June 22, 1961 – First impressions (Gene)

(hand written, not typed)

Thursday, 22 June 1061

Dear Val and all:

‘Tho we arrived Sunday night (amid incredible immigration and customs confusion). This is the first letter writing. As things settle, letters should follow with greater frequency.

After leaving Hong Kong (will cover this period later), we had one-hour stop-overs in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and in Bangkok. In each case we stayed at the airport and were served bottled soft-drinks courtesy of the Air France people. Arrived at Delhi’s Palam Airport in darkness at 8 pm local time. Kids had been sleeping when the plane landed and were a biz dazed. Weather as hot and humid. Were met by Dr. Leonard (Chief of Party), his wife and a Dr. Florell, who is TCM Secondary Education Advisor. Minutes prior to our landing a BOAC plane had come in. Immigration facilities are far from modern and baggage from both planes were mixed together. At first stage passports were examined at length, forms were filled out by me, checked and re-checked by an official, much stamping and re-stamping in passports, forms, etc. Registration papers for the kids were filled out and their passports temporarily held while we went from there to customs arena, reigned over by a slight-sari’ed, high-voiced, aggressive little woman who looked more American than Indian. Men in both Western and Indian dress were handling paperwork, peons were involved with luggage. When baggage was finally pointed out (with much misunderstanding) and collected in one place there arose the question of declaring record player (220V-50 cycle – $22 from Hong Kong), 2 portable typewriters (we got another, a baby Royal, after I last wrote – $50) and my Exakta. Official wanted to charge duty on these items – actually TCM people’s effects of this kind are not dutiable unless sold in India. But this took a long while, contact with another official, much confusion, and finally the impounding of these items in customs pending further forms and signatures from TCM and the Shipping Section of the American Embassy. I finally got these forms fully processed yesterday and am still waiting for the things to be picked up by the American Embassy Shipping Section and delivered to the Contract Coordination Office at TCM, where I will pick them up. Some day they’ll come through. Hence this handwritten letter.

The Leonards drove us to our present, temporary location at #1 Mansingh Road. This is an “apartment hotel” run by a tall, big Portuguese man, 70-some years old, bald, paunchy, vigorous, – Mr. Fonseca. There are several buildings – a huge 2-storied affair and several one-story “cottages.” We live on the second floor in Apt. 4. A winding staircase of 30 steps leads up to the 2nd floor, and a walk down the corridor brings you to us. The living room is huge, and all the ceilings are high – about 20 feet. The living room is about 21’ x 27’. Our bedroom is about 12 x 15 and the kids’ room (they sleep together) is small – 9’ x 12’.

A plan would look like this:


The place is very interesting, hardly modern. The hot and cold water come into the bathtub from faucets external to the tub; when you pull the stopper the water runs out of no pipe onto the cement floor and goes out a hole in the floor presumably to a drain pipe. A cement rim keeps the water from running all over the floor. The toilet has an overhead tank. You pull a chain, hold it for 4-5 seconds and then release it. We pay 110 rupees/day. A rupee is 21 cents, so that is roughly $23.00/day which includes 3 meals a day for the four of us, plus coffee for us and juice for the kids at 7 am and tea for us and juice for the kids at about 4 pm. For a period of three months, temporary allowance covers $15/day, so our cost is $8/day or $224/month. Cost of servant (bearer) is pro-rated between apartments at $5.25/month, sweeper $4/month, Ayah (nurse – Anita will describe) $30/month, miscellaneous $20/month – Total cost to us is about $288/month. Less of course, the $150 we get from our Boulder Rd. rent. [note added by Anita: “Not quite – we pay a mortgage in Penn.”] Air conditioning is central, overhead fans in most rooms, and one air-conditioner in the kids’ room. Everything works when the current is on, which it has mainly been. More about electric power and current later.

We may be here for three months, since homes are extremely difficult to obtain and most people have to wait that long. In all areas current and water are sporadic and unpredictable. Current is rationed and is continually shunted from one area to another. In an extreme case, one family’s home gets water three 15-minute periods a day, the first at 5 am. They will all the tubs, containers, etc. and get along. In most cases, while unpredictable, water and current are definitely more available than this, altho many homes are allotted 1 KW of power which will run one air-conditioner when the refrigerator is unplugged. An American needs at least 5 KW power, which makes house-getting more difficult. Upstairs flats lose water pressure first and thus more frequently do without. Yet everyone gets along.

Cost of housing is high and going up. Within our housing allowance of $3,000/year (not applicable to our present apartment) we can spend 900 rupees to 950 rupees for rent. Above that we begin to dip into our own funds. Present availability seems to run about 1200 to 1500 rupees in less desirable places. People have looked for us to no present avail and this afternoon we are engaging an agent, O.P. Gupta, who has been recommended. Since this is a long process we expect to be here at 1 Mansingh for at least two to three months. Mail still goes to TCM American Embassy address.

Work, so far, has been nil. I’m still going through the “check-out factory” – a list of places, forms, etc. to be systematically pursued until complete. More of this later.

Weather has been pleasant. The first monsoon rains came yesterday, “a week early.” Nothing more than heavy thundershowers. Today, after a few showers, the sun is bright again but soon the rains will come. From description, the word “monsoon” is a romanticization in these parts for intermittent heavy showers.

People are fascinating – large numbers westernized but large numbers of National Geographic types as well. Bullocks, carts, cars, 3-wheel motorcycle jitneys, Lambrettas, bicycles, skeletonized people on foot and pulling 2-wheel carts abound. Huts, shantys, holes in the wall, tents, fancy homes, hotels are striking contrasts; American embassy is magnificent, gorgeous. (more later) Bird life is beautiful. Cute little chipmunks are rampant.

The kids are well and happy, sleep and eat well, speak of you all and Doug and Kenny and Jon’s school friends very often.

Love from all of us and we hope you are all well. Will give more detail of a thousand things as I can get to it.

Gene and Anita

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