They went to college together in Chennai. And when Tara, a 26-year-old instructional designer with a knowledge-based company, moved to Delhi for a job, she knew that Ashok, a 26-year-old software engineer, too was working in the Capital. She needed a place to stay and he had a spare room in his Defence Colony apartment. She moved in.
For many young people who come to Delhi and realise that friends are their only family, the Capital seems to have created a space where gender becomes only incidental.
It is not uncommon anymore to find young working professionals — guys and girls — sharing apartments together. “It made practical sense. Ashok is a good friend and sharing an apartment with a guy has turned out to be a lot less complicated than I imagined,” says Tara.
Also, single workingwomen find it more convenient to share an apartment with a guy.
“I wasn’t keen on living alone, especially in Delhi. With Rohit and Neha around, I feel a lot more safe,” says Geeta, a filmmaker who lives with her friends. They share a two-bedroom apartment in Maharani Bagh.
Having the opposite-sex around can lead to subtle self-imposed restrictions. “There are personal freedoms — be it what you wear, your tidiness quotient, late nights — that have to be slightly adjusted to make for comfortable living,” says Rohit, a 28-year-old reporter who works for a national magazine. Adds Neha, a reporter for a business newspaper, “We all need our space. But in the overall scheme of things, it does not matter all that much.”
Friends very quickly become like family, pushing the initial awkwardness to the background. Twenty-seven-year-old Philip, a civil lawyer, has no issues sharing his apartment in Ashram with his female friends anymore. “The first time I shared an apartment with two of my female friends, I was terribly self-conscious. But now I have grown to feel comfortable with it, friends are practically family now.”
His roommate Maya, a photographer, agrees: “Philip helps out with the chores; he also ferries me around. We look forward to each other’s company after a hard day’s work.” Did the landlord object? “He did, at first. But we told him it was no big deal, and he came around,” Maya adds.
There are inhibitions, of course. Breaking the news to parents back home is not always easy. “I didn’t tell my parents till much later. I don’t think parents of my flat mate even know that he shares the apartment with two girls,” says Neha, laughing.
That is the reason why none of them want to be photographed in home with flat mates. So while they have transcended the gender barrier, it might be some time before they break the news to their parents.
(Names have been changed.)