Monday, November 10, 2008

Rent and Religion

A friend who is looking for a flat to rent asked me to speak to someone about it. She cautioned me to make sure I inform them that she is Catholic. She said she and a Muslim friend had had a lot of trouble in another city when they went looking for a place to rent.

They claimed it was to do with eating non-veg, she said.

I rubbished that. It's not like all Hindus are vegetarians. If that was the problem they'd have stated it upfront.

Even though I shouldn't have been surprised - after all, there have been enough stories and news items about such discrimination - it left me feeling vaguely disturbed, this reminder of the prejudice and discrimination in my country.

Such a person, who doesn't want someone of another religion using their property, must not care to ever make friends with someone of a different religion. To eat together, to visit their homes, to learn about them. What a pathetic, narrow life.


Emma said...

I am actually not surprised. When I was working in Vijayawada, I was also on the lookout for a house and I faced this at various fronts - first, if I ate non-veg. While I can still understand that, what was even worse was when people wanted to know my caste (no, not religion. These were Hindu families whose criteria for renting the house was that I belong to a particular caste). To say I was disgusted is an understatment.

Sujeet Pillai said...

On a similar note, try watching a story from the movie Dus Kahaaniyan. The story's name is "Rice Plate". Very interesting.

Banno said...

Yes, it's real. I've come to think that the non-veg angle is only a convenient way of saying 'no'. But people are just more comfortable living with people like themselves. Plus having 'undesirable' elements brings down the property rates of the locality.

Pallavi Sharma said...

I think sometimes it's about religious intolerance, sometimes just about preference. In spite of being born a Hindu Brahmin, I was asked not to occupy a certain apartment if I was going to cook non-veg. I wouldn't, but what if my flat mate wanted to... I refused.
Also, we asked the same question about non-veg to our tenants, because my mom doesn't prefer that to be cooked in her kitchen. In our case it was pure preference. I guess people assume (and not without reason) that Christians and Muslims have non-veg and therefore cook it at home too. Although, we'd never ever discriminate based on religion... we've had wonderful friends from among other faiths.

Unmana said...

Emma: I'm sorry you had to face that. I've never faced anything of the sort yet, and in the less than three years I've lived in Pune, I've rented flats from a Catholic, a Muslim, and a Hindu.

Sujeet: I'm so glad to see you here! Will try to catch the movie.

Banno: I suppose so. I should look out for an atheist, feminist colony then. Let me know if you hear of any.

Pallu: It may be about preference if you object to have someone cook non-veg in your home - in which case you'll ask them upfront. It is definitely bigotry if you object after you find out the person has a Catholic or Muslim name.

Usha said...

I have been around quite a few blogs today and many of them are discussing this issue of intolerance - I am rather shocked to hear about this kind of discrimination.
I wonder what happens when people live in apartment complexes - do they object to people of other religions occupying neighbouring flats - can they even? then why this hypocrisy about not being able to do that when they live in houses?

D said...

The pettiness of my countrymen never ceases to surprise me.

On the other hand, there are the Hindus and Muslims of Gujarat who co-exist because of their trade interests. They know that despite the Godhra incident and the riots, they must continue work with members of another religion because that makes economic sense. The same argument is given for why Lucknow has never witnessed religious riots.

The only reason when biases can be put aside are when economics rules your mind.

Pallavi Sharma said...

I so agree with your point about it being bigotry. Since ours is a matter of preference, we've even turned down or avoided renting out our place to people from our own caste!
On a similar note, I've seen my in-laws fearing to buy a house in many areas in Gujarat because it's dominated by folks from another religion. I think, even though they don't have anything against folks from other faiths, it's the past occurrences of violence that keep them frightened. I'm sure Muslims also hold similar fears... what with the VHP and other such miscreants around. It's such a mess we've created!

nevermind said...

Hi, saw an old comment, clicked on it and guess what I find? Hope you are well. I find this deeply problematic personally courtesy a wonderfully mixed-up and thoroughly Gandhian upbringing, which has resulted in me being a card-carrying member of 2 religions. I also have an uncategorizable name. Of course, the 'officials' of the religions in question are unaware of this state of affairs. When I got a passport, when I got married etc. this became a problem. My parents disapprove, though they dare not say it since they are partly responsible for this. Members of each try to claim me as their own and get upset when I explain that I see no difference between the two.

Newly arrived in London, I was the victim of a bizarre public rant by a very influential Hindutva type who called me 'deracinated' and 'untrustworthy' and compared me to 'white trash' in front of my horrified boss and a roomful of senior academics (they were stunned and furious on my behalf, I amused).

And seeing the 'my religion or nothing' direction in which Indian politics is going, I now feel insecure in India, being neither here nor there in terms of religion. I am so fed up I think I might become a Buddhist. At least they have the sophistication to understand the concepts of mutual respect and multiple allegiances. Just kidding;-) I don't see the point in so-called 'conversions' (for want of a better word). One's beliefs are a private matter and not upto pandits/padres/mullahs/rabbis. Like Gandhiji said, the crux of all religions is the same: love and mutual respect. Pity we are distorting it beyond all recognition. I worry for my (yet-to-be-born) kids. But it's nice to see so many sensible people commenting on your post. Makes me feel a bit normal (and safer, to be honest). Maybe no one will want to kill me in a riot. Maybe they all will. Who knows?

Indian Home Maker said...

Yes it does happen.
@Usha - There are people who want to know how many Muslims live in an apartment complex before they buy a house there. In Mumbai it started or became quite open after the 1992-93 riots.

Unmana said...

Usha: I suppose you hadn't heard of this case:

I seem to remember that the flat was finally sold to the people it had been pledged to. I admire the Madhavi Kapoor for fighting for them.

D: I suppose you are right. But in that case, aren't flatowners acting against their economic interest by refusing to rent to people of a different religion?

Pallu: Indeed. I wouldn't blame people of other religions if they feel insecure, with the kind of environment we have created for them.

Nevermind: I'm so sorry you feel that way. To tell the truth, I feel insecure in India sometimes, even though I belong to the majority religion by birth. I can only hope things improve.

And yeah, I have great readers, don't I? :-)

IHM: Ah, but what my friend faced was in Bangalore. And I suppose it happens everywhere.

One positive thing though: when the Guy told our landlord that my friend is interested in renting the flat, and told him she is Catholic, he said there was no problem. My friend since decided against it, but the landlord's easy assent made me feel better.