(Note: This is my HT column dated 31st May 2015.)
Earlier this week, a Muslim woman named Misbah Quadri alleged that she was forced to vacate her rented apartment in Wadala, Mumbai, because of her faith. This story came as a shock to exactly zero people, because if you’ve spent more than ten minutes in India, you know that bigotry and hypocrisy are our finest talents, second only to telling people that they’ve put on weight yaar.
But then came the twist: it was reported that the building she was evicted from houses other Muslim residents who’ve never faced such problems, and that she was evicted after a spat with her broker that had nothing to do with religion. If that’s true, then congratulations to Misbah for arming people with one more reason to turn down minority tenants.
This contradiction gave a bunch of people the chance to crow ‘SEE SHE’S LYING SHE’S A PAID COMMUNAL AGENT THERE IS NO BIAS BOOYEAH!’. That’s like saying that ‘I know a woman who filed a false dowry claim so
‘Honda City ke saath ek biwi free’ doesn’t happen.’
It’s not just religious grounds – the housing market is a basically a buffet of bias. You can pick the ideal tenant qualities like you’re designing an avatar in a video game. When you unlock the highest level, you get an upper-caste married MNC-employed couple with kids who cracked the JEE while still in the womb.
Of course, bias isn’t the exclusive domain of the majority. Like young women four drinks down at a party, it goes both ways. And you can see why. It’s because equality is terrifying.
I mean what if some heathen starts cooking meat in the privacy of his home, with complete disregard for the noses of people who live two floors up? What if someone starts drinking alcohol in his own house, not caring about some medieval definition of sin as imposed by the followers of Magic Sky People? What if kids see young men and women freely visiting each other and conclude that this is normal and does not mean that a brothel is being run on the premises? Does it not shake you to the core when you realise that people outside the radius of your tiny brain give zero shits about your prejudice?
What is amazing is that these are the same people who, when they’re abroad, will whine about how white people call them Apu-loving towel-heads. This is how Indians sound like when they’re abroad:
Guy 1: That guy just called me a darkie. White people are so racist!
Guy 2: Bhai, Indians are best. We treat visitors like god only!
And this is what they sound like when they see a black guy in India:
Guy 1: Aye Negro, how much for cocaine.
Black Guy: Dude, I’m Chris Gayle.
Guy 2: I loved you as Nick Fury!
If I ever own property – which will happen once I figure out how to monetize oversleeping – I too will have a set of rules and questions for prospective tenants. It’ll look something like this:
Do you watch Game of Thrones? Do you read Game of Thrones? Can you STFU about spoilers? Okay, we’re cool.
Are you gay? Are you straight? Are you turned on by Shrek soft toys? When is Ranbir marrying Katrina? None of this is my business, so carry right on.
Do you drink? Do you get drunk and quote cheesy Bollywood lines? Can you sing Hai Huku Hai Huku Hai Hai, and wake up the next day with not an ounce of shame? If so, welcome to the party.
Are you a pain at the dinner table? Will you put on a hazmat suit if the guy next to you orders meat? Or conversely, will you make stupid ghaas-phoos jokes if there’s a vegetarian at the table? Either way, I hope you catch a disease that requires you to only eat karela for the rest of your life.
Tina Fey or Amy Poehler? (There is no wrong answer here. Unless you say Comedy Circus, in which case you can go live in Archana Puran Singh’s mouth. It’s bigger than most Mumbai apartments anyway.)
There you have it. That was pretty simple. Now if only somebody could just gift me some property, that would be great. It’s an open offer to anyone reading this. Bigots needn’t apply.