Teaser 276: The Renovation Amusement Never Ends

Our next stop, with Ram accompanying us, was with village authorities. We would need a construction permit for our plans. The man in charge was very accommodating and quite efficient. We already had our corporation charter drafted and the attorney was in the process of filing it appropriately so the man simply wrote up our permit using the corporation name, India Ventures, Inc., with Omar and I listed as principals. It was a general permit for renovation and to add kitchen and cooking appliances to each room. There would be additional permits required for our plans to add solar panels and wind generators, but it could be filed at a later date when we were ready to do it. Any change in electrical wiring or plumbing would have to be performed by those properly licensed and each step inspected. Those who would be performing the work knew how to proceed with those steps, we were assured. We paid the fee and were advised to post a copy of the permit on the door of the lobby. We were all legal now. All that was left was the renovation work. Ah, the amusement never ends.

When we arrived the following morning Kumar advised we would need five rooms through the next two weeks, taking us beyond the new year, four for a week after, three for another week, then two into February. This was the extent of all their current reservations, which was typical for the time of year, being off-season for travel to Punjab province. Omar would work the hotel counter and we agreed to offer existing and arriving guests a ten percent discount and to join us for breakfast and supper in the dining room, where we would all be eating, too. We would bring in food for those meals. We offered the same meals to the crew and Kumar, and contracted with a small caterer in Kapurthala to provide these hot meals, breakfast beginning at six in the morning until nine, supper at five until eight in the evening. Once we started it for the day's supper, all the guests were pleased with the arrangement, and few complained about the noise and inconvenience. Many in the village would wander over to the hotel to check on us. Most were pleased with our plans. We couldn't keep it secret if we tried.

Omar and Darshana put the motel in Gilroy up for sale. Omar would remain in India while Darshana remained in America until the sale closed, with Omar's agreement of course. Heinz arrived a few days later, staying in one of the rooms at the hotel and Omar and I agreed the corporation would buy a larger four wheel drive sport vehicle, diesel-powered, and we soon owned one, which put Heinz to work. I, though, remained his employer, but he often drove either one of us.

The recycling organization in Kapurthala, Kumar soon discovered, would take everything we had which was still in good order. We could also use the donations for tax deduction purposes. We set one room as storage while we pulled out all the items from each room as we went, then we would fill the sport vehicle and unload at the recycle organization, and receive the necessary donation papers. It went smoothly the first week. When Kumar arrived with the rest of the crew—which included a licensed plumber—from his new residence, the manager's office would suffice for now without renovation, so we offered it to Heinz, once his family arrived for their “vacation.” There was a small bedroom in the office quarters, the kids could sleep in the main room and we'd have a roll-away bed for the girl. Heinz was happy. He knew Hilda had a great deal of worry about her husband's new working relationship. He was comfortable enough with our proposed arrangement that her worries and concerns would dissipate shortly after her arrival.

“Good,” I told Heinz. “I'm glad to hear it because I'm a firm believer in keeping the woman happy, satisfied and content. It makes a man's life less stressful.”

On my home front, Esperanza was done for the current semester and flew into Amritsar a week before Christmas. Heinz picked her up at the airport and drove her back to the hotel. When Esperanza stepped from the vehicle, looking drawn and weary from travel, I stepped out of the lobby and shouted, “Welcome, traveler, to Hotel Shanti of Subhanpur. We're making some minor changes, so I hope you'll bear with the inconvenience.”

Esperanza smiled widely, but shook her head as she walked into my open arms. “I hope you know what you've got yourself into, Al-Barrak.”

In mock disbelief I exclaimed, “The Professor doesn't know? We're sunk!” She kissed me.

Introductions to Omar and the rest came swiftly and Esperanza stated, “I suppose you need some help with this.”

“Oh, you don't need to do any work!” I advised her, loud enough so all could hear. “As my wife, all you need to do is ridicule me appropriately while continuing to look as beautiful as you always do.” That brought a round of laughter.

Esperanza frowned and patted my wildly bearded cheek. “You know I will help when I can.”

“And all of it appreciated,” I replied and kissed her.

On the other part of my home front, Magdalena had been dropped from employment, but her parents had sold their home in Germany and she was trying to keep from going stir crazy at the little cottage. I called her the night Esperanza arrived, putting her on speaker phone so Esperanza could hear and speak, too, and we all quickly came to agreement Lena's presence in Germany was no longer required. She could hold the lease at the cottage, and I suggested we would stay there when we returned to Germany for the movie premiere. “I do have a new home for you, my beloved, though it's not as comfortable as it could be, but we're getting there.”

