Are you unmarried?
Are you non-Hindu?
Are you non-vegetarian?
Are you non-Tamilian?
Do you smoke or drink?
If your answer to any of those questions is yes, then you'd better not come to Chennai in search of a job, because you are not going to get a house to live in. And if your answer to all the above questions was yes then, according to the prevailing moral standards among landlords in Chennai, you should be locked up in a deep dark dungeon without ever having the opportunity to corrupt the society by coming into contact with it.
A little over a year ago when we were house-hunting in Chennai we thought we'd never get a house. Even though we were willing to pay outrageous sums of money as monthly rent and advance, many of the landlords would simply not let us set foot inside their 'To Let' houses. The major problem, I realized, was my bachelorhood. That reminds me of a joke.
Q: What is worse than a bachelor staying in your house?
A: 4 bachelors staying in your house. (Haha..)
Now try this one:
Q: What is worse than 4 bachelors staying....(Oh.. cut it out, you say. It's not funny? Well you have no sense of humour, sir!)
For most of the people, it wasn't just the bachelor thing that was bothersome - it was also the fact that the 4 of us came from 4 different states and spoke 4 different languages, none of which was Tamil. Even more worrying for them were the low percentage of Hindus in our group (50% non-Hindus) and an even lower percentage of vegetarians (100% non-vegetarian). In fact, most of the rental ads you would see in Chennai come with the standard 'vegetarians only' clause.
However, I must admit that there were some people who were willing to overlook such unpardonable crimes - for 20% extra, of course. Most of these landlords were the ones who had cut their teeth during the initial days of the IT boom and knew that 4 earning tenants in the rented house translated to higher rent-paying potential. Sadly, even these landlords had certain conditions.
"No smoking, no drinking and no girls in the house," they kept telling us like parrots. "Good families staying all around. They wouldn't like it."
Most of these landlords would have gargantuan beer bellies which wouldn't have seen a dry day since attaining puberty and I swear I have seen some of them taking a puff from their half finished Navy Cut after those words come out.
There was no way we could agree to such restrictions because my roommates had all the three sins covered between them (I'm a nice boy, in case you are wondering. Besides, I think my father reads my blog.)
Working against such seemingly insurmountable odds, we finally did manage to find a house. And ironically, the only reason we got that house was because I was a Christian. The landlord of my house had kept the house locked for a year rather than rent it out to any non-Christians. Of course, he would have preferred to give it to a Christian family; but since none was forthcoming, we (only 50% Christian!) got it. Speaks volumes about the religious orthodoxy of Chennai, doesn't it?
And while we are at it, take the time to go through Krish Ashok's piece on the same subject. I had this post in the pipeline for too long now and could finish it only after reading Krish's post.