Saturday, October 8, 2016

"The House Hunter Chronicles" The weird brokers, the angry owners and the tired souls

The absolute joy of searching and renting a new apartment every year can only be aptly described as this title does!
The nomadic life of struggling to plant roots without the ‘loan’ and ‘apna apartment’ can only be experienced!
It is overrated for those who have stayed put in one house forever, and weirdly amusing to those who lend us ‘nomads’- the much needed help while shifting.

There are various types of these ‘working class - professional’ nomads who are forced to rent - stay – vacate - repeat:
-      The anxious: “worry worry from packing to searching to moving to everything… bottom line is ‘I must worry’

-      The fighter: “I will fight till the last penny owed to me is handed to me by the owners, woh paisa mera hai!”

-      The chalta hai: “acha wapas shift karna hai? Ok” (“oh we have to move again? OK”)

-      The prepared: will have all the numbers required right from Prabhakar Pest control, Ahmed uncle movers, gas wala ‘stylo guy’ to murthy bhaiya bisleri wale.

Now after my 7th house shift - in as many years in Hyderabad… I can safely say I am all of the above! Leaving aside the fact that each house move was a different ordeal in itself, … each shifting has shed new light on the species we call as the ‘owners’ and even further light on me as a tenant/tired soul. Moreover it’s been hilarious in great many ways due to various specimens of humanity that I have encountered!

The weird brokers:

Of all the brokers I have met, this episode stands out! This was sometime in 2014, when I and my friend Anu, were looking for a house:

It was a usual dull thursday evening, both of us met up after work around 5:30 pm to meet this 10th broker of the week and to check out a few apartments. It was going to be probably the 50th house we were seeing in the past 2 months…. and all were pretty much beginning to look the same…

Venue: Some apartment complex with 8 floors and maybe 4 to 5 apartments on each floor

Starring: Shraddha, Anu, Rehman Bhaiya broker and the drunk/stoned/maybe both - watchman

*The broker scene – no retakes*
The drunk watchman being rudely woken up by the broker bhaiya (it took a little more than 15 mins of shaking and shouting) as both of us stood uncomfortably some distance away to the broker’s continuous pep talk –“ madam usually aaisa nai rehta”….. “ raat ko late soya hoga”…. “humesha duty pareech rehta unno”… “first time aaise dikhra mereko”
(“madam, this is new……., he is usually wake and…….. alert, he is a good watchman…….., maybe he slept late last night”)

We just nodded more to each other than the broker though.

The fun started when the guy actually woke up. He first stood up like he was never asleep, shouted a few orders to his invisible (I am assuming) family, then tried to strut the rest of steps to the lift and promptly fell.

Somehow we managed to get into the lift while the broker - I can only say restrained - the watchman from further ‘bond’ moments. After the lift announcement told us about 5 times to “please close the door” the watchman managed to close the rails and hit 4th floor.

For the lack of anything better to do (and avoid starring at the watchman who was now slowly oscillating back and forth on the balls of his feet --- and would have hit the lift rails, had it not been his urge to smile stupidly at us every now and then),
I start quizzing the broker:  "bhaiya, fully furnished hai na?" (is the apartment fully furnished?)
*no answer….and to our surprise, the broker resorts to furiously nodding and winking and shushing while trying to duck behind the blankly grinning watchman’s back*

This would have been convenient and served the purpose if the watchman had resembled a bear and the broker was a skinny chap…. However here was this hugely proportioned beefy broker who was trying to shift his bulk behind a chap who would have slipped through the lift rails had he been standing sideways.

Not finding the correct answer I persisted:
 "bhaiya yeh rent kitna hai?" (how much is the rent?)
*no answer again….vehement nodding and winking by the broker continues, this time accompanied with furious foot tapping*

By this time thankfully we reach the floor and the drunk watchman slowly opens the lift while suspiciously looking at the broker, as though his foot tapping had suddenly jolted him from his grinning reverie.

It’s a corner flat, we walk in and it looks like we entered a horror movie set – the place looked haunted, dusty and was not furnished! We both come out in about 2 seconds to find the broker yelling at the watchman that he had brought the wrong key and it was not this house that he had intended to show.

The now – fully suspicious watchman - still drunk though and not fully in control of his faculties - provided some entertainment for the next 10 minutes aided of course by the broker – who had stopped winking and nodding and had resorted to furiously pacing the corridor while talking into his phone- to (what we could garner) his boss - to understand which house he should show.

Like a slow CPU processor which has just realized the computer has been turned on - the watchman followed the broker – occasionally stopping to help us relive his grinning moments.

Anu and I spent the next 10 mins outside near the elevator watching the slow moving broker desperately trying to shake off his watchman shadow by swiftly changing his direction while walking in a 6 feet by 6 feet corridor space.

When we felt the entertainment has last long enough, we decided to leave only to be estopped by a series of mysterious facial signals by the broker which again involved a lot of winking/ glancing/ nodding /raising eyebrows /opening and closing of the mouth. Oh the watchman was grinning on the side of course.

Finally with no help from anyone (surprise) - the watchman decided that he should go down and get the right set of keys! I am sure it must have felt like the ‘eureka’ moment for him given that he suddenly stood up erect - and announced: “I go get new keys from down….madams stay here” (points at the floor and stares for 2 mins) and then abruptly gets into the lift, gesturing the broker to follow him.

The broker on the other hand looked delighted that his shadow was finally leaving but his face fell when he realized that he was to follow the shadow.

What unfolded next was nothing short of strange, now when the two of us think back, we don’t know why we even followed through: The watchman hits ground floor button and begins to close the rails, the broker promptly jumps out at the last minute and closes the rails and the elevator goes down with only the watchman.

The broker then shoots past us to the floor on top remarkably swiftly for all his bulk and yells "madamji!!! jaldi aayiye…..ghar upar wale floor pe hai" (madam quickly, the actual apartment is on the top floor)
And we follow him up the stairs like a spy movie and we are told by the broker (in hushed voice at a breakneck speed) that we need to pretend that the last house on the 5th floor belongs to our long lost friend (suddenly created) and we have to visit them (or the world might end) with that on parting note the broker suddenly nods and winks again and leaves us at the doorstep of a flat on the 5th floor. He rings the bell and backs up saying,” "woh watchman ko pata nai chalna chaiye ki aap yahan ho" (the watchman should not know that you are seeing this flat) (imagine voice slowly trailing away as he walks off)

We both were well – extremely startled/ open mouthed/ what's happening? …when the door opens to reveal an aunty who shows us the house with great interest….By then, the two of us were so startled and distracted that seeing the house and how it looked like is the only thing about that evening we have completely forgotten.

When we step out of the house…. we see both the watchman and the broker stepping out of elevator at the same time, walking hurriedly towards us and asking simultaneously "madam kahan gaye aap"? (madam where did you go?)

Anu: "humari friend yahan rehti hai jo bimar hai…. usse dekhne aaye the"
(“our friend is ill and we came to see her”)

I am surprised at the sudden fluent lie. I stop to look at her… and by the look on her face she is surprised at the lie as well!! Watchman is startled (still suspicious but startled… a weird combination on his already excellent drunk face). Broker gives Anu a nice warm brotherly smile and glances nervously at the watchman.

Anu has this vague expression about her as we leave the building, something akin to – well that’s that, let’s get to business now.

“Aah Shraddha, see there is a veggie truck, let’s buy veggies here only then”

* end *

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