Wednesday, September 28, 2011







Are you thinking of buying a HOME in PUNE right NOW?


Firstly, please note – I said HOME not HOUSE.


A home is where you plan to live with your family. If you are thinking of buying a house for investment, or to earn money by renting out, then maybe some of the things I am going to say may not be entirely applicable.


The second important word is PUNE.


Why Pune? Unless you have got a very strong reason to settle down in Pune it is not really worthwhile to buy a home in Pune. Considering the poor infrastructure (terrible roads, traffic chaos, poor public transport and connectivity, frequent disruptions of electricity and load-shedding, water shortages, et al) and the unexceptional quality of life, the exorbitant property prices in Pune are not justified at all. Yes, you will not get value for your money in Pune as you may in some other place. Remember, Pune is no longer the charming town it used to be – I think the city has reached saturation point and is almost bursting at its seams and the infrastructure is simply not able to cope up with the burgeoning population and proliferating concrete jungle.


The third key word is NOW.


Hold your horses. Be patient. Wait for real estate prices to correct and stabilize. Like I said I am a novice, but some of my “knowledgeable” friends say that a recession is round the corner and real estate prices in Pune are going to fall.




A few years ago we attended a slick presentation by the sales team of a reputed builder trying convince a gullible young group of upwardly mobile persons to book an apartment in an upcoming project in Pune.


“It’s just a five minute drive to the Railway Station,” they said.


Today, a guy who bought an apartment there, considers himself lucky if he can reach the railway station in less than an hour negotiating the heavy chaotic traffic of Pune and with the delays at traffic jams at numerous traffic signals enroute. (Yes, the railway station is precisely 8 kilometers away, but is it possible to drive at an average  speed of 96 kmph to cover 8 Kms in 5 minutes? This may be possible on the expressway but certainly not in Pune City where you can barely get an average speed of 10 kmph).


“Beautiful green open spaces surround the project,” they said.


My friend finds himself in the midst of a concrete jungle, surrounded by a crowd of tall buildings which ensure the sun hardly ever reaches his first floor home. There is noise pollution and air pollution from the road below. Tell me, who is going to leave open spaces open anymore? If you find an open space be sure that a building will come up there or worse still a slum my proliferate rapidly covering all the left over open spaces.


This example brings me to Tip No. 1 - One Look Is Worth A Thousand Reports.


There is an ancient saying: Don’t Marry a Girl Without Seeing the Girl and Don’t Buy Land Without Seeing the Land.


Well this applies to all types of property and real estate, whether it is land, a bungalow, a row house or an apartment. You must visit the site and see the property for yourself. Also you must ensure that what you see is what you get and for this it is always better to buy a home in a project that is ready, otherwise you may in for a big surprise.


In Pune the most important aspect to consider is location. Commuting is a nightmare in Pune and things are only going to get worse. One cannot see any urgent efforts at improving the road network, and in the absence of efficient public transport, vehicles are rapidly proliferating and the traffic scene is going to get even more chaotic every passing day.


In peak hours there are continuous traffic jams and it sometimes takes me more time for me get to Koregaon Park (25 kms) from my home in Wakad than it takes me to get to Belapur in Navi Mumbai more than 100 kms away by the expressway. Petrol prices are rising day by day too.


So make sure your home is near your workplace, your wife’s office, your children’s’ schools and all the other places you are likely to frequent.




Remember it is you who are going to pay for all those fancy things in the project – and it is a maintenance headache too. Do you really require all those fancy high-tech “intelligent home” gadgets which will be rendered useless by the frequent electric power failures which prevail in Pune? The only things I find useful are generator back-up and a good gym for exercise.




Always buy a ready possession house. As I brought out earlier, things will look vastly different before and after construction. A friend who booked a house before construction started (impressed by the open fields surrounding the project) now finds himself staring into the balcony of the neighbouring building which has sprung up. Also, why take a risk in the prevailing scenario where a project may be inordinately delayed or at worst may never see the light of day?




In the English Language, the word Annexe means Extension. In Real Estate parlance the word Annexe may have different connotations, especially in Pune. Thus “Aundh Annexe” may be nowhere near Aundh, but in the back of beyond across the river, Kondhwa Annexe may be somewhere way off in Undri or Mohammadwadi, Koregaon Park Annexe may be way beyong Ghorpuri or Mundhwa and Wakad Annexe may be many kilometres away from Wakad in some out-of-the-way place. You’ve got the drift haven’t you – they just cash in on the name of the nearest upcoming or posh locality to hype their project.


Tip No. 5 – Try a DRY RUN


In fact the best thing to do is to have a Dry Run. Take a house on rent in the locality (or better still in the building complex) in which you intend to buy your home and you will experience first hand the pros and cons of living there. Like I said, don’t get carried away by all that “created” hype. Be patient. Look around. Try out some more localities or ask your friends living there. Rest assured that you will get a good deal. Everything comes to him who waits.


