Nishant (latelyontime) wrote,

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Ten things to look for while renting a new house

So now that I have shifted to Bangalore and am going to live here for some time, the last fortnight has been spent in looking for a new house to make home. And now that I have finally zeroed down upon the house, done the needful, shifted, unpacked, and made it into a lot of spaces that suit me, I think it is time to look back and ruminate. Finding a rented apartment in Bangalore (especially when it is on a fixed budget), is like trying to locate a dwarf planet in the far away galaxies – perhaps more fraught with danger and definitely more enervating than space travel. I am almost convinced that the only reason I retained sanity while doing the predator-of-the-jungle searching for his prey act was the loving and beautiful house that Jace and his partner have made and that I could share with while prowling through the jungles of Bangalore.

Here are ten observations drawn from personal experience of looking at thirty four different houses in fifteen days (if anybody is keeping score, that is!). Look at my work, ye mighty, and realize that your chances of retaining sanity and finding house for rent are very slim. It is easier to get married to daughters and sons of people who are renting out the houses. They will still make you pay through the nose but at least they will be family and hence you will bear it with a grin.

1. For the lack of a Window

Have you ever seen a pizza box? I mean those large cardboard boxes that come carrying beautiful pizzas and toppings? The ones with the holes in them? The holes, are meant for ventilation. Ventilation. Noun. The act of supplying fresh air and getting rid of foul air. Apparently, what the pizza packers understood, the people who build houses don’t understand. And so you have houses that do not have windows. The idea is that when you come into the house, there is fresh air trapped in your shoes that replaces the foul air and that is ventilation enough for one day. Too much of fresh air means too many new germs. It is apparently best to keep the place locked up and give the old germs a chance.

2. The bathroom the size of a post-card

Abhijat Joshi wrote one of the most beautiful plays when he wrote The House the size of a post-card. But he never (and I am sure of it) meant the title to be taken literally. Unfortunately, there is a breed of new owners in Bangalore who seem to think that a bathroom is basically anything that can occupy one glazed tile and a faucet. The general impression is that you remain more hygienic if you just wash one body part at a time. Also, if different body parts have to be ushered into the bathroom one at a time, it keeps you supple and on your toes, training you for a career in advanced acrobatics and complicated calisthenics.


3. Just behind M.G. Road

Let us face it – Bangalore is a large city that is built around M.G. Road. It is a central landmark, like a physical land mark that guides everybody to find their roads, their houses and sometimes their partners. Hence, no matter where the house is, it is always just behind M.G. Road. When you take a house in Koramangala, the agent assures you it is only six kilometers away from M.G. Road. They never tell you that it would be easier for you to commute from Mumbai to Bangalore everyday, because of the traffic. I now have started wondering what the behind of the M.G. Road is. I mean, it is a road, right? Does it have a front and an end? Does it have posteriors that we might not have located? Is it shaped like a human being? In which, case, if you standing at a cross road, it is like standing at the fork?

4. The cook while you shit syndrome

I grew up in a house with some very strict hygiene rules which included complicated instructions about wearing different footwear in and out of bathrooms and a whole lot of different kind of soap to be included as many times as possible in the daily schedule. Most of my friends also have had the distinctions of scratching and picking versus chopping and cooking enforced in their homes. I know for a fact that my grandmother would throw a fit (and probably a couple of heavy brass utensils) at her daughters-in-law if they proceeded straight from the bathroom to the kitchen; a bath in general is considered to be the least you can do. It came as a shock, hence, when I encountered the extended bathrooms that houses in Bangalore seem to offer. If you step here it is the kitchen, and right here, at the other end, is the bathroom. See, so convenient, you can actually put the water to boil and keep an eye on the stove from the pot in the middle of all the grunting. It doesn’t get better than this.

