Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Finding a rental accommodation in Chennai

for mom and I has been an experience. Throughout our lives. More so after I became "Filim singer". 

I have been itching to write about the kinda questions mom and I have been facing in singaara, culture-protecting Chennai for a while now (especially after the demise of my grandparents, so lets say, 10 years), but for some reason held back. 

All through my childhood life had been in Adyar/Besant Nagar. Mom never really exposed me to the cruel and insensitive questions that landlords might ask a single woman and a daughter. But I got to know, when we decided my back was breaking driving from Adyar to Kodambakkam and Saligramam, where all the studios were sometimes, up and down, sometime twice in the same day. I'd have just reached home, to get another call for a recording and off I'd go driving the 15 kms to and fro. 

From a no-nonsense area to right in the middle of West Mambalam, because mom suddenly thought it'd be nice to live in an area surrounded by temples and all that. Was a very bad idea, coz we had never really been exposed to a typical area like West Mambalam and with "Maama enna panraaaeerr?" kinda questions. In fact mom hates it if someone calls her Maami.

West Mambalam was also the first time I was introduced to the concept of nosy neighbours. I would have kids come and ask my mom/me, who was that family who came in xyz car, wearing these clothes and had lunch with you and left at 4PM after spending x number of hours? are they relatives?" Clearly this kid was probably asked by his parent to find out :) Also was the first time I knew kids are trained by their parents to find out information from adults in such a manner or to go eavesdrop. (Yes, I know of parents who quietly send their kids to play around other adults who might be discussing something and come back to report on what was spoken of. Gossiping is inculcated in our culture :))

Shortly thereafter we realized West Mambalam was not our kinda area and that the divine temple romance was left behind and off we went into Saligramam. We lived in this house for almost 8 years and had the best ever, God-landlord who was actually a distant relative. After a point, once again, Saligramam to city was becoming tough. None of my friends would ever visit :p coz it was too far away. I was missing too many weddings/events coz I was too tired to drive. And with Arcot Road becoming a darn mess, it was becoming difficult for me to arrive anywhere on time. And I have an OCD issue with that. Driving with my feet on the brakes all the time wasn't my idea of fun driving. 

Cut to the next house in Nelson Manickam Road. The house is beautiful. The landlords live downstairs. Now everything was fine, until the landlord asked me to - 1. Marry his son and 2. Convert to his religion. All within a month of moving in here. I shall refrain from naming which religion because I don't think that would be polite. He says his son must learn how to be hardworking from me and that I am a very good girl. And hence I must marry him :p 

I am telling you, I get into some of the most unreal, ridiculous situations.

So off we go again looking for a house. Here are the questions that we heard from prospective landlords

1. Will you be back home by 9PM latest?

Because all the neighbours are elderly and they want no disturbance in the building. Disturbance isquolto opening lock, opening door and closing door quietly. 
I don't understand how many young people in their 20-s come back home at/before 9 PM. So if we rented this house, I guess mom and I are not allowed to watch a late-night film. 9PM curfew you see. I wonder if they think it's a hostel or a house they are renting. :p

2. Who will visit you?

What they also ask is will Directors/Actors visit you? If you work in the film industry and make any acquaintance, you peers are not allowed to visit you, coz you know, all that people in the film industry can do is hanky-panky all the time :p 

3. We will keep one set of keys with us. 

This was one thing that we were laughing about the most. Why would a landlord want to keep one set of keys for a house rented out to us, beats me. When I told a friend that the landlord said this, she said "Tell them OF COURSE. Only that when you guys go out and return, the house must be spotlessly clean, each day".

4. Will you sing? 

Err. I am a singer. I will have to practice, no? Oh that's not allowed? Ok. Thank God I don't tell people I am a trained Odissi dancer and learnt both Kathak and Odissi. :p (I can almost hear another landlord that I might meet in my near future scream)

5. Why did your father leave you? Where is he now? What is he doing? 

I think "Where is my father now" and "what is he doing" are two questions, the answer of which we both haven't really known and thereafter, wanted to know for almost 26 years. Why would anyone else want to know?

