Are you a single woman looking for a decent accommodation in Chennai? You’d have a fair shot at it if you stop socialising, stem your craving for chicken 65, and ditch that egg sandwich, say single women on the lookout for a house for rent in Chennai…
An overheard conversation at a tea stall (a guy to the lady with him):“Why don’t you get married, that way you don’t have the hassle of doing things alone, and it has a bigger advantage, you can easily rent any flat of your choice.” This got us thinking, how many single women move into Chennai for various reasons, and how many still haven’t found a home to stay? And, how many women have to compromise on their lifestyle to make
themselves ‘fit’ into severely straitlaced social mores? “It’s been a month and I have just received my first salary, but I have moved house thrice. I have faced several rejections from the landlords — my crime is my gender! When a man of my age can afford the
place of his choice, why is it so hard for me to find one? I have many house-hunting tales, sad and depressing as well as funny ones. I have even been shown a workspace with sparkly green shutters, no window but a partitioned bathroom inside with zero ventilation and the landlord called it a one BHK for a rent of `10,000. When I was refused accommodation in many gated communities, which was my first preference, I had no choice but to check out everything I came across online. My phone never had so many real estate apps downloaded in the past,” says Poorna, who has just moved into
the city from Coimbatore. Finding a place to live in Chennai is one of the toughest tasks they’ve ever had to face, say these women. “The questions from the landlords go like, ‘Are you married?’, ‘How old are you?’,‘Why are you not married yet?’, ‘Do you have
‘boyfriends’?’… and then, ‘We can give it to a single man, but not a woman.’, ‘We only give our property to family, sorry!’, ‘ Are you vegetarian?’, ‘You can’t have friends, no one can sleepover, you can’t have guests’. ‘We are from aristocratic family, are you a Hindu
if not Brahmin?’…Twenty-seven-year-old Mano Bharathi, working in an IT firm, has been hunting for a good house since 2011. When the Salem girl moved here, she had to opt for an ill-equipped hostel with no safety and hygiene as it was closer to her workplace. “It was a women’s hostel which my uncle found for me. He couldn’t check it since men are
not allowed inside.When I entered, it was very dirty, lacking in basic amenities, and food wasn’t cleaned and cooked well. Timing was an issue so, I slowly started to search for a one BHK for myself. Dealing with brokers was also a big headache as they just want you to accept any home, without waiting to understand what exactly one is looking for. I ended up living in a 12 sqft room in Tambaram with a kitchen and attached bathroom.
One night, it was raining heavily, and I was asleep,when suddenly, I could feel my entire body going cold. I was sleeping on my mattress on the floor and it was all wet because
the rain water had entered the room. It was the middle of the night, and I was terrified. But when complained to the landlord, he refused to fix it,” recalls Bharathi,who, since
she had zilch choice, ended up living there for four years. But her search continued and “I ended up in a one BHK again. It was an apartment. Initially, I felt safe, but later, there were incidents of men entering the apartment without permission, drinking and smoking up, and there were even incidents of men climbing up the walls and roaming on the terrace,” she says. She had to leave that place and has now taken the risk of living in a congested lane in Triplicane. “For the past two-and-a-half years, I have been parking
my two-wheeler on the street. My search to find a safe and comfortable home in Madras is still on,” shares Bharathi. So, why do landlords refuse to offer their property to a single woman? “The first reason is there will be boyfriends coming over, they will drop them home, then slowly they will start entering the house, then they will start living in together, next, there will be a lot of friends coming over. They will all drink, smoke and create a ruckus in the society — it doesn’t look nice as we, too, have children, and what
would be the impression they will get? There have also been incidents of girls becoming
drug addicts, and committing suicide in the past.We don’t need such tensions, so we refuse to let our property out to any single woman,” says Saravanan Panchatcharan, a real estate broker also a property owner. Terms and conditions are not just for women from outside Chennai, it remains equally strict for the local single working women here.
Twenty-eight-year-old Suhasini Udayakumar, who studies arts at Kalakshetra Foundation, had a tough time when she came back from USA and had to look for a home. “After coming back to Chennai, I decided to live independently and I moved out from Anna Nagar,where I was living with my parents. Landlords had a lot of questions for me, it was a culture shock for them to find a single woman in her late 20s living alone. I had managed to find a 2BHK on a sharing basis with a girl from Bengaluru. We had friends of
both genders coming over, and we were asked to vacate the place. This was in Anna
Nagar. Now I am living in a one BHK, alone, but this time I have not compromised on
my lifestyle; let’s see how long it is peaceful here,” shares Suhasini.