House Hunting- Finding Your Sanctuary

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By Moza Alkharusi

Delhi is a vibrant, culture-filled city that has a thriving art and food scene. Driving down Chanakyapuri (the embassy district), Lodi colony and Jorbagh, you are surrounded by a beautiful vista composed of age-old trees whose branches & leaves hanging over the road.

This picture repeats itself on most roads of central Delhi’s.

When I saw this, I immediately knew I wanted to settle here and not Gurgaon, where my husband would be working and where many international corporations have their head offices, making it popular with ex-pats. Although Gurgaon has many advantages, including high rise developments on golf courses and community-style living.

“My home is my sanctuary,” and “home is where the heart lies.”

These are old phrases that resonate with me, which means my home is probably the most essential part of my happiness, wherever I settle. This is something I had to do 9 times in the last 16 years. Believe me, when I say, I’ve become a pro at finding the right place to call home wherever I go.

I began my hunt online while I was still living in Dubai, I searched Google and other property platforms but unfortunately, it got me nowhere. At one point I came across a ‘farmhouse’ that didn’t really embody my definition of what a farmhouse should be instead I was directed to a huge mansion with sprawling lawns and a private swimming pool!  It was way over my budget and too far away from school and with the people I knew who lived in Delhi or still living there, like my cousin whose husband is in the foreign service and had been living in Delhi for over 7 years so I gave up the farmhouse idea. My cousin chose to live in Visant Vihar because it is close to the embassy district and the American Embassy School where her daughter studied. She provided me with invaluable resources in helping me narrow down my search and local insight into the pros and cons of the different areas of Delhi. 

It was vital for me to first determine what my family’s priorities were. As with any move to a new city, it was necessary to consider the different factors and challenges that the city holds

for us: space, proximity to school, building quality, and accessibility to shopping areas and activities were key.

As the most popular areas amongst expats to live are Vasant Vihar, West End, Shanti Niketan, Anand Niketan, Chanakyapuri (Malcha Marg), Hauz Khas, Defence Colony, Jorbhag, Golf links, Lodhi Colony, Panchsheel Enclave and Panchsheel Park, I started my search in these areas and factored the following critical preferences:

Space: Being a large family of six (two teenagers, a tween and an energetic 7-year-old), I needed space. I had enjoyed living in a small community in Bangalore and Dubai and was looking for something similar. However, I found that unlike Gurgaon, Delhi’s housing is mainly comprised of apartments. Therefore, having any kind of outdoor space was a luxury and indoor space a priority. I needed 5 bedrooms, so that was a challenge as apartments on the market consisted mainly of 3/4 bedrooms.

Proximity to school: I have 4 kids in different classes with demands! I needed to consider how long it would take to get to school and measured the traffic from different locations using Google Maps. Most schools have school busses, and after speaking to many parents, they didn’t think that distance is an issue as long as the kids had company. However, some families living in Gurgaon mentioned a significant drawback, they (the parents) hardly came into central Delhi to interact with the school community or attend Delhi events as their kids went to school on the bus.

Building quality: Primarily, I looked for a house built or renovated within the last 5 years for two simple reasons; building upgrades (such as elevator access, ventilation within apartments) and air quality control.  Many of the older apartments and houses in Delhi have these beautiful wooden window frames that add a lot of charm to the facade of the house but terrible for Delhi’s highly polluted air quality! Therefore, double glazing was a must to seal our home from pollution and dust especially since my daughter is asthmatic.    

Accessibility: I love exploring markets, restaurants, and anything that is happening in the city. Staying central in the “action” was for my benefit and sanity. It was not a deal-breaker when looking for a house. Still, I knew I would be happier if the mall was less than 15 mins away, or the expat grocery store, a gym, bakery, cafes were close by.

I dealt with three real estate agents and I looked at a total of 140 apartments. Yes, one hundred and forty! I honestly felt remorseful for the agents, but that is what it took to find a place I could be call home. I found a beautiful five-bedroom modern apartment with a basement and separate entrance in Panchsheel Park.  Again, my home is my sanctuary.

I once read a quote that said “A living space should be a sanctuary. It has to be place where you can reflect on your life.”

I needed a place where I could forget about the dust, heat, traffic, noise, and mayhem, and reflect on what an amazing day I had exploring and being one in this vibrant city that is Delhi. My Home.

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