I had 20 odd days left till the deadline finally reached realisation. Procrastinating for so long on the hopes of real estate sites, I finally downloaded a couple of them; 99 acres, No broker, and Sulekha. Even though a lot of options on the sites looked feasible, one call to the owner brought me back to reality. And tired of this fruitless search, I went ahead and hired a broker.
After filling out a form and making them more aware of my preferences, we set out on the tedious journey of finding me a shelter. Most of the houses we saw that day were covered in what looked like soot hiding some garish colour. The area in which these beautiful specimens were located boasted the perpetual mixed scent of raw meat and excreta. The selling point, of course, would be “no restrictions”.
I looked angrily at my form, thinking of adding a couple more preferences than the necessary three: no restrictions on account of being a single woman, pets allowed and low deposit. And with each refusal, I see the irked broker becoming more and more impatient. Though in all sincerity, the standards of the choices given kept depleting.
One of the shelters in Kasturinagar had one window in the whole house, not in the bedroom, kitchen, or hall; but the bathroom. When called dingy, the lady took offense and started spitting on the staircase that hardly lived up to its name.
In another one, on Swami Vivekananda Road, the resident had to go through the kitchen every time they had to answer nature’s call, as the bathroom was adjoined to the kitchen. In fact, they shared a washbasin in that 200 sq. ft.of shelter.
The broker, Stephen, was reprimanded. His already puffed up face took on a crimson appearance, resembling our endearing nickname for him, Steambun. He looked at me hopefully and tried to justify the situation. “Madam, your problem is that you are a single woman, that too with a dog, and without an attractive sum of deposit. No one wants to take the responsibility.”
My entire list of preferences or requirements was summed up into problems, and all I could manage was, “What responsibility?” He shrugged and smiled. He thought I was ignorant and I thought he was a dimwit.
New day, new area, new broker. We set out on the familiar cycle. The first house, near HAL 2nd stage,was perfect, existing within its own space on the terrace. The owner, Mr R, indulged us with his appearance. And despite the probing questions, I was tired and more than willing to settle for this first viable option.
Mr R, meanwhile, had started corroborating his life story in the tumultuous world of chartered accountancy. He regained my attention when he said, “I am okay with single woman living as my tenant. In fact, before you, the resident here was a lady advocate. There are hardly any rules or restrictions, since you are paying the rent”.
I was grateful and relieved. “You should get rid of the dog, though”, he continued. “When I was your age, I had quite a great deal of affinity for dogs. Now, I am over it. Plus, they destroy one’s house, and my wife hates cleaning up the mess”. Despite reassurances of Phoebe being a trained dog, he wouldn’t budge from his point, claiming again and again that those days of dog-loving are over.
Disappointed, we made our way to the next house. It was registered by a fellow house-hunter with a lump sum of 1000. This assures the tenant-to-be that the owner would refrain from showing this house to other potential occupants. The owner of this house, Mr C, unhappy with the given sum was more than willing to accept a larger amount if the registration was done immediately.
So we climbed the rocky terrains of the blue building, a black puppy tailing us till the terrace. Upon entering, one could hear a loud buzzing, the source of which could not be identified. The shelter consisted of an immense hall and a balcony where one could dry clothes, cook and answer their nature calls simultaneously, if need be. It was from here the buzzing originated due to the display of colourful and humming electrical wires hanging out of sockets. Needless to say, I refused to register on such short notice.
We took a turn from 100 feet road, and kept walking until we reached a neighbourhood identical to slums in contrast to the sparkling display of the aforementioned area. One of the quirks of Bangalore is discovering such areas adjacent to, or a turn away from posh localities. Mr B, the owner, came out with his whole family to greet me. Despite our feeble protests, the wife made tea for us. There was nothing striking or irregular about the property in question. It had one bedroom, one hall, a kitchen and a bathroom, each existing in its separate space.
Over tea, terms were discussed. Mr B ventured forward, “See. I am a family man”. I immediately become wary. “One has to respect the rules of the family they’re living with”. I put my cup down and joked, “But I am looking for a space of my own”. “Yes, yes, of course”, laughed Mr B, “but you are under my roof”. I look at him, confused and betrayed, waiting for him to continue. “You should always reflect on how your actions affect the family. Since you’re a girl, there’s no need to mention drinking or smoking. Yet, we hardly comprehend the mistakes we are making at such an age”. He glances at my “male” friend and smiles. “No boys allowed after 6:00 p.m. It’s for your own safety”, he said and smiled pathetically.
I muttered my apologies, and walked out the door, without noticing or caring if my friend or the broker followed my suit. I had two more days to go. The present owner has already lived up to the reputation, and threatened me twice about the extension. The broker came out, flashing me an angry glance. “This was a good house, madam”, he said. “With your budget, what palaces do you expect?”
“I expect decent living conditions, and since I’m paying the rent I want the same freedom as any other tenant in their own house”, I shouted.
New day, new area, new broker, this continued until I found the house I am currently living in. It’s a one bedroom apartment, with windows in reasonable places, a kitchen, a bathroom with ventilation, and a hall large enough to fit my second hand couch; where I can live as I please, while Phoebe sits next to me licking her paws and barking at strange voices beyond the closed door.