I remember writing a paper in college on mythology and culture. Specifically, I pontificated on the theme of the hero’s quest and the allegory provided by the failed quests. 4 years on, I find myself seemingly living that allegory. And I’m not a hero by any stretch of the imagination.
Not exactly the poster-boy for optimism, I nevertheless came to Bombay with a specific amount of doubloons in mind that I’d part with to rent a place. Crusty old sea-salts, bitten more than once and shy with dubious alacrity warned me that Bombay’s rent logic was a riddle even the Sphinx would not dare go near. When I, with a zealously gleaming eye, informed them of my resolve to live on my terms, and live well to boot, they quietly chuckled and gave up the ghost.
I blame Bandra, really. It’s a ‘twilight zone’ sort of nice place to stay, with a perfect blend of the bourgeoisie and proletariat world. One teases you to take a taste of the good life while the other reminds you starkly that you are lucky enough to have some sort of bank balance. Mammon of course is impassive and being on the black or the white side of his fence simplifies the choices one is faced with. The ones on the fence, in the grey zone, are ‘effed since they live with both fear and longing dancing merrily on their shoulders. Naturally, I am in the grey zone.
My quest to find a place marrying aesthetic expectations and monetary realities started out cheerfully enough. I believe the voyage of the Titanic started out in the same atmosphere. I got a list of the who’s-who in brokerage, called them up, met up with them, explained my situation and waited, confident that they’d be calling me back the very next day with a bouquet of places on offer. That was 3 weeks ago. In that time, the ocular luminescence has noticeably dulled & the “Arrey Sir… ideal for your budget, sir” places on offer I’ve had the misfortune to inspect have shattered any fanciful notions I may have harboured. On occasion, I’ve resorted to pointing out to the broker and his hangers-on that closing the front door cuts off ventilation to a degree wherein the police will be the next people to enter and find my oxygen-deprived corpse. I know this seems exaggerated but people have mausoleums bigger than some of the rooms I’ve seen. I kid you not.
Now, I’ve not been brought up with any sort of spoon in my mouth, never mind a silver one. So, I thought my expectations were not ludicrous when I first came here. I wasn’t asking for much. And, to give the broker some credit, I’ve been told about a few places… just out of the reach of my budget, of course. I knew my salary would be a bit of a sticky spot to living the high life, but the fact that it would be reluctant to let me live even a remotely decent life did not figure in my machinations.
After speaking with an old sea-salt, now ensconced safely in his slice of housing heaven (far away from this city, obviously), one pertinent point emerged – how does one looking for a place to rent, view it? That is, is it a place you want to ‘live’ in or is it a ‘shower-sleep’ setup. Therein lies the Gordian knot facing those living on the Mammonian fence. The solution decides whether one lives in Bombay or exists here.
And yes, I allow for living elsewhere in the city, paying suitable rent for a suitably comfortable place. To which I suggest a week commuting to work from the suitable place, most likely in trains or as an added bonus, a combination of buses and trains.
Song for the moment: A rush of blood to the head - Coldplay