WHAT’S THE RENT?
In an age where we look for free services and facilities, there is something that must be added to the list. Rent for accommodation and paying guests in big cities have created tensions forever. Some landlords claim that tenants do not pay on time and in the very same way tenants complain of high rent that do not comply with minimal facilities provided. The case is not so for small towns. The reason being, small towns have a smaller scale of expenditure. Living standards are not so high like those of metropolitan cities.
For example, in Delhi a single room (for girls) costs around Rs.5500-6000 without food, geyser, water cooler, AC, etc. The cost rises up by 3-4 per cent if one owns a laptop or even demands an air cooler. Plus, you are charged even more if you use a heater in winter. You cannot ask for a generator when there is no electricity because it is supposed to “increase the electricity load/bill”. The most hilarious part is the size of the room. It can be compared to a slightly larger cupboard. You can fit in your bare essentials anyhow. You live in a constant fear of misplacing things because the space is so less that if something rolls under the bed or the table, you need days to bring it out.
Coming to double/multi-seaters (for girls), the cost is lesser than the single seaters because you share it with one or more partners. But the problem lies in the fact that one large room is divided into two smaller rooms. There is one large piece of plywood that is supposed to be the dividing factor. What happens next is you get to hear conversations of the adjacent room and vice-versa. Rent for these rooms range from Rs.5000-5500 including laptop charges, Wi-Fi, etc. Food is not included in this amount.
Some females prefer to stay in flats because they are cheaper but the property dealers charge a hefty sum of money as commission before allotment of rooms. In addition to this, there must be four to five people sharing the flat to lessen the rent. In this case, the more roommates you bring the lesser is your rent.
For boys, things are a bit typical because they have a different way of selecting their accommodation. Some prefer to look at the facilities; others look at the spaciousness, while the rest are concerned with the indifference of the owner. Many prefer to stay in those houses whose owners do not care about what their tenants are up to. The former is satisfied only with the fact that their rent is being paid. There are no rules like those of girls’ accommodations (closing of the gate at 8 pm or 10 pm, no boys allowed, no cooking of non-vegetarian dishes, no strolling in the terrace, etc.).
The question of unreasonable rent comes where one expects all possible facilities for an amount paid and gets nothing as speculated. Most tenants express the fact that even after paying a big amount of money there is no satisfaction. The situation becomes serious when the owner takes some amount in advance (which is a portion of the monthly rent) to ensure people do not leave midway. For example, there are some weird PGs that have an annual rent of Rs.48000 and one has to pay Rs.12000 in advance (i.e. Rs.1000 for every month). There is also a maintenance fee of around Rs.1200-1500 annually. All have to be paid together. The maintenance amount normally goes to the owners’ pockets because there is no maintenance done in reality. Toilets remain dirty till some tenant opts for cleaning it voluntarily. If there is some problem in the lighting of the room, it will not be looked at for at least three days. If there is no electricity for five hours you cannot complain because the owner is “not responsible for power cuts in the region.” You cannot ask for an inverter or generator because it is a taboo. One gets shouted at after the humble request. If you call up the owner at “late night” which is actually a time when they have dinner under the fan and AC (supported by an inverter/generator) while others die in the heatdue to power cut, you get a threat of being thrown out. Where does the tenants’ money go if in the name of maintenance a certain amount of money is charged?
One may say that there is just a roof above the head after payment of thousands of rupees. Because there is actually nothing provided as promised by the owner at the time of negotiation. In a girls’ PG, you get to share one fridge with 50 more people, your food gets stolen half the time, two toilets for two dozen people and worse, you cannot ask why something is out of order for more than two days. If you rebel, your rent is either increased or a spy is employed (who generally is a stooge of the owner among the tenants) to keep a check on your activities. The duplicate key of your room has to be given to owner at the time of room allotment and this key is later given to the spy to sneak into the “rebel tenant’s” room to see what is kept under covers. If anything “electrical” is found, the owner barges into your room later when you are doing some work, takes out the appliance, creates a havoc by displacing everything else (the spy already reveals where the thing is hidden) and immediately demands around Rs.500 for not informing about it earlier. The point to be noted is that these electrical appliances are nothing more than a pressing iron or a laptop or even a study lamp.
Most of the times in a girls’ accommodation one chooses to hide an appliance because if she has four appliances, i.e. a laptop, a battery supported lamp (used for studying during power cuts), a pressing iron and an electric kettle, she has to pay two hundred rupees for each which will automatically increase her rent by Rs.800 in summers and Rs.1000 in winters (the water heater will be added in list then). The ones who stay in single seaters are victims in this case because there is nobody to support their arguments.
It is really ironical when your owner very sincerely remembers the date of collecting your rent but when you want some repairing to be done, the job is not looked at on time.
Things are very different in boys’ accommodation because no owner wishes to pick a fight with a male. The owner whether a woman or a man generally surrenders when there is a disagreement with a male tenant. On the other hand, a female tenant’s voice is silenced by loud, insinuating and derogatory comments from the owner whether male or female. One can understand male ruthlessness. But women’s empathy? Popular belief says that only a woman can really feel the pain of another woman. Does this stand false in this age?
