How house hunting made us ‘hookers’!

It was one of those humid and dry Bangalore summer days when I stepped out with my friend and future roommate Manjusha to look out for accommodation in the city. The journey from Kumbalgodu to Marathalli took the two of us almost three whole hours. We weren’t discouraged as we were in one of those victorious moods – we were recruited by a leading news agency.

It was a prestigious and laudable moment in our lives; hence the long BMTC journey seemed very petty. Our bus halted at this seemingly bizarre location, which looked like a cross between a highway and an area that looked urban, called Marathalli. We were starving and hence decided to stop at a cake shop. The owner of the shop gave us the menu card and we mustered the courage to ask him about the rents of apartments around that area.

The owner asked us, “You want an apartment. Why?” We were left puzzled. Why do we want an apartment? Hmmm… because we intend to live in it! He then questioned us, audaciously, “You can choose a women’s hostel na? Why do you girls want an apartment?” His ugly smirk and bizarre question made us feel guilty. Are we not allowed to take an apartment? Are we doing something illegal? We thought that he may not answer our queries and hence swallowed our samosas and left the place.

Scene 2: Yemlur. Behind HAL airbase – a remote village which is now visited by information technology workers thanks to Divyashree Technopolis. We were thrilled at seeing our new office, but our smile was short-lived. The place was filled with small chai (tea) shops but we also found some decent looking apartments. We approached one of the owners and asked him about the rent. He remarked, “First, tell me will you have boys coming over?” We were stumped and confused as to why we were asked such absurd questions. I told him, “Sir, please tell us the rent of the place, first. We might have friends visiting us at times.” He raised his eyebrows and then told us, “No boys should come. If you assure me that, we can proceed”.

We were forced to make an unrealistic commitment. Both of us are not ‘party animals’. But we have a fair number of friends. So does that mean that when two single, working women who hire an apartment are forbidden to socialize with the world around them? We realized that it is not going to be easy to find a good house. A narrow minded society flooded with recent stories of crime against women is now scared to accept a social and professional working woman.

Our hunt became tedious; we walked around the place and randomly asked people about flats. We also asked security guards, “Bhaiya apartment khali hai kya? (Is an apartment available on rent?) With 1 or 2 bedrooms, a hall and kitchen?” Probably our randomness proved to be too risky for us as we were finally called hookers by one of the ladies who were sitting with the guards. They asked the guard, “Aei maagi gulo kothat theke aesche?” which means “From where have these hookers come?” in Bengali. Being a Bengali myself, I understood that she thought that we were hookers or maybe it is just the way they generally term any woman. But overall it was an embarrassing day!

The overload of vague questions made me think if society is unable to digest the idea of an independent woman or whether it is the string of crime stories involving women that has turned society into a wicked teacher who always has this stick in his hand to induce fear and trauma in the mind of his students. Society has forgotten that it is absolutely normal for girls and boys to have friendship, trust and love between them. It is time to splash some water on the half asleep society so that it realizes the abnormal metamorphosis of its thought process against women. This change or rather setback in attitude will not only bruise our freedom but also affect the men out there who continue to be boorish spectators to the miseries endured by the opposite sex.

This article was first published at Sneha Banerjee’s Convergence and has been reproduced here with the permission of the author.

17 Comments

  1. Bangalore is in the grip of real estate agents. There is no direct owner-tenant contact to
    negotiate the rent. These agents are also in collusion with owners to raise rentals and
    deposits, which is not found in many cities.Some owners are also afraid of putting the
    TO LET board fearing that real estate agents pester them with false statements about their
    clients.I wish some IT youth come up with an exclusive web site to connect only owners
    and prospective tenants to bring reason.

    ayyadevara

  2. Years ago me and my friends looked for apartments in Mumbai (supposedly more liberal) and faced similar issues. For many people, single woman plus erratic work hours plus male friends equals nothing but hookers! We did find wonderful landlords too but the majority treat you with suspicion right from the beginning

  3. Hi Krshna, I am sorry about what you had to go through. I guess we are among the less fortunate people who have to deal with all this. We chose to be honest about guys coming home and firends.

