An article in a newspaper few days ago took me back to my early days in Bombay. I was an outsider (technically I still am) and had no relatives in the city, not in the suburbs at least. Having survived 4 years in hostel (3 in Pilani and 1 in Chandigarh….Mohali actually) I was in no mood of staying in a women’s hostel, so staying as a PG was a natural choice…scary but natural. But I had a friend from Mohali for company. So I just had to adjust with the landlady who in this case was a 75 year old lady and stayed alone in a 2 BHK in Andheri and gave out one room for paying guests. Her daughters finalized the deal and we had to shell out 2500/- per month each. In return we got a box for a room, 2 train berths for beds and an Almira. and coz we used her kitchen too, we had to divide the gas bill (it was a pipeline). Her cooking however used more fuel but never mind. At least we had an access to her television (after she slept of course) where we got our daily dose of Sex and The City once she was done with her kyunkis and kahanis. Our room had a small balcony (a 2 by 2 square place) where our landlady kept her tulsi ka paudha. Every morning she used to bang violently on our door (to keep a diya in tulsi)…..we finally had to leave the door open in the night.
After a couple of months my friend’s sister came to live with us and we graduated from the box to a 1 BHK. the house was bigger, each one of us had a whole; small but whole cupboard for ourselves, there were no beds but we had mattresses and the kitchen had a small dining table. we paid 2500/- per person for all of this. Electricity and gas bills came in separately. All this looked good, too good to be true actually. But it wasn’t our happily ever after. Providing so many facilities and owning a house made our landlord and his wife think of themselves as demi gods. Well, that’s the attitude every landlord in Bombay has….I guess. So, we had a huge list of rules, dos and donts. No boyfriends, no guys, no loud music, extra charges for a guest, no flushing the sanitary pads in the toilet (no I m not kidding, we were actually told not to do that), no hanging undergarments on the window, reason? you know uncles from neighboring flats watch, it doesn’t look good…hah! are you sure auntyji that they watch our lingeries? cos I am not. On top of all of this our landlady barged into our flat whenever she wanted (she had an extra key), no knocking, no ringing the bell…..even while we were inside the flat.
Well, this continued for few months till we finally found a rented flat. the owner lived far away and visited only once a month to collect the rent. We stayed there with complete freedom till my friend/flatmate went back to her hometown. There was a whole new kind of struggle after that but I’ll save that for the next time.