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The jobs that pay our rents

I frequently hear this line from my single friends who don’t live alone: “Thank God I live with my family — and don’t have to pay rent.” Sushmita Bose has more...

india Updated: Jul 06, 2008 02:21 IST
Sushmita Bose

As depressing reports of inflation and rising petrol prices (will car pools, and therefore lesser cars, be the order of the day? Alas, no, Delhiites continue their awful driving streak without a break even) hog the headlines, I frequently hear this line from my single friends who don’t live alone: “Thank God I live with my family — and don’t have to pay rent.”

Right said Fred.

When I moved to Delhi in 2001 (now, how many times have I inserted this line in my columns? I’ve lost count), I was told there was an easy way of figuring out how much money one should dole out by way of rent: “It’s about 30 per cent of your salary.”

That was a hell of a lot. And it was bloody unfair to boot: it meant those who got to “stay at home”, got to save that amount.

“No, they usually buy stuff like, you know, shoes,” one of my newly acquired colleagues told me, picking up half-a-dozen pairs from the Woodlands store at Basant Lok (the shop has closed down now).

I realised miserably that I would never be able to buy that many shoes. She, on the other hand, could — because she “stayed at home”.

I also realised I’d never be able to take a sabbatical (it was wrong to think of going on extended leave just days after having joined my new job in a new city) — unless I got married to someone who’d be agreeable to support me — because the rent factor hung around me like Damocles sword.

But I was — and am — in company. In urban, middle class India, we are getting to be the masters (and mistresses) of our own destinies. Not too many people who are relocating to live alone look at family coffers (back home) to bail them out: most would rather foot their own bills.

We are growing up, I guess.

One of my friends, for instance, would work a couple of hours every night, editing manuscripts, because he needed the extra money (it’s called moonlighting). He wanted to live in “a particular area”, and he was clear he would rather burn the midnight oil (while others in his circle partied) in order to pay his princely rent.

For my part, I was determined to buy as many pairs of shoes as my earlier-mentioned colleague did, so, in my first year, I commuted by bus, ate at home and did my own housework.

By the end of 12 months, I had a tidy heap in the bank (“You have a lakh, you have a lakh!” one of my friends yelled, when he read my bank statement that was lying on the kitchen cabinet). And, I was paying rent every month. And, I always coughed it up on time (a fact my landlord noted with considerable satisfaction).

In The Devil Wears Prada, Anne Hathaway sticks to her job in New York City, even though her boss — ‘She Devil’ Meryl Streep — gives her loads of grief. One reason, an almost egoistical one, why she stuck it out was, of course, because she wanted to prove a point — and be taken seriously at the workplace. There was another reason, an entirely practical one: she had a house rent to pay.

She, her boyfriend, and a couple of their friends — all in the same boat –—raise a toast one fine evening to “the jobs that pay our rents”.

We, in the city of New Delhi, should too.