Over a recent weekend, as the rains lashed Pune and many Punekars preferred staying in even on Monday, I was accompanying a friend who was looking to rent an apartment for herself and her younger sister. Having browsed through all possible online property sites, she had zeroed down on a few apartments which she thought would be best to visit and get insulted.
Pune’s property prices crossed the accepted limit of affordability long ago. Nowhere is this more evident, than when returning from Mumbai late in the evening where a succession of buildings along the highway look like a massive load-shedding advertisement with not a single house showing any sign of life.
Newspapers and highway hoardings are flooded with property advertisements that are basically stock photographs of the European countryside. I swear the photo of a property I once saw on a hoarding was the same I had seen years ago on the cover of a single-line school notebook.
Housing societies now come with generators, day care centres, temples, mosques, gurudwaras, churches, wax museums, nuclear reactor pressure vessels, etc. Real estate developers are cute enough to fake distances. I am pretty sure someone in Khopoli is advertising Khopoli as Akurdi Annexe.
Going back to the friend who was looking for a place to rent, renting comes with its share of hurdles. Renting is hardly affordable. I have seen college kids bunk up 10 beds in a 1BHK to recreate the experience of Mumbai’s local trains. Apartments that can barely assure of proper water supply and have interiors that look like they have been under attack by Taliban since 2002, are listed for renting in the range of 10k to 15k. Landlords are another five years away from explaining high rent ‘because it comes furnished with cobwebs and dead rats’. And housing societies are another five years away from setting up an official tenant policy with the Nazi swastik as its official symbol.
Single youngsters, non-vegetarians, people from certain caste or religion, people from certain professions and Martian microbes are strictly prohibited from housing societies. Housing societies refuse to rent out over the silliest of things. ‘That guy is a journalist and works late nights’ is not an excuse to refuse someone a living space. ‘That guy is a Swwapnil Joshi fan’ is.
While I have never had the misfortune of experiencing this, some friends tell me of Jain-only societies, Gujarati-only societies, Brahmin-only societies, etc. I have tried checking classifieds for bacon-only societies and steak-only societies, in vain. I figure I should start by building one. If you believe in this cause, slip some donation money in an envelope, send it to us and we can keep it and you can forget about it.