Is your father married to someone else? : No
Affair- a? : Not that I know of. 
Why? : I don't know. (Here I feel like saying I will give you his phone number. Please ask him why he didn't date/have an affair with anyone else after the divorce, etc. etc. etc)

6. How much do you get paid per song?

Here I would like to tell them, would you also like credit card statements, bank account statements service tax and tax papers too? 

Did I also tell you that all us people don't get paid for all these TV appearances on every show that you might see? Everytime I appear on TV the neighbours/watchmen and everyone else believe we'd have made quite a bit. Please also know that there are some gullible people who believe that if a newspaper writes about us, we are paid for the interview :p

7. You are only two people. Why do you need a big house? 

I have never understood this question either. So what if we are two people? We are expected to live in a cubby-hole?

[I have also not understood (this includes some relatives) why people criticize others who live in style or with some sophistication. Cannot only. Why? No need, they'll say. What does one earn money for after all? To have the lifestyle that you aspired to have na? So why not go ahead and live the life you want? OK that is another post]
We have a tendency to collect antique and artistic furniture and we have only about 3000 books. Some of the books are at least a couple of centuries old, that my mom has managed to maintain inspite of all our moving about. And I keep adding to the collection. Some people also don't know how much space some 50 pairs of shoes need ;) Plus my baking obsession .. oh actually my list is very long. We need a room for the library/study, thank-you-very-much. I guess the concept of having a den/study is lost on a lot of people.

Somehow mom and I, because of the kinda family we hailed from and from the heydays, we unfortunately cannot shake off, the, well, a certain class or style in the way we have basically inherited. Unfortunately Chennai and a lot of its landlords don't understand that.

Why don't we own a place yet? We dont. That's all. And a lot of investment gurus told us that it is a total waste of money to invest in a place in Chennai for the kinda space/locality that we might be happy in and we were advised to rent only and told to invest differently.

Yes I know some really nice people who leased their houses to some terrible tenants and are petrified with the experience that they might as well have the place under lock and key than rent it. 

So right now, story of our lives is to find a nice place so that I am not reminded every week by landlord on the importance of converting to save his ancestors who have attained heaven, from the sin of having a Hindu Daughter in law. I have only tried to tell the family No a few times. 

After reading this post, usual stalker will now send me a mail, as he usually does, Marry Me Chinmayi. I will protect you from all these people. Ppppah. I tell you. How all people will say "Oru Kalyanam pannikko, ellam seri aagidum" Like they say, from frying pan to blazing fire ;)

Watch this space. I might actually add some more bizarre questions that we are asked ;)


Unknown said...

That's quite a candid post. Somehow it didn't make me laugh. Just sad. Perhaps because I was expecting these things before I even started reading and it turned out to be it. Good luck in your house hunt.

Srini said...

go for buying a house. that would give u a peace of mind to concentrate on your work.

people on ur know would find it easier to recall ur place of living if u r not changing ur coordinates often.

Unknown said...

Have encountered this when I moved into Jaipur and Mumbai. They used to say "Arey aap BPO se hain kya? toh aap raat ko bahut der se aaoge toh TV mat chalao, aapke dost ghar mein nahi aa sakte etc" or "Kya aap mere bete ki job lagva denge? Aap toh Manager ho". I used to think "Idhukku badula veetla summa ve okkaralam".
But as my friends say, Happy House Hunting!!!

Sriram said...

Aha, didn't know that "Oru kalyanam panniko.." dialogue was being used on women as well.. Everytime i hear it, I cringe. Lucky that no landlord told you "Get my son/daughter/daughter-in-law/cousin/my sis-in-law's bro-in-law's onnu vitta mama's son a chance in the industry."

