When Will We Open Our Doors to Tenants without Discriminating?
"Madam, I am a single man but I don't smoke or drink. I work very late in the office so will not be entertaining any friends, male or female, in the apartment. I am also a vegetarian."
These were the exact words of a young man who called me in response to my online advertisement looking for a tenant to sublet my apartment in the city I used to live in. I half-jokingly told him, "You need a life, not an apartment."
But I understood. I could hear the desperation in his voice.
Over the years that I spent in the city, I have had to stand 'tenant guarantor' for many young men and women from Shillong – family, friends, people from the Church, and friends of friends. I know of many neighbourhoods and Housing Societies that do not welcome single, non-vegetarian, sometimes Northeast and many-a-times, Muslim tenants. The young people I knew would have been able to afford the rent, would be studying in some of the city's best colleges or working in the better known organizations but they were looked at with suspicion –
-Single, so presumed promiscuous;
-Non-vegetarian, so their homes would smell foul (ironic but pure vegetarian tungrymbai and akhuni can stink up the neighbourhood and yet people worry about the smell of meat!);
-Muslim, hence linked to terrorism;
-And if from the Northeast then will get drunk, play loud music, get into altercations and of course, eat dog meat!
Reminds me of a quote I read somewhere – "Out of ignorance or expediency we give all snowflakes the same name."
A month ago a friend from the city called me up asking me to help her cousin who got a job posting in Shillong, settle. The cousin turned out to be a lovely middle aged man with a wife and daughter. They were educated, well-mannered and regular folks. And looking for an apartment to rent in Shillong for the next 3 years of the gentleman's posting in a Government Office.
Remembering that a friend in Shillong had mentioned completion of the construction of an additional floor to her house and was looking for a tenant, I immediately thought of connecting the two. Much to my embarrassment, they both later told me that though they seem to like one another, renting out the apartment was not feasible because the "dong (locality)" didn't allow "dkhar (non-tribal)" tenants.
They won't let out their homes to us. We won't let out our homes to them.
Will not an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind?
I guess not. Because this goes on. And on. Like someone rightly said "No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible."
Carrie Bradshaw wrote "When I first moved to New York. I'd buy Vogue instead of dinner. I felt it fed me more".
Pauline M buys dinner.
An IIM Alumni who spent years in the corporate world living the jet set life, she returned to her home town Shillong to think, to feel, to catch her breath. And of course, relish her dinner.