There’s a matter of grave concern that is vexing a few of my neighbours. A matter of grave concern. And I know it’s been brewing for a few months now, maybe longer.
There are these young boys who rent one of the apartments in the society. … yes, that’s the grave concern.
Bachelor boys renting an apartment. It all started with a casual hello one evening when I was returning from a hard day at work.
“Mr Mukherjee! Mr Mukherjee!”
It still feels odd to be hailed as Mr, but I turned to see one of the society’s committee members hurrying towards me. After a few pleasantries, the matter came tumbling out.
“You know we are going to ask the committee to decide against allowing any house owner to rent out their flats to bachelor boys.”
I waited patiently.
“They keep odd hours, have parties and make too much noise.”
I raised my eyebrows and nodded in disbelief. “Young boys throwing parties and making noise? Really?!”
“Yes! And we don’t want such people in the society. Everybody agrees.”
“Well, that’s settled then.”
Back home I gave the matter some thought. I know the boys the person was referring to since they happen to be our next door neighbours. And so far, in two years I haven’t heard any loud noise or had any difficulty from them. Most of them are in IT, working with MNCs or prestigious companies. In fact, they are very helpful.
Our society’s discussions are very similar to the decision another society is contemplating – in that case, there were single girls who had rented (different) apartments in the society. The ‘problems’ were the same – odd hours, a party once in a couple of months, friends coming over, morals, nuisance, blah blah.
In the past year, a couple of my acquaintances have also reported similar discussions from their societies. None of them, not one, seems to find anything odd about such proposals for a civilised cooperative housing society to ban renting of apartments to single young people. No one in our society seems to find it odd either.
Some of these people who are clamouring for societies to ask members not to rent to bachelors were once themselves bachelors renting apartments in Pune. And I guess none of them are worried that one day, soon, their little boys and girls are going to be bachelors studying or working in a city away from home.
I guess all of them are going to buy flats everywhere their children go to study or work.
But the question that I want to ask is: Is this right? To discriminate against single people? There are established procedures for background checks, verification, etc that can help in ensuring good fit, and single people have to adhere to society rules like any other person. But these are solutions that can’t work in the face of prejudice.
I have travelled, lived, and worked in different cities. Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Hong Kong, even Atlanta for short durations. And in each of these places, I had to rent an apartment or a service apartment.
When I came to Pune in 1996, I was a student and I lived on rent. And I lived in rented apartments for 10 years – in Parvati, on MG Road, NIBM Road, Paud Road. I lived in societies that were populated by conservative, traditional families, and in each of these societies, people welcomed me to the community, invited me into their functions, dropped in to give me food because they knew I was alone away from home, asked after my family.
I had friends over – boys and girls – and my neighbours would come to join the party once in a while, just as I went to join theirs. When I got married, some of the neighbours came to the functions. I guess, what I am trying to say is that they never made me feel I was away from home.
And that hospitality led me to be an open and constructive society member when my wife and I eventually managed to piece together enough documentation to get a home loan for our first house.
But I guess that was a different time and a different Pune.
Sanjay Mukherjee is a Pune-based business consultant. He is Founder of RedstoneSummerhill and The Mountain Walker and also serves as Chief Strategy Advisor for the Hong Kong-based learning technology company, Peak Pacific Limited