By Aditya Bhalla Jan. 15, 2018
If you want to play the Find-a-House game on maximum difficulty in Mumbai, try finding a house with your live-in partner before marriage. Here’s a four-step starter guide.
Mumbai, the City of Dreams, where finding a house to live in is a nightmare. The experience of searching for a flat here is worthy of being included in the labours of Hercules. You encounter fantastic beasts like the shady broker, the psycho roommate, and the snoopy neighbour. But if you want to play the Find-a-House game on maximum difficulty, try finding a house with your live-in partner. For those brave souls up to the challenge, here’s a ready reckoner on pulling off a facade of wedded bliss.
Hoodwink the landlord
Your first hurdle will be the landlord. The minute he or she sets their eyes on a young “boy-girl” couple sniffing around the apartment, the alarm bells start ringing. It’s only the “boy-girl” combo that is discriminated against. Two men or women can never be lovers; they could organise an orgy or a fight club in their flat, and the landlord wouldn’t know. But if they see a boy and girl together, they explode in a supernova of curiosity and judgemental stares. Remember, no matter how cool or permissive your landlord might seem, if you want good odds of landing the house, your answer to the question, “Are you two married?” should always be an emphatic “Yes!”
Bypass thy neighbour
Once you’ve made it past your landlord and moved in, you have to weave your web of deceit around the neighbours. This is a much harder step, because while you deal with your landlord once a month on rent day, the gossip-loving building aunties probably have a 24/7 surveillance on you. Pro-tip: Before moving, get your kurtas and salwar-kameezes dry-cleaned because you need to look ASAP (As Sanskari As Possible) in your first two months. Work on the honeymoon story, practice your “Namaste Auntyji/Uncleji”, and you should manage to evade detection.
Make your friends disappear
For some reason, Mumbai housing societies operate under the assumption that married people have no social lives. They are busy trying to accomplish their “Hum Do, Humaare Do” mission. What this means is that friends coming over or hosting parties becomes a cause of unwanted attention. Getting around this will require some planning. While most couples divvy up their friend circle after breaking up, you’re going to have to do it before moving in. The half you claim will now become, for your building watchman’s sake, your cousins and siblings, the other half claimed by your partner become bhabhis, brothers-in-law, or co-workers. You will probably need to conduct a brief orientation seminar for your friends, where everyone is informed about their alias and backstory, so that no mix-ups are made during the inevitable interrogation they will face when they come to visit.
Give your house a “shaadi-shuda” makeover
Now that you’re settled in, with everyone in the building believing that you had your wedding at Hindu Gymkhana and your honeymoon in Koh Samui, there’s just one thing left to do. You never know when your landlord might drop in to “just say hi,” aka try and catch you red-handed in violation of the tenant agreement.
The house you live in should support the lie you’re living, so make sure there are plenty of photos of the two of you in eyeshot. The coup de grace is clearing one corner of the living room, and telling the landlord, “That’s where we’re going to put the crib when the baby comes.” This spot can also be used to stockpile your dirty laundry once the landlord leaves.
Once your landlord has pulled an Elvis and left the building, it’s safe to crack open a beer and enjoy a celebratory drink with your pseudo-spouse. You deserve it, because in Mumbai, marriage licenses are easier to come by than rent agreements.