By Tanya Kumbhat:
My landlord was a crafty person. He would not pay taxes on the rental income earned, he never called the plumber/electrician if anything went bust in the apartments he owns, he hired only immigrants and paid them shabby wages and had no bins for the building not giving a second thought to waste segregation and disposal. Well, you probably shrugged your shoulders and said this was the story of half the landlords in India.
Let’s hope not because my landlord was also a chauvinist and a sexist. His wife is at home day in and day out tending to one household chore or the other, his mother calls the shots at home and the building as she decides when the motor should be switched on and off, no matter if your toilet flush has had no water for the past six hours; his little girl is often yelled at when she plays with the boys from the next building. His family structure is none of my business and I get that, maybe the females in his house chose to live that way.
It’s when he decided to take an interest in the way I run my home structure did I have a problem. One fateful day – rather night – I had committed the grave mistake of going to a Bollywood party which ended at 1 a.m. on a Saturday night and the even graver mistake was that I let my male friends drop me home. And, of course, the landlord had to be standing on the balcony smoking his night cigarette and witnessing the ‘shameful’ act firsthand.
I was put to shame immediately, by the watchman who grumbled about my footsteps at night and by morning all hell had broken loose. The landlord’s 70-year-old mother felt I had no ‘maryada’ and being ‘unmarried’ and being with a male at 1.30 a.m., I had brought incredible shame to my family. My landlord had a moral statement on my behaviour as I had ‘misled’ and ‘corrupted’ his 5-year-old daughter. His wife had no opinion; tea needed to be prepared at 8 a.m., no matter what the scandal.
You might wonder why one infraction in a whole year had become so terrible to them. It was because I had spoken back, I had an answer to all their insults, I rejected their beliefs and I dared to hold my head high. Again, I understand that there are many in this bright city who would not enjoy noisy dance parties, would not like working 40 hours a week and might enjoy entering married life and keeping a beautiful home.
But I also understand that I’m allowed to dance on a Friday night after a long work-week. It’s permitted by Karnataka state law you know! I’m allowed to come home whenever I please as long as I don’t wake the building and, yes, a boy can definitely drop me home.
Yes, I could have said sorry and lived peacefully thereafter, that is if I never partied again and if I only let my husband drop me (having a female partner is out of the question!). The landlord has an answer to why I didn’t do so, that my parents haven’t raised me right, too much television where all the kissing and romance had addled my brain and also due to my audacity to live alone in the city rather than getting settled in my sasuraal.
As I packed my bags, I wonder if this situation would have blown up this much had I been a boy. The boys on the floor above certainly had it better. The gate is opened for them by the watchman at all hours of the day without grumbling. Their loud bike noises do not disturb anybody at 1.30 a.m. in the morning and their house parties, where disgraceful lyrics are played out, never spoilt any child. I hope you didn’t shrug your shoulders in hopelessness now and said that this was a story that occurs too often.
Featured image for representation only. Credit: John Moore/Getty Images.