Speaking of budget, it is never enough. Someday, Inshallah I will be able to go to a real estate agent and say “I am willing to pay 20,000 USD per month” (or come to think of it, I will be so rich, I won’t need to fucking rent but just go with me on this). I bet you anything she will show me at least one place with leaks or say, an extremely tacky and irremovable decoration. And when I complain about it, she will say “your budget not enough, cannot find”.
When it comes to ruining your sense of self-worth, Singapore takes the cake. Apartment hunting in Singapore was way more irritating and humiliating because landlords were so racist and judgmental. Casa and I were turned away just for being Indian. In that sense, hunting in New York and Hong Kong are similar. No one seems to give a fuck who you are. I have been asked my name and I volunteer information like my profession and how long I have been here and that seems to suffice. I have outright said that I love to cook and no one has yet said to be “Then the house smell like curry all the time”. There is a certain cordiality to renting here that is absent in Singapore.
My agent until yesterday did not know my nationality. She has not scoffed at my budget either like agents in Singapore used to but that is not to say that the apartments I have seen are good. Space is at such a frustratingly high premium here. If the apartment, by some stroke of genius, is larger than usual, it will be laid out in the most bizarre fashion. I saw an apartment yesterday with a gigantic shoe cabinet placed exactly where one would expect to arrange the TV/media cabinet. Why would someone want the shoe cabinet to be the focal point of the living room? (don’t answer that). I felt like I was playing the world’s hardest sudoku as I tried to mentally map out where all my ginormous furniture would go.
And that’s the other issue. My ginormous American furniture (well not really, it is still New York size, not California size and there is a huge difference!). My real queen-sized (not HK queen sized) bed, my amazing cloud-like cream sofa, my adult sized circular dining table with chairs (not a 2 feet by 2 feet over-tall side table with folding flaps) and over 6-feet long chest of drawers. Barring the last item, the rest I have paid top-dollar for, full price, and my heart bleeds at the thought of letting it go not only because I curated them immaculately with a view of keeping them long-term but also because selling and re-buying feels utterly wasteful. I am somewhat prepared to give up some of it but I am not at all ready to give up all of it. I have seen unfurnished apartments that don’t fit my furniture and furnished ones that don’t fit my taste.
And there’s more. You must know by now that I live to cook and to eat. My ideal kitchen is one with enough hobs to cook 3 dishes simultaneously, an oven that I can bake in and enough space to fit both my unimaginably large collection of ingredients from around the world as well as the unbridled passion I cook with. To me a beautiful home is a beautiful kitchen. I have seen one or two otherwise perfect apartments, some even with their rooftop terraces and barbecue grills but with kitchens that just don’t make sense. The part of me that wants to throw parties and entertain people is at extremely ironic odds with the part of me that wonders what food will be served at said parties. It is dismal that so few of us cook these days. An induction hob, a microwave oven and a sink about the size of a salad bowl dont’ a kitchen make.
So I guess I am ultra high maintenance and too poor to afford what I want. I have seen places that a younger me with less literal and figurative baggage might have jumped in glee for. But this 30 year old wants a home that she desperately looks forward to coming home to at the end of an imperfect day. She wants wardrobes that can fit her hundred dresses and sixty shoes, she wants to cook her unduly elaborate weekday dinner in a clean and convenient kitchen and dine on firm wooden chairs, she wants to watch TV from her perfectly deep sofa and sleep on her pillowtop bed. She wants to wake up with the sunrise and gaze at the sea outside.
She loves to spend time at home and wants excuses to stay in, not excuses to leave. And she desperately clings on to the hope that this will be possible.