Real Life Story
I stopped pretending my queer partner was my ‘roommate’
House hunting is a pain in the ass anywhere in the world. But that’s especially true for exorbitant, big cities like Mumbai, where underwhelming apartments come with overwhelming rents and deposits. And if you’re queer, non-Brahmin (upper caste), and/or unmarried, that’s an added bonus for an immediate rejection of your “profile”. Furthermore, if you do qualify to stay in a residential society, you have to look at who your neighbours are and if they seem progressive and peaceful enough, or whether they’re waiting for you with pitchforks when you as much as visit the house for a quick look.
My partner and I have been living together for two years now. Before we moved into our current apartment, we lived in a cramped studio space with the worst sort of neighbours one could be cursed with, since that’s all we could afford. We had to face sounds of ridiculously noisy children banging on our door and fights breaking out in neighbouring houses at random hours. As such, living our authentic selves was out of question altogether. We literally had four locks on our door at any given point to help us feel safe. But one day, the pesky kids on my floor had the audacity to lock my door from the outside, causing anxiety I had never known before. The word around the building was there were two boys living together and no one was sure what they were up to. If a delivery person came to my doorstep, the woman who lived in the apartment opposite ours would casually open her door and try to peek into our place without a hint of embarrassment or shame, even if it was for a mere five seconds. Such micro-aggressions are common when families want to know why you don’t have a family of your own, and why you don’t have your own stinking kids running around making everyone else miserable.
After spending the entire lockdown with these monsters, we finally knew we had to move. We went through 23 damn apartments before finding the one that met our needs, and was clearly devoid of obnoxious kids. The landlord also seemed really chill and steered away from the usual caste and biodata-based questions, only asking what we did for a living. He also made it clear that his house was now our space and we should feel comfortable living there. That is such a rarity in these times, especially when you hear of landlords kicking tenants out in the middle of the pandemic.
Raj and Avijit are a gay couple and parents to ten cats. They reside with Avijit’s parents in Mumbai’s suburb of Mira Road, who’re in the know of their relationship. “But we still practically live as cousins,” says Raj, who like many queer individuals who rent spaces in major cities, has to live a lie to continue having a roof over his and his partner’s head. “Of course we’d love to own our own house and not feel the guilt of living this way. But even if our landlord is seemingly progressive, it’s still too soon to say if he is accepting or not.” He is aware that his landlord has seen his Instagram page and it doesn’t take much to put two and two together. “We had to block him.”
Back at our new building, we had our share of nosy aunties to deal with. And we had a couple of them right next door. Even as we were getting the house prepared before moving in, they would stop by and ask how many people would live here. We replied that we were two bachelors to avoid future conflict but they still managed to wince at the word. So from that point on, we decided we had had enough. We had paid the deposit and got our keys; it was about time we stopped worrying about blending in at all times. The next day our furniture and belongings were moved in, and out came the rainbow flag we had been hiding away all these years. We unabashedly hung it outside our main door, thinking that if people got the hint, it was great, and if they didn’t, well, the rainbow was pretty enough to look at.
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