I have had people telling me in Jaipur & Mumbai "Arey aap toh BPO se ho, hamare ladke ki service lagwado." Its a nationwide epidemic.. BTW, Happy House Hunting!!! :P

Anonymous said...

I never thought finding a house in chennai is so difficult and ur experience is somwhat hilarious from external perspective.
I am supposed to move to chennai in may and now i am afraid for look and see and rent.
Culturally oversensitive chennai !!!

I am reading ur blog first time and should tell you that the writing is so coming from your heart, so honest in writing tough questions. I should learn from this writing since i get one among the same question and i face it difficult to answer.

I am hopefull and am also sure that some good people in chennai will support you in getting a house that you not only stay but actually live .


Dhannu said...

Awesome stuff. Agree in hating this' get married' statement. Like tats the solution to everything. Appreciation of the appreciate! Ppl really need to grow out of too many stereotypical statements!

Jayanthi said...

My goodness! Just reading this post has left me reeling. It is definitely super tough to locate a 'good' house for rent in Chennai. The most ridiculous part of this entire saga is the house owner asking you to marry his son. Whatthe..

Ganesh said...

Sad and disappointing. I am surprised that you are out up with this nonsense instead of buying a home !!!

Ganesh said...

Sad and disappointing. I am surprised that you are out up with this nonsense instead of buying a home !!!

Sudhakar Ganesan said...

When we do live in rental house , this usually happens.. moreover the places you are living in city premises will have more issues than suburban areas.

I too had a house hunting in some areas and then left that option midway . :)

Don't we have Rented House Owners Association to deal with these issue ?

we have a lot of sangams , why don't have it for this ?

Anonymous said...

I cannot imagine that you are ready to move all your stuff from one house to the other instead of buying a own place. Invest???? I am assuming you don't have plan to stay in Chennai forever. If that's not true, then I won't consider it as an investment. House is an essential for living and there is no reason why you have to put up with these people when you can afford your own place.


Anonymous said...

Wow !! I never knew even celebrities could undergo such torture ! I thought people will generally bend behind their backs to do anything for such folks !! I cannot believe people can be so ridiculous !!

Sairam M said...

Buy your own house at the earliest

Anusha said...

Hope you find the right house soon. It really does get on our nerves when people are insensitive or inquisitive about ones life. I could and would never understand the preconceived notions and stigma attached to people in the film industry esp. But the inquisitiveness is for everyone's life, just more pronounced for a celebrity.

sandeep18march said...

That's a very well written post..Loved reading it :)
very candid, very honest and yes funny too...
believe me or not, i actually googled to check what ISQUOLTO is... :P
and man (or should i say Lady), the smart fellow that google is, he told me - did u mean IS EQUAL TO :)

smart isquolto chinmayi!!! :)

Dinesh said...


Anonymous said...

In i live chennai over 6 months ago and all people are same view except some rare cases. heaven pa in my native compare to chennai.

Arch said...

Ok, this is ridiculous. How can they even ask stuff like do you sing?! I mean, are you a home theatre system with Dolby Digital in your throat to sing in high pitch?!

I hope you use the FB groups for house hunting. A bunch of cool, really nice people posted entries asking for similar people.

Indha kalyanam matter kekkaravanguluku rendu kuttu vekkanum. Bleedy, all the time!

I get asked - why is your appa not there on any FB pics? Amma - Appa relationship seri illayaaa??

Good Luck!

sanjay said...

Wow! Some of those questions are outrageous (even by conservative Chennai standards).I guess some things never change.

In the late 90's, my uncle asked me to meet him at a friend's place in one of those 'ondu Kudithanam' type houses in West Mambalam. I got there a little bit early and as I didn't know the friend's name, I waited outside next to my moped. At least 5 different people were nosy enough to ask me what exactly I was doing standing there outside 'families ellam irukkara edam'. When I told them to mind their own business, they didn't take it very well. Thankfully, my uncle didn't keep me waiting for much longer.