 Bye for now. I will share some more lessons I learnt as a novice first time home buyer right here in my blog. Till then tell me if you found my tips useful and remember the ancient saying:  Don’t Marry a Girl Without Seeing the Girl and Don’t Buy a House Without Seeing the House.


Happy House Hunting…!!!




To be continued…

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Monkey Trap - Short Fiction

A Short Story

“Come, Vijay,” Captain Naik said, leading me into his study, “I’ll show you something interesting.”

He opened a cupboard, pulled out a strange-looking contraption and laid it on the table.

I looked at the odd device, confused but curious.

The peculiar apparatus consisted of a whole hollowed-out spherical coconut shell attached to a solid iron chain, about two feet long, with a large metal stake at the other end.

“You know what this is?” Captain Naik asked me.

“No,” I answered.

“I got this in Penang when I was cadet, almost thirty years ago,” Captain Naik said, picking up the coconut in his left hand, holding the chain in his right.

He looked at me and explained: “This is a monkey trap. The hollowed-out coconut is filled with some cooked rice through this small hole, chained to the stake which is driven firmly into the ground.”

Captain Naik pointed to the small hole at the top of the coconut and said, “Look at this hole. It is just big enough so that the monkey’s hand to go in, but too small for his fist filled with rice to come out. The greedy monkey reaches in, grabs the rice and is suddenly trapped. Because his greed won’t allow him to let go of the rice and extricate his hand, the monkey remains trapped, a victim of his greed, until he is captured.”

I listened, curious.

“The monkey cannot see that freedom without the rice is more valuable than capture with it,” Captain Naik said, and then he concluded with these words addressed to me, “That’s what happens to most of us. Probably it’s the story of your life too. Think about it.”

I thought about it and said, “Suppose I quit the merchant navy. What will I do?”

“Why don’t you join me?” Captain Naik suggested, “It’s a comfortable job. It’s professionally satisfying, and you will have plenty of time for your family too. Besides, I need people like you. Of course, you won’t get your thousands of dollars, but the pay here is quite good by Indian standards.”

Captain Naik was the director of a maritime training institute in Goa, running various courses for merchant navy officers. It was a lovely self-contained campus on the shores of the Arabian Sea.

At first I wondered whether he had a vested interest, but I knew that was not true. Captain Naik had been my mentor and well-wisher; it was he who had groomed me when I had been a cadet on his ship many years ago, and always showered me with his patronage later too, when I was a junior officer. That’s why I had made it a point to visit him the moment my ship touched Murmagao port.

For the next six months, as I sailed on the high seas, I could not forget the ‘monkey trap’ – in fact, the story of the Monkey Trap haunted me.

I pondered over the matter; let the story perambulate in my mind, and one day I knew what my decision would be.

But first, I would have to discuss it with my wife.

Truly speaking, that was not really necessary.

My wife would be the happiest person on earth.

For I could clearly recall every word of that vicious argument we had just before I left my home to sail out to sea on my long eight month contract as the Master of this ship about seven months ago.

It was our tenth wedding anniversary and we had thrown a small party.

As I walked towards the kitchen door, I noticed my wife, Anjali, engrossed in a conversation with her childhood friend Meena, their backs turned toward me.

“Tell me, Anjali,” Meena was saying, “If you could live your life again, what is the one thing you would like to change?”

“My marriage…!” Anjali answered.

I was so stunned that I stopped in my tracks, dumbstruck. I recovered my wits and I turned away from the kitchen door and returned to the party.

After the party was over, I confronted Anjali, “What were you doing in the kitchen all the time with that Meena friend of yours? You should have circulated amongst the important guests,”

“I feel out of place in your shippie crowd,” Anjali answered.

“My shippie crowd…!” I thundered. “And you regret marrying me, do you?”

I paused for a moment, and then said firmly, “Listen Anjali, you better stop associating with riffraff like Meena. Please get rid of your middle-class mentality. Think of our status.”

“Riffraff…!” Anjali was staring at me incredulously, “I too was also what you call ‘riffraff’ once. And I was quite happy too with my so-called middle class mentality! What’s the use of all these material comforts and all this money and so-called status? None of it can compensate for the companionship and security of a husband. It is painful for me to stay alone for most of my life when you are away at sea. The terrible loneliness, it is corrosive; and it is eating into me. Sometimes I feel you just wanted a caretaker to look after your parents, your house, and of course, now to bring up your children; a sentry to hold the fort while you gallivant around the world for months at a time. And that’s why you married a simple middle-class girl like me; or rather you bought me! That’s what you think, isn’t it…?”

I winced when she said, ‘bought’.