Moreover, one stands bewildered when parents of young students are insulted when they demand why their children have been mentally tortured. Cases are even reported like those during college examinations in May-June, there had been power cuts for several hours during the days and nights but the owner of a certain PG refused to listen to students’ requests of installing a generator. A couple of the tenants dared to call up the owner at night to enquire about the matter and in return were asked to look for some other place to stay. Unfortunately, the students (read: females) had to sit in the adjacent park at midnight and study. The electricity was back just after sunrise and the owner acted as if there was nothing really important to investigate. What kind of attitude is this? Why make big promises to parents of looking after their children when you do not care if they are alive or dead? Everyone wants a little bit of co-operation and that is too costly for these landlords and landladies to give. If some student faces a mishap, will they refund the money? What amount will be compensated if a female student dies of suffocation in the congested room? Are these owners ready for compensating the amount to a young girl’s parents if she gets kidnapped while studying in the park if there is no light? What will be the payback for such losses?
One may even question the fact that if a PG has such problems then why not shift to a better one. The answer lies in the fact that most well maintained PGs have a contract system of one year where in you cannot leave it before you have finished the tenure. You also need to give some amount in advance which is a portion of your monthly rent. This amount plus the security of one month is non-refundable. If one leaves a place midway for whatever reasons, the rest of the advance goes for a waste. There is also a psychology of the students that works behind staying in a dilapidated and non-furnished room. Most students prefer to keep their parents uninformed about any brawl with the owner so that the latter does not have to face pathetic language hurled upon them. In addition to this, the amount paid in advance is also at the back of the mind constantly. Most small town girls get depressed about the fact that the money sent by their parents gets invested in a non-productive material. This leads them to search for small jobs to support themselves. They ask for lesser money for the room’s rent from their parents and use their salaries to cover up for the remaining expenditure.
This kind of a phenomena is seen almost everywhere in metropolitan cities. Most students, especially girls wish to keep up with their high-class friends who are generally the crowd from the metropolis. But they cannot because they need to adjust their pocket money, deal with the ever-complaining owner, search for dabbawallas, etc. This indirectly leads to a situation where the absence of desired luxury items gives way to unethical activities. This is a case common with girls coming from a slightly developed village or countryside. Because the landlady or landlord is not interested in what she does, this girl brings in beer bottles, alcohol, cigarettes, etc. to stand on the same step like her high-class friends. There is hence, a crisis in personal life as well.
The main question one needs to ask is that what amount will be enough to get back decent attitude from PG owners? What is the rent that will ensure homely environment for outstation students? Why don’t the sufferers ever react? Why is it that the owner gets away even after misbehaving with a girl and the latter is thrown out if a word is raised in protest? Do these owners feel like God when they provide a room? Or is it that because they have provided a roof they can do whatever they like?
It’s important that India must have organisations that look to the need of outstation students especially girls. These organisations must be set up by the Government to inspect each house that says TO-LET. There should be officials who must enquire about PGs if ever there is a complaint. Most importantly, there must be people who rise up in protest against the ruthless owners. The main problem in a girls’ accommodation is that they get frightened when the owner shouts terribly.Things worsen when the rent is increased without notice. How long can one endure all the snide remarks from such owners? If owners are scared to face male tenants or they show respect to males then shouldn’t things be the same for females too? Also, it’s astonishing that a tenant is discriminated on the basis of caste, region or even nationality. The ones coming from North-Eastern India are targeted upon constantly. The owner condemns them of illicit activities even when they are innocent. The same attitude goes for Non- Indians. A person is also denied or provided a room on the basis of the owner’s established conception (which generally stands false) about the region he/she comes from.
Coming to the question of security, girls’ accommodation mostly do not have a watchman. Anybody comes up, irrespective of their gender, tours the place of stay and goes away. Many men even visit girls’ rooms on the pretext of checking the lights or fans. It is shocking to know that these are not professional people. They are cheats. They know where things are kept in one’s room and during their second visit manage to steal mobiles, electrical appliances or even harass the tenant. If the owner hears of such cases, he or she brushes it aside saying that this cannot happen because “the colony’s common watchman looks after all this”. What senseless talk is this? Can somebody not bribe the watchman? Isn’t it crucial to ask these insensitive people that why can they not employ a personal watchman of their houses?
It’s funny yet unfortunate to see that you spend thousands but you do not get services as promised. You are responsible for your own safety and belongings; even if you die the owner will not say a word, and even more terrible is you need to hide your things and lock them up to avoid extra payment. Forget homely environment, after some months you feel drained out of money, energy and words of protest.
There are however well furnished PGs in certain parts of the metropolitan cities that can only be afforded by the upper middle class ones and the bureaucrats’ children. For the not-so rich ones, PG life is always equivalent to hell but if one connects with the other inhabitants then it will be a little good. As for the shy or nerdy ones, life becomes tough with each passing day.
Looking from a psychological perspective, these phenomena somehow lays a bad influence on students. They are gripped by home-sickness after leaving home and the owners’ indecent attitude adds to their sadness. It becomes tougher for those who are not adept in the common language of communication in the particular region of stay. One at least expects good behaviour. It’s hard to find it when you are sending your daughter to an outstation educational institution. You may think that getting educated in reputed colleges or universities will brighten her future. But there is a darker side to it. Your child may be tortured in every possible way and will never be able to do what you have sent her for unless of course, your child is immensely strong mentally and can argue well for his/her rights. For parents of sons, your extremely shy kid might suddenly turn rebellious and bossy after a couple of months. Don’t be surprised because he was not under the shelter of your love for quite some time. The culprit is the absolutely obnoxious rent amount he is asked every month.