine, were all packed that day, waiting for a long journey half way across the world so that they could be restored in a new context and setting.

Four weeks later, here we are in Hyderabad trying to put our lives back together. The journey so far has been interesting.

Working at IDC

It’s still more or less the same as Redmond. Microsoft keeps us busy – which is a good thing 😉 – as we used to say. Days are filled with meetings, there are several things due every week, the scope is larger than resources, PM’s dream up bigger work items than feasible, estimates are padded,devs and test push back- the same drill.

The day starts late around 10:30 am and goes on till 9:00 pm or even into wee hours at night. I leave at 5:45 to pick up Varun and by the time I log back in at 9:00, my inbox is overflowing.

People are very informal and meetings are held with very short notice – though at least they begin on time. At the same time, they are all very friendly. Be it from recommendations on rentals that will fit our NRI requirements, daycare, doctors, pubs to giving a ride home, helping ramp up on work etc.

Not many people eat alone or at their desks as folks go down to cafeteria and eat by the side or pool side windows. But many meals are punctuated by impromptu phone calls from team mates asking follow-up clarifying questions or are blocked by something that needs immediate clarification.

Also, I am officially tired of café food here. Everything tastes the same. There, I said it.

And, dare I say it, I miss Advanta café food. I dream of the salad bar there every time I go down for lunch. Can someone please take a picture for me and send it to me?? Pretty please 🙂

Is work – life balance worse than it was in Redmond? I wouldn’t say just yet. Some of our acquaintances in IT have 3-4 meetings every evening, I think IDC folks are better off ! It’s almost in the same state but, here since I don’t spend time on chores and mom/dad are around, I do get some me time which I didn’t get in Redmond.

Hyderabad Life

Hyderabad is a very interesting city. The city seems to be built-in waves and as you drive from Hi-Tech city area to the old city, you weave in an out of affluent neighborhoods and ‘basti’ type neighborhoods. There are very few slums that I have seen – though there is one right next to where we live; but that looks pretty clean. I haven’t seen open drains, pot-holed roads, overflowing garbage cans etc yet – maybe we are sticking to only better parts of town?

Oh, and it seems to be a safe city. I don’t see security doors and bars on windows. But on the flip side, the news of baby/kids stealing and kidnapping ; especially from one of friends who has a brush with this but was saved in nick of time, has shocked me to no end.  This had happened several years ago, and number of incidents have apparently declined – so we are not running back. Just being careful in public places.

Traffic

Still not bad. We have started leaving around 9:30 ish as Varun now wakes up around 8:30 and drive to office is still under 20 mins.
Heat

Shel Silverstein’s poem ‘Its Hot’ is the best way to describe heat here.Its not sticky but its hot. We began our house search since last week – more about that later.We met the broker at 10:00 am and we were checking out flats of different sizes and layout in one complex, so were mostly indoors. But by the time we were done at noon, we both had massive headache and Vipul went home to sleep it off.

Since then, no more stepping out post 10 am and before 4 pm!

Luckily we had a couple of rounds of light rain (and thunder!) to cool things off. Hope that continues through June 🙂

Restaurants, Pubs and Nightlife

Although Hyderabad doesn’t have the famous Bangalore’s pub scene, it has a lots of lounges  and restaurants which are within 15-20 min driving distance of where we live. We went to Spoil lounge for a team event and it seems to be a nice place. Music was mix of latest hits, Bhangra and Trance and drinks were strong. I want to try Oyster lounge next and many of the concept restaurants like Sahib Sultan.

Relocation Experience

The basics of housing, driver, maids have been sorted out and we have a routine – it largely involves this understanding that if things don’t happen on time, you call the manager. The manager probably yells at them but gets us a replacement – and when they do show up we get to hear the most innovative excuses ever!

Finally our air shipment has arrived as well, so we now have basic stuff than what we came with. Mainly Varuns toys and clothes. We are missing a few things – including all our shoes so have to figure out reimbursement process etc. I love to shop so I can’t complain on that front but I really loved a few pairs that are lost – so am a bit sad 😦

Inefficiencies

Living in India requires lots of buffer as things are not streamlined. Simple things that I didn’t think about in US need attention. Milk man leaves milk bags on the doorstep. They need to be picked up before it gets warm. Milk needs to be boiled or it spoils. You do get toned milk that doesn’t need to be refrigerated but I question its nutrient value.

Service providers wanting to validate anything (like address proof, employment proof etc) will practically send no heads up but instead will expect you to drop everything to go meet them ; else you risk getting the service discontinued.

Checkout lanes in grocery stores don’t have integrated scales, so you have to take groceries to another line for weighing and getting a price sticker and then stand in another line to get it scanned and paid.

On the other hand, there are 3-4 people behind checkout counter doing nothing but gossiping. Literally they will stand there and if you ask them a question they will defer it to the one person who is working with a customer. It annoys me to no end – so much so that I refuse to do groceries or any other shopping on weekdays. It’s just futile to think you can zip in and out of any place.

Plug switches need to be turned ON. The maids turn OFF the switches so many a days my cell phone is not charged as I simply connect the phone to the dongle.

Yes, we are still FOB. Still green and still learning our way around here.

Its frustrating and funny at the same time and many an evening, Vipul and I discuss the latest thing we ‘discovered’ and shrug it off as ‘its happens only in India’.

But as we have been told by many others who walked this path before, we will soon learn to adapt and not notice these things. Give or take another 11 months before we become fully Indianised in our ways and then make fun of US ways 😉

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