Golden Snake said...

one answer for all questions - #facepalm

Yamaka said...

Very candid write up. For a 29-year old "very successful young woman" listening to some "investment guru" to NOT to own a home of her choice is very intriguing, to tell you the least. Most Americans (I live in Houston for a long time) will immediately buy a property "TO LIVE WELL" close to the work place at the earliest opportunity in life - most would buy once a full time job is lined up. I suggest that Chinmayi must buy a comfortable home at the earliest. Tolerating so much abuse by the home owners is utterly foolish!

Kanthu said...

And I thought finding a rented house for a bachelor was the most difficult thing.

Happy house hunting..:-)

Unknown said...

i wish blogger had a 'like' button just as in Facebook, i would love to 'like' this post a thousand times ;)
if you are a girl and living alone the questions are in fact more bizarre and ridiculous!
praying that you get a nice house free from all this stuff.

Vickhan said...

OMG!! And I was thinking only bachelors had to undergo all this nonsense! I agree, bachelors do tend to end up troubling the house owners a bit, but not all of them!! But, women being questioned this way?? Dat too, a celebrity! Imagine the plight of other, not-so-well-known single women, trying to rent a house!! Sad! :(

vids said...

Chinz ... Gosh I so much second all your words ! Its almost like I am talking ...Just that the place is Bangy for me !Mom & I have horrendously put up with all such bizarre questions ... and life does go on & for the innumerable lessons learnt:) So here's me wishing you a super home to be found with all goodness and peace in store :)

Anonymous said...

oru kalyanam pannikko ellam sariyapoidum...

why? because kalyanam pannavudane mathe ellam prichnairyum life-la chinnatha podium.. :-)



kalyanam panni kashthapaduvor sangam

simply me said...

Hi chinamyi..i get ur frustration. My sis I stayed in Chennai for only 3 day in a friend's friend's house coz we cudn get a place at a very short notice period,hotels were too expensive..etc. I'm a Malaysian n honestly i got a shock wen the neighbours of tat house complained that we were comin in late at nite(dude..its after shopping..wth?)n loads of other rubbish...i mean really? wth is the problem wif this ppl? never heard of civic sense or even privacy..too bad our host took it badly n we had to pack up n go the next day itsef...gosh i can't believe that even you face tat sort of problem...looks like nosy people are not discriminatory wen it comes to this....
anyway..good luck in gettin ur own home soon and kudos to ur blog..m an avid reader of it..thanks for the continuous inspiration..._
happy woman's day!

Ananth said...

Funny..but serious! Resident Alien :P

Ananth said...

BTW ..a very happy Women's Day Chinmayi! Should be everyday isn't it...

Anonymous said...

I thought you're life and experience would make a good book, but now it feels like it's material for many kandams like Ramayana. Your life has all the elements for making a successful leading lady in any serial :) Didn't any mega-serial writer approach you still?

Really feel sorry !
Wish there was an Auroville in Chennai .


Anonymous said...

what a broad-minded & cool personality you are!
good luck with your search !

Unknown said...

All that a landlord should ask is rent, why do they ask all these silly questions. I wonder what happiness will they get in asking such question and hurting others feelings.

I wish you get a beautiful house as you dreamed :-) and do update when you get one.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Please buy a house and then see the comfort you can experience in owning your own home. Leave alone the investment consultants. consider it seriously. Choose the very great areas in city like Alwarpert RA Puram Abhiramapuram. May be even use a call taxi to work. Really not advice. Do what works well. But owning a home is a bliss to be experienced.

prasanna said...

I never knew there were so many questions that needed to be answered for renting a house!

Anonymous said...

without hearing these stuffs there will be no fun in life...Enjoy life which makes you happy... ;)

Anonymous said...

I am curious of those old/antique books your mom is collecting. Are they from India. If so, would like to know a bit about those.