  4. Also, I could not get a house ultimately – looked all over JP Nagar, Jaynagar and surroundings and gave up because of the way my dignity and spirit were crushed by the questions owners asked. “No marriage aa?” “Parents yelli??” and so on.
    So I got my boyfriend to move in with me (I wasn’t even being bold, there was no way else for me). We pretended to be married – fake mangalsutra and all that. We told the owners he works in Mysore and comes home 2/3 times during the week. We were dressed real posh and threw in american accents and my boyfriend kept answering his expensive phone and they agreed.
    But it was very irritating and I feel disgusted now that I had to go through all that just to get a place to stay.

  5. Sneha, I have tried looking for a house as a single working woman and know exactly what you and your friend were up against.
    NO people, its not being conservative or careful or anything like that. Everyone knows that women keep houses well, do not trouble neighbors and in general do not trouble anybody.
    Its plain outright SMALL-MINDEDNESS and pettiness that make people treat women trying to live without AUTHORITY independently badly.
    You see if they treat us with respect, sub-consciously they have to give permission to all the women in their lives to be independent, they are agreeing that omen have a right to live as they please and there is NO WAY they’ll do that. Except for money. Anything for a good price (that means close to double the rent, or rent above 20,000 pm)

  6. We managed to get a place near Old Airport Rd. Good owners.It’s that one day that left us with bad memories.

  7. kinda depressing. Its not easy to get decent places in Yemlur .. Some apartments r coming up . Continue to check the area beyond Karnataka Bank. Dnt venture into proper yemlur. Not very safe.

  8. every society has its own way of living and judging others. Simply saying freedom of
    expression and other vocabulary used in TV and films will not get approval by many
    particularly in traditional societies. May be all the people around you have not changed as
    you think and you have to adopt.Bangalore is in transition.

  9. Well, i agree with you Sneha, but i have houses back home in Delhi, its just because of rising crime and cultural changes ppl feel safe to give it to a family, however i have seen families that make more mess than bachelors. Its equally bad for single guys here….or rather anywhere. The problem is a few who spoil it for all of us, its like saying that few muslims who become terrorists make life miserable for all around the world…

  10. We got one through Magicbricks. The broker was fortunately kind and didn’t show us lodges. Will use this link when we decide to re-locate. Thanks.

  11. Hi Anuj,
    I am glad you took out time off to read the post.To clarify it isn’t a frustration post. It is a personal experience. Dealers well one of the dealers showed us a lodge in spite of us telling him we are willing to spend up to Rs.15,000-Rs.18,000. Did the landlord ask us how much were we willing to shell out. He didn’t give us a chance to speak.The point here is people weren’t willing to negotiate with us at all. Assumptions made on the basis of gender/marital status isn’t a good thing. I know we were naive and hence went on a random search.I strongly believe in that and that’s all I am trying to say.

  12. why didn’t you just approach a dealer? would have been lot easier that’s the culture in Bangalore. Also, if ppl are conservative its there problem i don’t get what’s the post about, you know how police harasses landlords if something goes wrong in that apartment. Most owners only rent to families for both security and other purpose, this more of a frustration post. I am a male and have gone throw similar deal, but i live alone and it was easy for me to say that i am married and my family is back home they will come later…as they say in Hindi ‘Jitna gud daaloge utna hi meetha hoga’ so pay more and you will find good places.

  13. Yes we did find accommodation after facing plenty of hassles. The thinking process of our society is regressive and scary!

  14. Sad to see the harsh reality of the situation. Surely one morals should not be dictated by one’s landlord! I do hope you found some good accommodation ultimately. Our narrow-minded, malicious outlook does cause disgust..and fear, too.

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