The new face of Mumbai — young, single, and independent — wants to make it big. But it is a tough task in a city that seems to have no room for them.
In a market where demand exceeds supply, singletons have the toughest deal. They are at the bottom of the list of desirable tenants for housing societies that govern the affairs of buildings in the city.
Hmm. The more things appear to change, the more they don't - at some level. What do housing societies fear? That singles will spoil the 'peace'. Play loud music, bring home boyfriends and girlfriends, host late night parties. Basically, do a whole bunch of things that Mr & Mrs Solanki in apt 2b never had a chance to do in their youth. Or perhaps did, but gave up after they 'settled down'.
Of course many Indian singletons simply go to work, come back, eat a tiffin and crash out in front of the television. Just like boring old people. But society waale sochte hain, why take a chance ?
Sameera Khan, a researcher with the Gender and Space Project at Pukar, said, “The city is becoming exclusionist. Anyone who does not conform to people’s social standards is not accepted.”
I think the problem is now magnified - because of the sheer numbers and a shift in attitude. Ten years ago if you were young and single, you lived in a hostel or as a PG. If you were really lucky your company provided a shared accomodation ('chummery').
Now I notice a lot of young people prefer to share a flat with a few friends, rather than suffer odd rules and curfews at a hostel. Or the cramped lifestyle and general lack of privacy in a paying guest arrangement. Sharing a flat is sometimes cheaper, sometimes more expensive than other options.The more important thing is the freedom it accords you - and the fact that it feels like a 'home'.
The home bit is crucial because the average working professional may be single for a while. I remember most of the girls who completed their MBA with me got hitched by the time they were 25. So their single-and-alone-in-Bombay stint lasted just about 2-3 years. And the guys within 5 years of graduating.
That would still hold true for many today. But a larger prportion of the young, working population is waiting longer. For this bunch, 30 is the new 25. Hence the rising demand for single accomodation.
The answer, perhaps, is to have separate housing societies only for young and single people. "No kids allowed. No married couples allowed. No aunties in polyester salwar kameez allowed." Only dogs, dudes and live ins!
But seriously, we need to become more tolerant of people with different attitudes and lifestyles. Shaadi must not be a be-all and end-all. Actually, it isn't. Once married, the next worry everyone around you has is: "bacche". And once you have that there are not so subtle hints that the child needs a sibling. And so it goes until these kids are married and reproducing...
On a related note, I must bring up this peculiar tendency people have to bring up one's marital status. In a context where it is utterly irrelevant. Two b schools I was invited to speak at recently introduced me as 'Mrs Rashmi Bansal' and it bugged me slightly. Not enough to take it up with the organisers, but enough to write about here.
So marry - or don't marry. Either way that should not be of concern to your landlord. As long as you pay the rent and don't store RDX in his house. But, that kind of 'live and let live' spirit is still rare.
The question is: twenty years from now when you are Mr & Mrs Solanki in apt 2b - will you have it?