Yuni-Net (Yuni-Netemail@example.com) is the Yahoo group that has been created by and for foreigners in India. It is a place to chat, to trade, and to whinge. Nobody I’ve spoken to is sure why it is called ‘Yuni-Net’, (perhaps it translates as ‘lost’ in Icelandic?), but it is certainly true that any foreigner planning to be in Delhi for the long haul will sign up at some point. Things you may obtain from Yuni-Net include: Hindi teachers, art supplies, second hand inverters, recommendations for drivers and maids, tips on where to buy good chocolate cake, a room in a house share, an invitation to a barbeque, a job...the list is endless.
I once encountered a cringe-worthy post on Yuni-Net from a girl who wanted to know where the equivalent to New York’s lower Manhattan was in Delhi. “I’m used to living in the very coolest of places and have done in Amsterdam, London and New York City”, she said. Later that day I overheard a group of European expats in a bar laughing about that same post. They couldn’t believe how naive she was either. It is a very public forum, the Yuni-Net community is expansive.
It is also not exclusive to foreigners. I once attended a house sale on one of the primmest streets in civilised Vasant Vihar in response to a post on Yuni-Net. I expected a gentle sale in the garden, full of Delhi newcomers pottering about, perhaps out to buy a set of knives and forks or contemplating putting an offer in for a wicker chair or two. Instead the place had transformed itself into a furious out-door auction. The family’s unwanted processions had been separated into lots and a band of rowdy local shop keepers were standing on a garden bench shouting at the self appointed auctioneer.
Unsurprisingly for a network that exists predominantly for a transient population, a lot of furniture is bought and sold on Yuni-Net too. In this way it functions similarly to how Craigslist does in some other large cities around the world. There are some real bargains to pick up, for example, I got a very good price on a pair of electrical heaters that I bought in July (no prize for guessing why...). However, it is also a very competitive market; things come and go quickly and sellers expect fairly high prices in many cases.
I recently had a few disappointing experiences on Yuni-Net which I want to share in order that we may all learn from my silly mistakes. The first was with an air conditioning unit. After a week of negotiation with a lady in Defence Colony, I was all set to go and collect my treasure when I happened to think to ask if it was a unit for a wall. It transpired it was a window ac unit. As I had assumed otherwise, the deal was off. Clarification early on in the process would have saved us both a lot of time.
The second incident proved to be a tad more expensive and thus a lot more heart breaking. I arranged to buy two beds having been in email contact with the seller and having carefully examined the photo of the goods that was posted alongside the advertisement. Jenny had had to flee India for the States in order to tend to her sick mother. In her wake she left a flat full of furniture for the next tenant to sell on her behalf. She was unwilling to accept my lower offers for the two beds, but I trusted her and subsequently pretty much paid the asking price. The money safely transferred to her account in the US, I arranged to go round to her last residency and collect the goods. I was gutted to find the beds, not only old and tiered, but without the mattresses that they had been photographed with. I have been ripped off. The feeling of distress is deepened by the realisation that I have been betrayed by one of my own, another member of the Yuni-net community.
When considering what I have learnt through these Yuni-Net transactions, a phrase comes to mind, in the words of Mr President Reagan, “TRUST BUT VERIFY”. (Capitals applied by yours truly)