Our landlord showed up last night and announced his outrageous 8% increase in our rent.
We gave him some juice, smiled and nodded, then promptly decided ~ after he left ~ that we would give ourselves the next few weeks to look for a little house to buy, so we can move out as quickly as possible from our current abode.
When we first moved here to Pakistan back in 2008, we initially lived with my wife’s grandparents ~ two incredible individuals who will enter their 90’s next year. Living with them was naturally delightful, especially seeing the dynamic between them and our daughters ~ but the living arrangement also proved to be quite challenging.
Being elderly, with a good degree of economic stability (by local standards) my wife’s grandparents home infrastructure includes the overseeing of several live-in domestic workers: a personal assistant, a gardener, two drivers, a cook and an errand boy. Most of these fine folks have worked at the household for upwards of 20-25 years and are like family. However, for a man such as myself who is personally very passionate about self-reliance…and grew up in a household where my parents had a deep sense of resourcefulness, independence and work-ethic…the idea of having live-in domestic help was very difficult for me to accept and adjust to.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not adverse to asking for help when needed, and compensating such help fairly. I sometimes pay for studio production assistance… I have a friend here who is a professional driver whom I often pay to drive me the hair-raising three hour journey to Islamabad airport…. and my wife and I even pay a delightful young lady to tutor our three year old each morning (helping our little one to constantly improve upon her Urdu, Hindco, alphabet and also teaching her local folk songs, dances, crafts and knowledge about the environment that we could simply not impart ourselves. ) But one personal philosophy I hold dearly is: if I can do something, I should not ask or expect another person to do it for me. If I can’t do something, I should learn how to do it for myself.
Only if a task is completely out of my emotional, intellectual or physical ability, or if its need is of utmost urgency, will I ask for or hire help. This carries over even to my relationship with my wife, whom I try to avoid asking too many favours of ~ even if they are things as small as ,”Can you please pass me that fork?”
So, after getting out of the shower at my wife’s grandparent’s house ~ one too many times ~ to find somebody in my room straighten pillows or shining my shoes, we decided it was time to get our own place. Not only that, for my home recording studio, quiet is of the utmost importance and the chaos of so many live-in staff made solitude an impossibility.
Until we decided where and what sort of house to buy or build, we opted to rent the upper story of a house, only 5 minutes walk from my wife’s Grandparents. It’s a lovely place, on the edge of town, surrounded by fields and a gorgeous view. We’ve been here almost three years and have the best of both worlds: we have our independence (an orange tree, small herb a garden, compost pit, a fledgling plant nursery on the back terrace and, of course, my home recording studio), but we are just 5 minutes walk to the Grandparent’s loving company ~ where we also have a garden and room to run.
Initially, we had hoped to build our own little house off the grid… but as time goes by we have decide that now is just not the right time in our lives for building our own house from scratch. Neither of us has it in us to be micro-managing architects, contractors or construction crews… and my dream of building a log cabin with my own hands isn’t practical here (I’m saving that for down the road when I get my little spot of land in either New Brunswick Canada or Colorado, USA – God willing!) My wife and I also still love to travel and don’t want for a big home or roots too deep in the earth. Of pressing desire to us now, at this stage in our life, is simply getting out from under a landlord ~ taking our self-subsistence to a new level.
That said, we will not jump from the shackles of a landlord to the chains of a bank manager. As my personal philosophy also rejects taking loans with interest or buying on credit (i.e.. things I can’t afford in cash) we’ve been saving and saving these past few years and feel we’re finally ready to take the plunge now and put that savings into a little place of our own… motivated even further by our landlord’s lovely 8% increase. Now ~ I should point out that, our rent here is very low by US or European standards, so an 8% increase is not really a substantial amount of money in US dollars. But, on principal ~ it is our landlord’s action we so detest. Here in a country where the majority of people live on approximately $1.50 per day, and where hyper inflation keeps millions from being able to afford basic necessities like flour, sugar and clean water… to up the rent of a family by 8%, just because you know they can afford it, is, we believe, quite a sad reflection of the greed that exists here in Pakistan among the wealthy. And imagine our discontent ~ consenting to pay such an increase when we know so many of our neighbours struggle to make ends meet.
In the world today, may people with wealth have embraced a trend in “Green living” – aiming to live “off the grid”, “eat organic” and “simplify” their lives. The noble intention is shared by my wife and I, however, sometimes I feel that people go about the process ass-backwards ~ thinking such a life-style can just be “bought”. A million dollar piece of land with goe-thermal heating, solar panels, rain-water harvesting pumps and eco-friendly building materials valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars builds a nice eco-friendly mansion that looks cool in the latest Going Green Magazine… but where is the philosophy of “Simple Living”? Where is the art of frugality? And how can such an approach be accessible to others who don’t have access to such funds?
My wife and I could just accept the 8% increase and stay in our rental place, then use the earnings of my US based music business over the next few years to build an amazing house in Pakistan….off the grid with all the latest imported European eco-friendly materials… we could probably even pay peanuts to locals to do the construction for us and pay dirt to a live-in staff who’d maintain it for us. But that wouldn’t be “Simple Living” in my opinion. That would be gross extravagance and injustice. Instead, we choose to live on as little as possible, opting to do other more useful things with our money. Why give an 8% increase to a landlord when it could go to a much better personal need or social cause?
…and so the adventure begins my friends: House hunting.
We’ve lined up our first viewings for some local little places this Saturday.
God willing – if we can secure a place in coming weeks/months, I have promised my daughter chickens and a goat will soon be moving in with us….rent free.