Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Tenant? No, you have no rights.

The good feeling about this year is quickly fading. Remember the obstacles I mentioned in my last post? Yes, they are making their presence felt.

I’ve said this before and I can’t say it enough—being a single, professional girl living in Mumbai is anything but fun and easy. I’m not discounting the fun bit, but it is hard. For some reason, because you come from outside the city and you’re not married, people judge you. People who you think are probably not so judgemental, judge you and how. Of course, I am also blindly following stereotypes by believing that certain communities are not judgemental, but now I know better.

If you are a single person from outside Bombay, living on rent, beware—you must not have friends or a social life. You must also have a job wherein you can be back home by 6pm (which means please get out of office by 5-5:30pm, given the duration of travel in this city), and once home, please stay put and do not exit the building. God forbid you have friends over for dinner, it will be instantly assumed that you are drinking, taking drugs, having loud, wild, trippy rave-like parties, even though, miraculously, you cannot be heard. But considering that your neighbours have their ears peeled to your wall, you are in trouble.

It doesn’t matter if you come from good, decent, well-to-do, cultured families in a different part of the country. Once you come to Bombay as a single person, you become a whore, someone brought up in a jhopar-patti, someone with no values, and someone who leads a life of no purpose or direction. You are a tenant and an outsider, so you are a nobody with no rights. Make no mistake that just because you are paying rent and a deposit, and not living in a hostel or paying guest accommodation, that you have the same rights as your neighbours, who ‘own’ their apartments, and hence the building, society and all moral judgment. You are not like any other citizen in this democratic (this word is as always, used fast and loose)—you have no rights. I have been told this point blank – no joke.

People sometimes amaze me. I am blessed with a family who has always *always* been supportive of all my decisions and actions. As a result of which, I have *never* had to lie to my folks. When I started dating, I would bring the boyfriends home; when I started smoking, I would smoke in my own house and though it wasn’t discussed openly till recently, I never had to lie. When I turned 18, my dad took me for a drink; any other *personal* situations could always be discussed with my mom (and I mean, anything). My sister of course, has always been and continues to be my best friend, my rock-solid pillar of support and the one who will fight the world to protect me. My family always told me, tell us the truth rather than lie and do things behind our backs. And I did, to the point where today, I am the worst liar on the surface of this planet.

So understandably, if I am not lying to my own family, I find it wrong and painful to have to lie to other people’s families, to landlords and to neighbours. I’m not a drunk, I’m not a slut and I’m not a bum. I’m an independent adult, earning my own living, leading my own life. The values in me have been inculcated by my grandfather, so I know I cannot be wrong on that front.

So how then, do people, on the pretence of society, values and ethics, become better than me by poking their noses into other people’s business; by making the lives of others hell; by bitching to some people about certain others, etc.? How is it that just because they have monthly EMIs on their heads, rather than a monthly rent, like me, they become more cultured, valued and powerful? I have my own house in my home city too; that doesn’t mean that I’m better than my neighbours who are tenants.

It is because of people like this that rapes are condoned in this country. If a girl has boys over at her place, she becomes a whore and then if she is raped, even if it’s outside her home, she was asking for it. I won’t be unfair; it’s not like all the landlords I’ve dealt with in my last eight years in this city has been so—but you’d be surprised at what people can be like. At least I am.

The only good thing is that because I’m a tenant, I’m not rooted to one place. I don’t have to deal with troublesome, small-minded neighbours, and spineless, stereotypical landlords—I can walk away as I please. So, I guess it’s time to walk. 

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