After an embarrassingly long hiatus, I thought I would make it up to you by inviting you into my apartment in Bhuj. I, for one, am always curious about how other people live.
I live in a two bedroom apartment in Bhanushali Nagar, a neighborhood rebuilt after the 2001 earthquake that destroyed much of Bhuj and inspired a distinct form of urban sprawl. In an effort to be as earthquake resistant as possible, very few buildings in the city are more than a few stories high, and the taller buildings that remain from before the earthquake are generally empty. In addition, new houses are built as free-standing structures instead of row houses, in order to prevent the kind of destruction that occurred in 2001. Everyone has a story about the earthquake, and many of them are quite painful. About 20,000 people died in the Kutch region on Republic Day, January 26, 2001, and about 400,000 homes were destroyed. Redevelopment is ongoing, and Kutch is often seen outside the region as an example of inspiring regrowth after tragedy. The affects of this rapid growth, I would add, are not always good, but that is a topic for another post.
Today my neighborhood boasts a few big houses and more apartments, the one grocery store in Bhuj, a neighborhood shop that grinds its own flour, plus plenty of dogs and cows. There is no such thing as centralized waste management, so I put my "compostables" in a concrete cylinder outside the building for the cows (see photo below); everything else goes in the other concrete cylinder, which is burned once in awhile and inhaled by everyone in the community. I try not to think too much about this.
I am on the first floor, which we in the States would call the second floor.
Inside you will find:
*A beautiful neon Ganesha to welcome you, thanks to my former roommate, Vrunda. I intend for him to be passed on to future AJWS Fellows.
* A "shower" room, with a nozzle for water to fill a bucket for bathing. I use a heating rod to heat the water, which involves electricity going into water. You can imagine why it took me awhile to actually buy the heating rod.
*Indian squat toilet
*My bedroom, which has a little outside seating area
*The "extra" bedroom, where I used to live and is now a sitting area/place for guests (hint hint)
*Kitchen with a gas stove
All in all, I feel super lucky to have such a nice place to live. I certainly do not expect to be able to afford a place like this in America for awhile.
That being said, I feel I should offer some context and qualification. First of all, I would like to point out that these photos make my place seem a lot bigger (and a little nicer) than it actually is. In addition, I want to add that few, if any, people in Bhuj live alone. Certainly a minuscule number of women. The other comparable apartments in my building typically house 4+ people, and here I am in a two bedroom by myself. I am aware of the privilege I represent having this space to myself. I want to share my space with you, but don't want to misrepresent the reality of living in India. So remember that this is just MY experience, and that for every perspective there are thousands of very different ones in Bhuj alone.
So . . . enjoy! And stay tuned for more (regular) posts!