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MEENAKSHI REDDY MADHAVAN
COMPULSIVE CONFESSOR
MEENAKSHI REDDY MADHAVAN

Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan is the suthor of You Are Here and Confessions of a Listmaniac.

Single woman in Delhi? Landlords here are good for a laugh

Delhi is not a city for those wanting to live on their own

'm post-feminist," I announce proudly, at my second ever dinner party. After a day spent grocery shopping and food blog surfing, the product of my laborious time spent at the stove is being eaten with gusto, to my happy satisfaction. My friend leans back, satiated from the meal, and raises one sardonic eyebrow. "I'm taking back the kitchen!" I say, a little less sure of the definition of post-feminism, "I thought it wasn't feminist to cook, but I don't see why I shouldn't have that skill as well." "And learn to knit?" asks another male friend. "And wear an apron?" They break into sniggers. I ignore them and serve dessert in a manner that would put any '50s housewife to shame. Only, I'm wearing shorts, the house and furniture are all mine and not the gifts of a husband or a parent, and even the food I've cooked: lamb burgers, caramelized onions, haloumi cheese – was cooked only because I had a massive burger craving, not because I was showing off some fancy new recipe. Okay, only partly because I was showing off a fancy new recipe.

Recently, drifting about in a pool in a fancy new hotel with a friend, I think what a nice life she — and my other couple friends — seem to have. Shared things. Not having to justify buying a dining table (hard for me, because when I eat alone, I usually do it on a sofa with a book). Larger houses. That last one rankles. Increasingly, I begin to look around my "two-room set" with distaste, with a countertop in a hallway serving as a kitchen, a living room where, if I was five inches taller, I could stretch out and touch all four walls, a cupboard in a most inconvenient place, but one I can't shift because there isn't anywhere else to go. A bathroom I have to share with my cat. It's cute, but I'm done being cute. I'm done confining my life to the box of spinsterhood. "I don't see why I shouldn't have two bedrooms just because I'm not married," I tell my mother. She suggests I start looking for a house again, somewhere I can stretch and potter about and just be. A writer's studio, except, I keep thinking about my extra bedroom, even though I know I should be focusing on the basics: a one bedroom hall kitchen. Just right for one small person plus cat. But, I think that bits of Delhi still allow us the luxuries of space for a fraction of the cost, and I think about my teeny tiny flat in Bandra, and how I sometimes fantasized (even dreamt at night) about large houses, houses that opened up into other houses. My most recurring dream was one where I walked into a hallway or a cupboard or something, saw a door I had never seen before, turned the handle and suddenly realised my house was a mansion. Figures. Some people dream of magical worlds. I dream about real estate. And the important thing is, in all these fantasies, it was always just me. Just me and an excess of space.

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Figures. Some people dream of magical worlds. I dream about real estate.

spend time househunting. I explain very carefully to all the brokers I use just what I'm looking for. Somewhere quiet, and big enough so I don't get all cramped, and with enough light so that the place doesn't look like a dungeon and oh yes, I'd like to entertain some evenings, thanks. Well. You'd think I was suggesting running a prostitution drug ring. First, the landlords all looked deeply suspicious of a single girl wanting to live on her own. It doesn't help that I look about five years younger than I am, so I had to stand on their doorsteps, going, "Please! I'm nearly thirty!" Then, I got well-meaning lectures on how I should really be working on getting married (thanks), and another set of questions, asked in perfectly polite tones, about how I shouldn't have any male guests. Especially not overnight ones. I'd reply, equally politely, that I had male friends, and I wasn't going to promise anything of the sort. "Thanks," they'd say, shaking my hand, "We'll call you." Landlord woes apart, there really wasn't anything that was calling to me. Nice houses, basic houses, houses tucked away behind main houses or on top of main houses, all very much You're-Single houses. Like we're pariahs. Delhi doesn't have an abundance of that Bombay staple: the 1 BHK; it's either two bedrooms or none. This is not a city for the single person wanting to live on their own, basically.

And then, one hot afternoon, en route to see what would turn out to be another city of equally depressing places, I found it. Out of my budget, ungainly, weird bathroom placement, three more bedrooms than I need, but I loved it. I wanted it. This was it, this was my grown up house, a house, I told my friend, that has more personality than I do. A house uncannily like the ones I dreamt about, one room leading to another, and just when you think you're done with the space, there's more. If this house happens, my own, unpariah house, my in-your-face! house, my I-don't-need-to-be-married-to-have-a-guestroom house, if it all comes together, like I hope it will. But land gods are precarious, and you never know, then I might just be a spinster till the end of my days, just so I don't have to share it.

Otherwise, there's always the one room sets.

 
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