5. If you are alone, stay alone

Due to the imbalance in the national sex ratio, young men have lost the upper edge that they used to have in social interactions and negotiations. Apparently, if you are searching for an independent house in Bangalore and you are a single man in your mid-twenties you are: A call centre employee, or a rapist, or a murderer, or a serial masturbator, or a womanizer, or a pimp, or a dealer of negotiable affection. The minute you announce that you are single, a glaze climbs itself upon the face of the owner who then immediately tells you, apart from the rent and deposit: No boyfriends, no girlfriends, no women…

6. Chasing water-falls

They say that the average man (or woman, I am guessing), uses about 100 litres of water everyday in the urban set up. However, your landlord, with some advanced calculus formula will immediately prove to you that that is the amount of water you spend in brushing your teeth. Hence, he logically draws, you will have to pay a water bill that is the same as the rent that you pay him. There are no arguments.

7. You are not alone

In The Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the author pointed out that in New York city, if you think you want to do something, the estimate is that there are about 13,587 people who want to do exactly the same thing at the same time at the same place. Bangalore naturally beats New York fair and square. If you are hunting for a house it means that everybody else who is not selling a house is also doing the same. Hence, you have to take a decision in a split three seconds after you have entered the house. If you hesitate or demand to see anything more than the thirty second trailer, where your nose insists that behind the incense is the smell of something furry and dead and that in that far corner, the design is not a fresco but a termite’s nest, the owner ceremoniously shows you out and brings in another despairing person to the tour de force of the house. If the owner smiles, all you can think of is “Will you step into the parlour, said the spider to the fly.”


8. Who are you?

Apparently, name, credentials and the princely deposits and rents are not enough to establish your professional relationship with the house owners who grudgingly give you the houses that you rent. You are submitted through a scrutiny which couldn’t have been more careful if you were marrying their daughters – all of them at the same time. Your religion, your caste, your parents’ careers, the number of siblings, your eating habits, your sleeping habits, your praying habits, your friends, your job, your profile, your annual income, your visits to foreign countries, your educational degrees, your preference of potato over brinjals and the colour of the underwear you are wearing, are all explored in great detail and it is only when you pass their high standards that they might do to you the favour of renting out a house. I am seriously thinking it might be easier to snog their daughters and get into the family.

9. The Contract

The Contract is an epic document that binds you, in blood, sweat and exploitation, to the people who wield the powers of ownership over the house you want to rent. Legally, it is an agreement made between the tenant and the lessee but in truth it is a piece of document that can make you feel like you are caught in a Dr. Who series. Most typical tenancy contracts are designed so that if you break the lease before its expiry in eleven months, you lose money. If you do anything to displease the house owner, you lose the money. If you sneeze too loudly, you lose the money. Also, if the lessee throws you out of the house because he finds somebody else to pay him more money for it, you lose the money. And of course, you lose the cumulative interest of the deposit that you pay them and you have to pay them charges (generally equal to most of your deposit money) for painting and cleaning the house to make it available for the next unsuspecting tenant who walks into the parlour.

10. Curfews

When you come from Ahmedabad, as I do, the notion of a curfew is very invested. It is reminiscent of heavily policed areas, cordoned by heavy iron and plastic dividers, smoke bombs, the terror of being cooped inside your own house and own head, wondering at every crack if it is a bullet, thinking every passing tremor in the wind as a bomb, constantly peering across the street to see if there is life beyond the tarred road. All in all, not a very pleasant experience. However, when, as a single person, you try searching for a house in Bangalore, you realize that Ahmedabad was a child’s play and that you’d embrace it any day, because, let us face it, at least, in Ahmedabad, you knew where you stood in a curfew – behind a wall or facing a gun. In Bangalore, as a tenant, the curfew takes a sinister meaning. It means that you are not allowed in or out after a particular time because the ungle or aundie go to sleep at ten and they lock the gates after that. So if you have a late night movie in mind, also make sure you have plans of sleeping at the multiplex. Also, the curfew means no visitors after hours – after hours defined as any time the aundie looks out of the window and sees somebody climbing to your house. Curfew. A fortnight of that and you will start feeling like Rapunzel and make wild plans of growing your hair long and hoisting strangers through the balcony.

 And against all these odds, I finally found a house which fits me, has windows, is in a quiet area and allows me the luxury of walking down to work. Halleluljah home!

Tags: bangalore, house, rent, tenancy
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