A few days ago, I was chatting with my landlord about the Safety Factor of living alone. “I don’t know why people in India get into such a flap,” he reasoned, “when they hear about a man and a woman sharing a flat for the sake of convenience. I mean it’s so much more safer for a woman to have a man around her.” He added — on second thoughts — that, of course, the man in question has to be a Known Quantity — as against being an unknown one.
I asked Tiger for his opinion. I framed it — I’m proud to say, and I’m patting myself on the back even as I write this —kind of cleverly. “Would you be okay sub-letting a part of your apartment to a couple who aren’t married, who are not even ‘living in’, but just want to live together for practical purposes like splitting the rent?”
“I’d be okay with it I suppose,” he growled. “But obviously it would be a given that the two would end up Having A Scene.” Why should that be?
“Oh, c’mon,” he insisted. “A man and a woman, living together… well, what do you expect?” (Unless, his voice trailed off at this point, they had a different kind of a sexual orientation.) Hell, I told him, that almost sounded like what Harry said when he met Sally: “…men and women can’t be friends, because the sex part always gets in the way.”
“I don’t watch girlie films like When Harry Met Sally,” Tiger countered manfully.
Soon after, my cousin brother who works in the booming BPO sector — and whose parents are still sore about the fact that he didn’t become an economist — called to inform that he’s shifted into a new pad. “Guess what Dids,” he announced, “I even have a female flatmate.”
What??? “You mean you’re living in with her?” I asked.
“No way, we are only living together,” said the brat. “It’s very a common thing these days Dids, guys and gals living together — not because of love-shove, but because we can save on rent.”
Last year, when one of my colleagues moved to Bombay, he decided to share his flat with a girl there — and triggered off a wave of speculation in Delhi. Everyone wanted to know if he was “seeing” his flatmate. “No way,” he used to scoff. “This is Bombay boss, people here think differently — unlike you villagers in Delhi.”
Now it seems — according to my cousin at least — that Delhi landlords too are okay with this Joey-Phoebe-Rachel-Ross-Monica-Chandler kind of an arrangement. “Well, if the landlord isn’t staying in the same house himself, it definitely helps,” my cousin offered. He has moved into a DDA flat; his landlord lives in Vasant Vihar, and never visits. How cool, I thought. How like Friends.
A few hours later, I got a call from his mother who lives in Calcutta.
“Have you heard,” she shrieked, “this chap has moved in with some woman?”
“Is she good-looking?”
“Ummm, I don’t really know. Haven’t even met her.”
“Do you have any intelligence on her?”
“You’re so completely useless,” she sighed. “I grill him for an hour about his intentions, and he tells me they are totally asexual… but the bottom line is that my son is living with a woman.”
“Why are you so interested in her?” I wanted to know.
“She may get married to him one day and I’ll have to bequeath all my jewellery to her,” my aunt replied.