“You should fly me out there right away, my beloved,” Lena suggested. “You don't mind if I'm there with you, Esperanza?”

“Oh, come out here, you big black doll, and make us smile.”

Days later the three of us were sharing one of the old rooms and I slept with both in the same bed. As for any informality, there was some at appropriate times and agreed by all. If I had any worry or concern about it, which I had some, it fell away by mutual cooperation. I would often observe admiringly the two women interact with each other, how each respected the other, would listen and act attentively to the other. Soon after Lena arrived I expressed my admiration with both present.

“You have heard us both talk about the other, Al, many times,” Esperanza remarked. “When I proposed, I was uncertain how Lena would respond, since it was her wedding night, but I couldn't let you go, I couldn't let the opportunity pass without doing something about it...I think I really did it then to see how Lena would react. Could we really get along sharing you, in every way?”

“You don't know this, Al,” Lena stated, smiling smugly, “because we have always agreed not to share it with you, but we talk with each other all the time, almost every day.” She glanced at Esperanza and the two suddenly burst out laughing.

“I knew then, the moment Lena welcomed me and hugged me, she would be more than a sister to me. She would always be one of my closest and treasured friends. That she would accept me so openly, to not resent me for spoiling her marriage, I knew she was exceptional.” They both stepped to each other and hugged warmly. Around Lena Esperanza caught my gaze and added, “I don't know how that could ever surprise you, Al-Barrak. Do you not attract the exceptional ones?” I never had a chance to answer. Both laughed contagiously and ceaselessly so long I walked out of the room shaking my head in solid defeat.

All of the smaller rooms were the same dimensions with the same layouts, some in reverse. Lena grabbed a tape measure, drew up measurements for one of the rooms, then drew up a layout with a desk and chair, another table and chair, a dresser, a room air conditioner mounted below a window, a flat-screen television mounted on the wall opposite a bed, a refrigerator, sink and counter, stove, oven, microwave, and cabinets. She and Heinz drove into Kapurthala that day and she started comparing options, writing out all the dimensions of each in a notebook, and eventually figured exactly what would fit. Each room would be cramped but every one would be a complete living space. It was quite efficient, though. She had an entire pantry area from floor to ceiling in the corner, the refrigerator fitting in the surrounding cabinets and pantry, the counter next to it so the resident could simply open the refrigerator and place the contents on the counter right next to it. The sink was next with the stove and oven last. The microwave was attached to the cabinets above the stove, with a fan under the microwave which directed any heat or fumes through a vent behind the microwave and cabinets, connecting to the vent for the toilet to the roof. We were all greatly impressed.

The larger rooms had the same essential arrangement with a second dresser and bed, an enclosed space for the water heater with a door for access, a larger refrigerator with an ice maker, and a longer counter. The bathroom in the larger rooms was bigger, too, with more storage, but more spacious. They were still a bit cramped but the larger rooms could accommodate a family of four easily, and more if necessary because there was room for two rollaway beds.

We usually worked on rooms next to each other. It was simply easier to do all the electric and plumbing in skeletal walls. There was very little structural work to repair. The vast majority of the studs were in excellent shape and most of the flooring was in good condition. As we got moving with tearing up, adding electric and plumbing, I researched with Ranjit's electrician the options for solar panels and we ordered them for delivery to a vendor in Kapurthala, who delivered the boxes when they all arrived. The electrician and I met with the village to go over our plans, which also required some people from the electric company on-site when we were ready to hook it into the electric boxes. When we were ready it took an hour. Excess electricity from the solar panels was drawn by the electric company and they paid us. There was never a month, even in summer with blistering one hundred degree days or more, when the electric company failed to owe us money. Overcast days required us to draw electricity from the company but those days in any month were always offset by the days we could use the solar panels. We would add the wind generators in late summer. When those went online Hotel Shanti became a serious electricity generator. I really wanted to disconnect the electric company altogether, but since they were paying us, and we had sufficient surge protection from their connection, Omar and I decided to leave it as is. In less than three years the electric company paid us for the solar panels and wind generators. After, both electricity generating additions made us money.

- Just Desserts, Segment Thirty-ThreeJourney to India” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

contact me, as always: schussprose@gmail.com