But in a certain way, I knew it was true, and that is why I lost my temper and shouted, “I don’t gallivant around – It’s hard earned money I have to slog and undergo hardship for! I do it for all of you. And yes indeed! I bought you. Yes I may have bought you…but that is because you were willing to sell yourself. Remember one thing. No one can buy anything unless someone is willing to sell it.”

I instantly regretted my words realizing that they would only worsen the gaps in our relationship – gaps I had failed to fill all these ten years by expensive gifts and material comforts and gaps which kept becoming bigger and bigger with time.

That is what I was always doing – always trying to use money to fill gaps in our relationship.

And now, I was flying home after handing over command – for the last time.

This was my last ship.

I had made my decision.

It was probably the meeting with Captain Naik and the ‘monkey trap’ which clinched the issue, but my decision was final.

I had even written to him that I would be joining him at his maritime training institute in a month or so.

But I did not write or tell Anjali.

For her I wanted it to be a surprise – the happiest moment of her life!

And for me too.

I did not hire a luxury air-conditioned taxi from Mumbai airport to take me directly to my house in Pune like I always did. I knew I would have to get used to a bit of thrift and frugality and have a less lavish lifestyle in the future.

So, from Mumbai airport, I took a bus to Dadar Railway Station and caught the Deccan Express at seven in the morning.

I was travelling light – no expensive gifts this time, and it being off-season, I was lucky to get a seat in an unreserved second-class compartment.

When I reached home at about lunch time, I was shocked to find my wife Anjali missing.

My old parents were having lunch by themselves; my children were at school.

When Anjali arrived at two in the afternoon, I was stunned by the metamorphosis in her appearance – designer dress, fashionable jewellery, hair done up, fancy make-up – painted like a doll; in short, the works.

“What a surprise!” she exclaimed on seeing me. “Why didn’t you call up and tell us you were coming…?”

“Anjali, I want to talk to you. It is something important,” I said.

“Not now,” she said, almost ignoring me. “I am already late. I just came for a quick change of clothes. Something suitable for the races…”

“Races…?” I asked flabbergasted as I could not believe my ears.

“Don’t you know? Today is Derby Day – I am going to see the Pune Derby at the Turf Club in the afternoon. Mrs. Shah is coming to pick me up. You know her, don’t you…the one whose husband is working in the Gulf. And you better buy me a new car.”

“New car…?” I asked dumbfounded.

“The old one looks cheap. I hate to be seen in it. It doesn’t befit our status at all. We must have something good – the latest luxury limousine. I know we can afford it.”

The next few days passed in a haze of confusion, punctuated by one surprise after another from Anjali. She wanted a deluxe flat in one of those exclusive townships, to send our children to an elite boarding school in Mussoorie, membership to time-share holiday resorts, a farmhouse near Lonavala, and so on and on – her demands were endless.

And in between she would ask me, “Vijay, I hope you are happy that I am trying to change myself. I am getting rid of my stupid middle class mentality. It’s all for your sake. You were right. It is money and status that matter. Without a standard of living, there can be no quality of life…!”

I did not know whether to laugh or cry.

That she was once a simple domesticated middle-class girl whose concept of utopia was a happy family life was now but a distant memory to her.

Anjali was no longer the simple girl I once knew - she has metamorphosed into a high-society wife.

To ‘belong’ was now the driving force of her life.

I wish I could give this story a happy ending.

But I will tell you what actually happened.

First, I rang up my shipping agent in Mumbai and told him to get me the most lucrative contract to go to sea as soon as possible.

Then I wrote a long letter to Captain Naik regretting my inability to join him immediately.

But I also wrote in that letter asking him to keep his offer of the teaching job open just in case there was a reverse transformation in Anjali – back to her earlier self.

I am an optimist and I think it will happen someday.

And I hope the day comes fast – when both of us, Anjali and I, can free ourselves from the Monkey Traps of our own making.

Dear Reader, close your eyes and ponder a bit.

Have you entangled yourself in monkey traps of your own making…?

Think about it…!


And in your mind’s eye visualize all your very own self-created Monkey Traps in which you have entangled yourself.

What are you waiting for?

The solution is in your hands.

Just let go, and free yourself.

But is it that easy?

Ask yourself – What is more important: Freedom or golden manacles…?

What do you value more: standard of living or quality of life…?

I wonder if I shall ever be able to free myself from the manacles of the ‘Monkey Trap’ of my own making and can my high society wife ever become the simple middle-class girl I once knew … ?

I sometimes wonder: “Is it true that without a standard of living, there can be no quality of life ... ?”


Copyright © Vikram Karve 2011
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Did you like this story?
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About Vikram Karve 

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer. Educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures(2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories, creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional research papers in journals and edited in-house journals for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for almost 14 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts. 

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