A single woman’s house-hunting nightmare in the ‘IT hub’ of India

By: Aarushi Chandel

On Saturday, my friend from Meghalaya and I went house-hunting. After five hours of walking through the bylanes of Indiranagar, I realised nothing has changed for me since 2010, when I first came to Bengaluru from my hometown in Shillong to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts.

Back then, I lived in the kitchen of a friend from the North-East, the only person I knew in this city, for more than two months, because I could not find a PG accommodation. I must’ve seen around 10 houses in Koramangala before I found a suitable accommodation and a non-judgemental landlord in Benson Town.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not picky. All I want is a decent house that I can call home in a safe locale. However, I have discovered that homeowners have a problem with my blue-hair and my distinctive features and that my (current) roommate is from the North-East.
“This is a decent locality, we cannot have indecent people like you here…” is something that I have had thrown at me so many times in the past five years that on Saturday when I heard it again from the owner of a small one-bedroom house in Indiranagar, I was too exhausted to react.
In the last four years, I have changed homes four times (only because I wanted to live in a better place). And I must’ve checked-out close to a 100 houses in Shanthinagar, Koramangala and Indiranagar. Of all the three areas, Shanthinagar has the highest concentration of people from the North-East. Yet, it is also where I have had a tough time finding a house.
When I approach a broker, usually they tell me to my face that it would be difficult to find a nice home in a nice place “because this is a good apartment and it is for families and not for single girls”.
If you manage to convince your broker (or if you are lucky to find an empathetic one) then you are faced with belligerent and biased landlords.
They usually look me up and down, sizing me up openly and aggressively. And some of them pass comments like, “You look like the kind of girl who has many boyfriends.”
On Saturday too there was one landlord who was of the same opinion after giving me and my friend a thorough once-over. Then there was another who was reluctant to even show us the house. And another insisted on speaking only to the broker and declined to acknowledge my existence even when I gave him my best non-threatening smile. And he said to the broker: “We don’t give house to indecent people.” In his eyes I was not just indecent, but also invisible.
It was the last house on the list. We were already bushed. The owner said he would rent out the one-bedroom house to us provided “we never have anybody over ? EVER”. No friends. No cousins. Not even family. I realised that my single male friends do not face such rigid rules.
The decisions of how and whom I socialise with is apparently not my decision at all, but that of the makeshift patriarchal figure in the guise of a landlord. It is almost like by undertaking this search for a house, we have agreed to put ourselves up for judgment and moral policing by random men: who by virtue of being men have the right to make up their minds about the kind of ‘characters’ we are.
You expect to be treated with respect reserved for a customer/potential client. Soon you realise that that kind of treatment is reserved only for men; and women who look a certain way and who come from certain parts of the country. Initially, I would be shocked, and later into a rage, listening to homeowners, absolute strangers, passing judgment on me ? especially when they didn’t know me from Eve. Now, I just feel exhausted.
When you are constantly at the receiving end, after a certain point, you get used to the verbal bashing. And you don’t react. Yes, the anger comes much later, when I am back home, tired and alone with my hopes and dreams of a nice future for company.
Sometimes, I feel like retaliating, but the reality is I can’t. I have had auto drivers, taxi drivers and random people asking me, “Why are you here? Why don’t you go back from where you came from?” All because I look different and I am a single woman. It is true that I do feel alienated and powerless as a woman.
Ironically, I still feel much more at home here than anywhere else in India. I feel safe: Unlike when I was living in Delhi a few years ago. And so, I continue to live here still looking for a place in a ‘decent’ locality that I can call home. ?