Earlier this month, I found myself in a situation that no single woman would want to be in. That situation was flat-hunting. My lovely flatmate happened to find a job in another city that offered her almost double the salary and let’s face it, no one would turn that down. I wouldn’t either. As much as I love her and don’t want her to leave me alone in this cold city, I can only feel proud for her.
When we had moved to Delhi, we found a lovely and spacious 2 BHK that we instantly fell in love with. By the stroke of sheer luck, we did not have to deal with any broker as the owner herself had put out the advertisement for the house. It came fully furnished, fit our budget, and checked all our boxes. We made the house our home. But now as she is leaving the city, I realize that I can no longer afford this house all by myself. I would have to move into an accommodation that fits my budget so that I don’t end up living paycheck to paycheck every month.
We handed in our one month notice to our landlady (who has been nothing but an absolute sweetheart). I set out to look for another place here. I started looking at websites. Some places definitely stood out and my gallery started to look something like this. Images of balconies (which are a non-negotiable BTW), washrooms, bedrooms have made their way in my phone. I asked my woman friends who live in those areas to send me pictures of the locality and how the vibe is. No broker or agent can tell me honestly how safe a locality is, only a woman can. I have to rely on their word.
Through these websites, I reached out to people who had listed these properties. But blame my stars, only one of them replied. When I went over to check the place, she asked me my name. I told her my name but she pressed me on to tell her my surname. I did that too but I understood what was going on. After she could not figure out my caste location, she continued to ask which state I am from. Before I could reply, she went on to make assumptions. I knew right then I do not want to live here.
I realised that I do not have time to sulk about this. I need a roof over my head, pronto. So I turned to Facebook. There are multiple flat and flatmates groups on that platform where owners, brokers, and even people who are looking for a replacement for their flat post about these properties.
I found my current flat on a similar group and I thought that since it worked the previous time, why wouldn’t it now? Except, I was wrong. I posted my requirements on multiple such groups and was waiting for any lead. Not that I didn’t get leads, I just got the worst ones. Men always manage to make women uncomfortable somehow no matter where we are and the same happened with me. I had explicitly mentioned in my posts that I needed a place for myself yet men managed to flood my DMs requesting we find a place together.
I told this one gentleman that I am not looking to share the apartment with a man because I don’t want to. I don’t think I need to explain this to anyone because it is a perfect reason in itself. But he went on to tell me that just because he is a working professional, I will be safe with him. The sheer audacity…
Another man sent me an image which Facebook had hidden because of the privacy setting. He had the same request. As a woman, I do not have it in me to open it and receive any unsolicited image. We know this feeling too well.
I decided to take the broker route. One of the brokers showed me flats in one of the shadiest areas of the city. I wasn’t feeling safe in those areas in the daytime, I do not want to think of how things would play out in the night. One person showed me flats in a building where only two people were living. In the WHOLE building. How can you feel safe in a place that doesn’t have railing on the stairs, there’s scaffolding all around, and there’s just two houses that are occupied? Add to it, the apartment complex was located in dingy area where you could see nothing.
Luckily, a broker reached out to me from these Facebook groups. I kept pestering him almost everyday to send me leads. There was a time when he was so overwhelmed by my requests that he started sending me images of properties which did not even fit my budget. Sadly, I could not find a flat through him.
As a woman, you want a flat in an area where there are at least a few souls in sight. This is the least we want in terms of safety. Last week, a woman who was looking for her replacement in a flat had reached out to me and shared images of her flat. To check how the place was in reality, I happened to visit the property. The house was gorgeous and the other flatmate had a pet. It was perfect. Well, almost.
I asked the woman about the landlord and the facade just fell off. She told me that he had strict rules and he would not allow male friends in the house. The landlord would show up randomly to ask how they were. It needs no explanation but we all know what that means. She told me how her flatmate had her fiance living with her for a week and the landlord came over with papers asking for signature. In some ways, I do understand where the landlord comes from; but at the same time, I am not living in a hostel or a PG, it is a rented house.
I have visited over 20 properties till date. As a woman who eats non-vegetarian food and belongs to a religious minority, these three weeks have been nothing short of terrible. If I have to sum it up, I would say that it is worse than all of my talking stages.
P.S: I still haven’t found a flat yet.