The following article was published in today’s Madurai edition of a daily
If you’re a single woman, looking for a ‘decent’ accommodation to live on your own in Madurai, then be prepared to cross a long hurdle. At least, this is what I found in my house hunt.
Madurai, a city I hardly knew anything about except the beautiful Meenakshi Amman Temple, was a sad exception to my earlier smooth experience of house hunting. My father and I landed exactly one week before I was supposed to join office, conveniently assuming that seven days would be more than enough to find lodging. We were wrong.
I had the option of staying in a rented apartment, a paying guest (PG) or a hostel (in my order of preference). It was only until I arrived that I realised that the concept of a PG was non-existent here. Or perhaps, it was just catching up.
With one significant option now gone, our next try was to visit working women’s hostels. I had lived in a hostel for four years and knew the compromises that a hostel life comes with. But I was shocked to look at the quality of hostels. They appeared worse than refugee colonies. A room that barely had space for two beds had five women living in it. Moreover, four out of the five hostels that we saw “rejected” me, on the grounds of my odd working hours.
Since I work for the editorial of a leading daily, I have night shifts. My father was welcomed with a cold stare by the wardens when he informed them about the same. It was as if he had committed a crime by “allowing” me to choose such a profession.
Our next obstacle began when we started apartment hunting. Most were outrageously expensive and the ones that were within our budget were all rented out. At least that is what the house owners claimed. When we called the respective owners, the first thing they wanted to know, after being informed about my gender, was whether I would be living alone. That I was a woman, presumably single, was enough for them to completely dismiss that possibility. Many enquired about my eating habits (vegetarian or non-vegetarian) and whether or not I was a Brahmin. I wondered how these even mattered as long as I promised to keep the apartment clean and pay the rent regularly!
It’s been six months since I landed in this beautiful “City of Temples” that, ironically, offers an abode to a variety of gods and goddesses, but not to people who worship them. Especially not, if you are a woman.
(A first person narrative by DR)