An online poll is going on right now in our apartment for the flat owners to vote for or against renting out apartments to bachelors. A single flat in the entire building is rented out to some unmarried guys and it seems that has set off a danger signal in the minds of quite a lot of residents here. I first heard about these bachelors a few weeks ago when one of the flat owners asked with a sense of disbelief why they were a given a flat on rent, on the official WhatsApp group of the building. It seemed strange to me that an explanation was given by the Residents Association officials to this supposedly-outrageous decision (Bachelors in our building???!!! WTF!!!) – that we do not (yet) have a policy on this and if more people found it required, it could be discussed. But when they actually came up with a poll to finalize this policy, I couldn’t believe it. And the basis of this whole DEFCON 1-styled exercise? Apparently, they were “captured” on security cameras having female visitors over at night. “Captured” – because man! What unmarried guy would dare to take any female to his flat without hiding from the peeping eyes of self-proclaimed decent neighbours or the security cameras that have been installed for the very purpose of catching such evil-doers red-handed!!

Anyway, the result of the poll is more or less obvious from the number of messages on the WhatsApp group against ever having bachelors or bachelorettes (?? Did I get that right?) in the building as tenants. Thank God they decided to keep the discrimination a notch down by not making their repulsion gender-specific. I’m glad that there were at least some sane voices that called out this unreasonable demand and stated a fact – that all bachelors aren’t bad, and all families aren’t good, by the conventional standards of good and bad that we look for in neighbours.  

If they do decide to draw out a policy prohibiting renting out flats to bachelors based on the sheer number of votes, Hari and I have decided already that we will politely refuse to sign the document drawn for the purpose and state that we will neither support nor follow a policy that absolutely violates a flat owner’s basic rights and encourages discrimination on the basis of marital status. That is what it is, right? Discrimination, violation of rights, and add to it, a generous dose of moral policing too! And if today we give in to this discrimination, tomorrow there could be a poll to deny accommodation based on any other parameter that another set of residents deem problematic.

In the first place, asking legal owners of an apartment to abide by (‘take into consideration’ is a diluted usage going by people’s demands) the preferences of other residents when renting out their apartments is, to put it mildly, stupid. That too, foreseeing the problems these tenants “might create” solely owing to their marital status? That is another level of stupidity. You are actually saying – “We decide who you can let into the apartment that you own!” and “Unless you get married, you are a sinner, or at least a potential sinner. Get married if you want to be accepted by civilized society.” Yeah, that is not just stupid. That is a whole other level of entitlement coupled with an unbelievable degree of stupidity.

Whether they admit it or not, the primary concern that most people have about bachelors in the building is their relationships and sex life, which is why a visitor from the opposite gender becomes reason for concern. I have never understood our people’s obsession with marriage and their absolute contempt for any relationship between people of different genders, unless it is marriage (happy or unhappy; abusive or not – none of these matters if a valid marriage certificate is present). Hari and I have gone to hotels during our trips before marriage where we have been denied rooms as we weren’t married, along with a strong look of disapproval saying “We know what you are going to do if we give you a room”. It is the same disapproval that people have when a guy and a girl spend a night together in an apartment that they are paying rent for. We have friends stay over at our place that we own; we used to have friends stay over at the apartment that we lived in for rent too. So why can’t an unmarried tenant have his/her friend(s) stay over at their rented apartment? How does it matter what they do within closed doors as long as it affects no one else?

To cover up this primary concern, a common reason people use for demonizing unmarried tenants in general, especially males, is “they are loud, they party all the time and become a nuisance to others who seek a calm and peaceful environment.” The bachelors in our building have been here for a while now, and the only time I remember they exist is when I see the WhatsApp messages about whether to kick them out or not. No one sees them because they go to work in the morning and come back at night, there is no music or noise coming out of their apartment, they do nothing to make anyone uncomfortable or worried because no one even remembers they live here, except probably the ones who are busy checking the late-night CCTV feeds to “catch immoral visitors”.

If anything, as a parent, I will give them an award for putting up with the constant screaming, wailing, and shouting from the kids (one or two per apartment) and the yelling preceding or succeeding that from their respective parents. We like to think of families as perfect residents and bachelors as an unruly, chaotic bunch. Quite often, it could be the other way round and I speak from my own experience. I am sure the angry yelling and the tantrums that come every now and then from my house with two kids and two exhausted parents can be quite an earful for the ones who stay in nearby flats and there are times when I feel downright ashamed of it. But at least I try to contain it inside and never let them be a nuisance to others when we are out, even if it is in the corridor right outside our door. That is probably because I was once a person who had zero tolerance to kids wreaking havoc and parents seeming blissfully oblivious to it.

However, I have seen kids yelling and talking at the top of their lungs in the corridors and common areas even at midnight and their parents doing nothing to stop them. I have seen bawling babies being carried up and down the corridor at all kinds of odd hours to console them without a thought given to others who are desperate for some sleep.  I have seen kids drawing all over the walls of the common areas, ruining everything in the common play area in such a way that no one else can use it later, and ringing doorbells of random apartments just for fun. I have seen perfect families throwing all kinds of waste, including condoms, out of the window for someone else to clean up later. I have seen people from these perfect families constantly using someone else’s parking space and never bothering to apologize or move their vehicles even when they are called out. I see perfect families playing music so loud that the entire building gets to sing along.

But then, we are still perfect with all these flaws, because we are a family. And a bunch of unmarried people who do none of this are still considered unworthy of living in the same building – why?

I don’t know if people who support this outrageous demand have always lived with their parents when they were unmarried, or they intend to keep their kids with them until they are married. I used to live as a paying guest in flats and Hari used to live in rented flats with his friends and colleagues, without ever causing any trouble to anyone, and everyone we know have been the same. And we want our kids to live on their own when they are grown up. Although by the way people are intent on walking backwards a century, I wonder if our kids would ever find a place for themselves until they find someone to complete the requirements put forward by nosy neighbours. We will have to wait and see. Until then, the least we can do is raise our voice against such practices, in whatever little ways we can.

Also published on Medium.