Mumbai had always been the elusive dream for me. When I finished Engineering and holidayed in this city with various relatives, I realised that I wanted to live here too. To explore the feeling of liberation and the independence of bein g here.
I was simply ecstatic when I got an internship here. Wasn’t that the icing on the cake? To live in a cosmopolitan city that is leagues beyond Bangalore’s status and to experience Mumbai like an independent woman ought to, that was just unbridled excitement for me.
It’s been just my 6th morning here and the issues pertaining to the housing scenario in the city has left me with a bitter aftertaste and it is threatening to overshadow the other prettier elements.
So where did it all begin? Fifteen days before moving in, a bunch of friends had visited quite a few places in Mumbai and then updated the rest of the group via a Whatsapp Group. It was decided by popular opinion that 7 of us would live together in a 2BHK. Because I had already given my word to this group, I refused some dear friends and continued with the assumption that despite our varying backgrounds, we would make it work.
We had one point of contact – A Ms Bee. She negotiated the terms and conditions with the broker and the owner and also contacted a senior Mr J who showed a keen interest in occupying the flat after we vacated it in a period of two months. When Ms Anks and I moved into the flat six days ago, both the owner and the broker were surprised at our presence and insisted that they thought occupancy would begin only during 10th. The house was previously occupied by nurses s there were some bunk beds that were yet to be dismantled. The owner, Dr M, told us that he’d get it cleaned at the soonest. After letting the luggage settle, we left the house and went to Powai, to meet our respective folks. Even when we got back in the night, things were a mess in that house. We managed to sleep – Anks in the lower bunk bed and I on a mattress in the floor. The next day we had to report at work and hence there was not much we could do on a personal level. When we got back the mess – let me paint a pretty picture for you. The flat opens out into a seemingly spacious hall that is cluttered with huge bunks and a stale stink emanating from te kitchen that made me wondered how could a bunch of nurses leave this place so messed up? If you’d enter the kitchen, you’d see a line of cockroaches lying on the sides of the cabinets – apparently the pest control had been done. Switching the exhaust fan seemed to help so I ensured that it was on at all times. The same night we bought a broom and a mop and cleaned the room where we had figured we would sleep. By then they had dismantled the beds and there was space to put down the three mattresses.
After sweeping, mopping, setting out mattresses and all, we received a rude shock that Mr J, who was supposed to have signed the rent agreement on Saturday after having paid the brokerage money, had not done so and had not even deemed it fit to inform us of the same. After all, he had ‘other priorities’ to balance and flying to the land of happiness would obviously mean that leaving a whatsapp text informing us girls (who were living in the house to be his future residence) would be too much to ask for.
In his defence, he claimed that the broker assured him that there wouldn’t be any problem till the 11th, so he could happily enjoy his trip to happyland and be back on the said date. Paying such a whole lot of money to a person you have never met and not taking any receipt in return? Not sound fishy at all?
And we were not even informed. Wow.
The owner comes the next morning and tells the both of us that he’s not got any money transferred yet. (Duh, because everyone got freaked out and didn’t transfer). We asked him to clean the place up as we worked out the logistics of transferring the amount. He assured us of the deal and we left to work. Meanwhile, he ensured that the plumbing work was done and that bulbs were fixed in the spots that has missing ones. The internal drama in the group continued – I don’t understand how simple things like points of contact can be mixed up. Ms B had done a fine job of getting the deal in place, and because Ms B was oblivious to Ms J’s important negligence, there was not much she could do. She intimated the broker who in turn assured her of getting the rent agreement signed without any hassles and assured Ms B that we could continue staying peacefully. ‘Aapko ghar khali karwaane nahi denge’ is what he quoted.
To unravel the seeming mess that’s been brewing for a while now. Ms P finally enters the picture and now takes things into her own hands, or rather, her Dad’s. She begins contacting the broker who gives her a different spin off altogether. And meanwhile, the owner is demanding that we leave the house. After a very uncomfortable and restless Tuesday night, we leave for work on Thursday and the owner surprises us by showing up at the bus stop and asking for the key – on the pretext that ‘aaj electrician aane wala hai’.
We hand over the keys, enquire if he’s spoken to Mr J who promised to speak to the owner. But since Whatsapp Calls can be done by Mr J only after 11, when Dr M is either travelling or sleeping, they never talk and let us suffer in the miscommuniaton.
What happens on Wednesday night is right out of Bollywood though. Around five forty five, after a content training session, in which Anks’ phone kept ringing, we finally call back to hear the owner’s wife yelling at us. She informs us that they are collecting our luggage and that they will dump it at the watchman’s gate. After pleading and appealing to her logic, we finally convince her to wait right there and we hurry out of office. When we reach the house, there are a couple of arguments to which the wife says ‘Leave it, there’s no point arguing’. To which Anks explains our scenario and we tell her exactly ow shady the broker is.
Dr M meanwhile pretends to be the guardian of the richest treasure in the world and asks his wife to come and stand in front of the door. He says he’ll get our luggage out. When we protest, he informs us that we had left him with no option and that they had already packed our luggage.
He cribs that the society has taken off the electric power supply because of his failure to produce the rent agreement, which takes us back to the curious case of Mr J and the shady asshole, the broker.
Dr M gets a bedsheet and begins dumping our luggage. We literally unpack, exchange items and re-pack. It’s humiliating and it’s depressing. Anks has a brother’s place to crash at.
I decide to crash at Ms P’s, my colleague and partner from college. At that moment while waiting for a cab, while sitting among the hastily packed luggage – I realise the depravity of being homeless. Of not having a haven. Of having so many houses of relatives in the city, but of not having a home.
I take this as a vow to help any acquaintance who is faced with a similar situation. If you ever find yourself in such a situation, I promise to go out of my way and ensure that you find at least a temporary haven.
I remain indebted to Ms P. She wouldn’t have it any other way. She sternly refused to let me go anywhere without having arranged anything relatively permanent.
This has been a brilliant management lesson. There are so many ways of looking at the implications.
Communication is Key.
What use is your Communication Management if you can’t get important points across to all parties involved? Forget the degree, communication is critical to every little aspect of your life.
Keep Your Groups Smaller And Stronger
Yes, you have probably already learnt it in your class thanks to the myriad group assignments you’re bestowed upon. It’s true. There has got to be unity in your group. If you can’t stand up for your mates, bro, no one will stand up for you.
Blame Games Are Pointless
Fine, it did not work out. There’s no point in blaming other people. Everyone was a part of it ,whether vocal or through their silence. And yes. When money is involved, be prepared to see the worst side of everybody.
This is the reality of Mumbai that changed my conceptions of the city.
It is no longer my elusive dream. It’s just another rat race.
Another title to covet.
Another film to be made.
Other emotions to be captured.
For me, it’s just another place with the sea.
After all, home is where the heart is.
There are plenty more learnings regarding trust, friendships, and life. This is in no manner a post to insult anyone or to point fingers or to woe that Mumbai isn’t what it seems like. On the contrary, I just went out and experienced the Gudipadwa celebrations on the street. It was the most extravagant, loud,colourful, jubilant and large-scale cultural celebration that I have ever seen. I’m sure there are wonders here and I know I will see them. But you, like me, shouldn’t forget that wherever you are, shit can happen and it will. It happened to me, it may happen to anyone, and has happened to plenty others.
I needed a way to vent and this is how I best express. So if you found offence, keep it or voice it, it’s your choice. As writing was this my choice.
Two most loved people told me to hang in there and have patience, that this is life.