So, the night in shining armor arrives–Pankaj.
Right away, there were necessities that had to be purchased. Pankaj lived in a small, two-story house in town with an air conditioner in one room-his bedroom. This is where the family slept: him, his wife and daughter, and his paralyzed, bed-ridden mother. Obviously, his mother couldn’t tolerate six new additions to her living space-especially the five rambunctious kids-so she let us know in no uncertain terms one day by scooting step by step on her backside downstairs to the other bedroom. So there she stayed and she needed to have an a/c to keep her comfortable–and of course, we paid for it.
From there the expenses snowballed. We felt that because we didn’t know a bit of Hindi (at the time-which in that small town of Ferozepur was a very big deal because not many people knew good English), renting a house for the kids and I to stay in was not as good an idea as staying with Pankaj (who would always be right there to help us). So we decided to stay with Pankaj and because we knew that we would be there for at least a year and that the kids needed an actual sleeping place (other than on pallets on the floor). We were told that building a room on the top of his house would not be that costly. We were given estimates and felt that the amount was reasonable and we started the project.
Perhaps unlike a project here in the States where estimates are usually in the same ballpark as the final cost, things in India are a bit different. There are several different people involved in a building project from the man that you get the cement from, to the carpenters, masons, and plumbers. The mason gives you an estimate as to how much cement, bricks, and other materials he will need. But the price balloons up from there depending on the time it takes and the materials he needs. The whole time, it was most likely that Pankaj was pocketing quite a bit of money himself and would often tell us that the mason or the plumber or the carpenter said he needed more materials and so in order to get the room finished in a timely manner, we had to “make it happen”–as my husband likes to put it.
So as you can imagine, I began to feel like we were being put in a cider press and being squeezed of any money that we had coming in. This was the biggest factor in why came back to the States, forcing us to put our dream of an Indian education for our kids on the backburner–for now.