Samantha was excited about her selection in a premiere institute in Mumbai. She had been looking forward to enroll for this course which was sure to catapult her career to great heights. Only the fineprint on the offer letter was a cause of worry: no hostel facilities.
Convincing her parents that she would soon rent an apartment, Samantha booked a hotel for a week and came down to the financial capital of India. The hotel staff assisted her with a pickup from the airport, and hire a cab for her daily errands in the city.
Her admission formalities complete, Samantha decided to check out some apartments for her to stay during the six months her course. The driver introduced her to a real estate broker, who took her around. Samantha had a tough time selecting her den. She came back next day, and the next, and finally, seemed to zero in on a cosy studio apartment near her institute. From her recent experience, she knew that the rent demanded by the landlord was on the higher side, but she chose to ignore that. Well, till the bombshell burst.
“Two years’ rent in advance, please”, demanded the landlord.
“But, I am going to stay six months!!”
“In that case, I can consider advance rent for one year, that’s all.”
“But, I am going to stay six months!!”
The broker seemed unruffled and informed her that it was a usual custom in Mumbai. Samantha knew that her savings and scholarship combined would not be enough to pay so much security plus brokerage to the agent.
Dejected, she went back to her hotel room to contact her friends online. The issue of accommodation was troubling her and she needed some good ideas. She could not stay within the confines of her hotel for six months, for sure.
While surfing, she chanced upon a website that offered accommodation in homestays in various cities. Its like being a paying guest, wherein you may share the apartment with the landlord or have it all to yourself. You could cook as per your choice, have complete privacy, a separate entry and freedom to return at any time of the day. What is more, you are very safe. Just in case you need any guidance or help, the hosts would be more than happy to assist you. The charges seemed lesser than that of her hotel’s, and surely, no one asked for hefty security deposits!
Samantha listed out her options in Mumbai, identified the one best located for her purpose, and went to check it out the very next morning. Unlike the formal greeting of her hotel receptionist, she was extended a warm welcome by an elderly couple. It was a duplex apartment, and the upper floor was converted into a homestay. Samantha fell in love with the garden, the spacious bedroom, the balcony bathed with sunlight and spic and span house. She shifted in shortly after that.
She had a study and a bedroom upstairs to herself. When she came down for dinner, her hosts treated her to a local cuisine, which was tasty, yet very light. They enquired about her experience, and without realizing when, Samantha opened up and became very comfortable with them. There was a full time cook cum care-taker, who enquired of her breakfast preferences.
Next morning, not only was breakfast ready for her at the table, there was a lunch pack for her to carry. Samantha had some things to buy, and her hosts helped her to chalk out a plan for the day, guiding her about the best places to go to, and by what mode. They even handed her a pocket size road map.
At the end of the day, she had come back tired, but with a hoarde of questions. The elderly couple answered her queries, as well as some interesting facts about prominent buildings, and likewise.
Samantha’s studies were very demanding, and she would have to stay up at night often. Much to her surprise, a flask full of steaming coffee would be sent up to her even without asking for it. And during her exams, the lady would perform a small religious action and put a mark on her forehead to bring her luck.
Although there was a television and a refrigerator in her room, she was allowed to watch some shows with the family and use their fridge. She was allowed to bring some of her friends over too. On weekends, the couple would encourage her to explore the city to the fullest.
Six months went by as if in a moment. While leaving, Samantha felt as if she was leaving part of her family behind. The couple had presented her a small idol of Lord Ganesha, the god of prosperity, a gift she cherishes till date. When she looks back on her stay in Mumbai, she wonders how light her expenses was on her stringent scholarship dependent budget, yet how warm, safe and hygienic her stay had been.
Homestays are still a nascent concept in India. But as in the case of Samantha, they offer a suitable option for students from various countries coming to study in India. In an unknown country, homestays create home like comfort, safety and warmth at a very nominal cost. They act as nodes of exposure to the local culture and tradition, guidance and flexibility.
We, at The Other Home, have a bounty of homestays at prime locations in various cities all over India. We have personally cross checked each property registered with us, and approve them only once we are satisfied. We encourage all students, or persons on limited budget to stay in homestays and get a first hand experience of the real India.