I was browsing through the movies in Amazon Prime and To Let movie poster looked very ordinary amongst the rest of the collection. I have never seen this cast before but am a sucker for family dramas and I decided to watch this movie. And even before the title, there was a display of all the awards it has won. Yup, Tolet Tamil movie was played in over 100 international film festivals and it has bagged 34 international awards. It was also awarded the Best Feature Film at the 65th National Film Awards. Now I was sure I was in for a treat. The plot is set in 2007 when the IT boom started to set in. When there was a sudden increase in a sect of people who could afford to pay higher rents for better houses. And so the owner of the house that our cute little family lives in asks them to vacate abruptly. A self-made couple along with their young son go on a hunt around Chennai looking for a house to stay. It seems such a simple topic right?! But it is filled with so much real-life drama. There are people to support our hero, the wife saves money and dreams of an own house, the kid being a kid. It is all so warm to see. And yet they don't get a house, it is like fate just wants to play around. One asks about his work, his caste, his employment details. And the rudeness of the house owner. It is all so real and they are good people who don't deserve this in life. The last fifteen minutes of the movie, I was sitting on the edge of the seat wondering if they will move into the house that they have paid advance for and when they have already packed all their things.
This is not a To Let move review post. :) This movie resonated so much with my days of house hunting in Bangalore that I sat in my couch and wiped away the tears that were flowing voluntarily. Am nearly broke now, and every other person I know has asked me to move to a smaller house and rent out my house to make money. But the truth is I don't want to go through any of that again. Some of those episodes are funny to think now, but destiny was never kind to me when it came to looking for a house on rent. It ensured that it always brought me down to my knees even in front of the rudest owners. During my amateur days of blogging, I wrote this funny piece on "Finding accommodation in Bangalore". This movie brought back so many memories that I just want to share some of it.
It was 2007 when I moved to Bangalore with a couple of suitcases. After looking around a couple of PGs, I settled into one close to my office. Comparatively, it was much better, it was a small 1BHK converted to rooms on sharing space. After a few years, I was bored of hostel food and me along with two other roommates decided to look for a house to move into. BTM for that matter had some pretty houses and with ample light and not so heavy on pocket. We were to finalize a house too but then overnight my roommates decided not to make any move from the current arrangement. But I had already dreamed of living in a better space. I did not want to turn back from the step I was to take. Especially now that my hostel bed had bed bugs too.
So next I search along with my college buddies. We were in three different corners and we tried to find a central location. Found some small, not so small, big houses, all kinds around the residential areas of Indranagar. It always so happens that the house that they let out stands like a haunted house between two beautiful houses. Anyways, after convincing the uncle of the house that we don't drink or party or bring guys to the house, we decided to pay the advance the next day. While I happily slept, the other two did the maths calculation of moving in and moving out charges and the plan died overnight. I was about to give up thinking hostel life is my fate but here comes the twist. The hostel owners ask to vacate us cos they are moving the PG to another building. Now I was determined to move, I go looking for 1 Bhks. Those were the days when 1 bhks in apartments were not an idea and it would be a shady room in the terrace of another house. This seemed so bleak and looked more depressing than my hostel. By then time to vacate the room had come, I had packed my things but nowhere to go. So I ask for a weeks permission and move into the new building and continue the hunt.
A week over, still no house. The hostel owner was to throw my stuff outside. If I sign a contract I will lose money so I decide to move out. I dump all my luggage and stuff at my friend's place. I start hunting along with another friend. After looking over Indranagar, Marathahalli, and Bellandur we narrowed down a house in Bellandur. The house has to be painted. I and my friend impulsively buy even a mattress in excitement. Evening we go to the landlord's house to pay the advance, the rental agreement looks dicey, we ask why so and so clause, he gives back the money, takes away the agreement and shuts the door! Generously he let us stay for one night at his to let house cos it was late in the evening and us two girls had nowhere to go. But here is the funny part. He removed the electricity so that we don't waste it overnight. How kind! We light a candle and notice hundreds of tiny cockroaches all around. Not kidding at all. There was one table and we were wondering if we should just sit on top of it. But we were hell tired, put down the single mattress and both of us managed to lie in it. You know my size right!! I mean, even if I accidentally roll off the mattress, I would be squishing hundreds of cockroaches or the hundreds of cockroaches might carry me away like how dwarfs carried galileo away. That very thought made us just lie like a stone. And the first thing in the morning ran out of the place. We fell apart in the house hunting trauma. So for the next couple of weeks, I was moving around Bangalore with clothes in my bag from one friend's place to another or sometimes I stayed back in the office and took shower in the office.
This is when I found a beautiful house in a gated community and the owner was ready to furnish the house. The huge bedroom had a french window with an open balcony and the bathroom even had a tub. I was like, "Wow! God tested so much of my patience to give this beautiful house." The owner said it will take another week time to furnish and paint the house and that he will find the rest of the occupants of the house as well. I pay the advance, I ask for work from home at the office for a week and left to Chennai. My problems solved right! But here comes the twist. While at Chennai, the owner calls me and informs that he discovered a snake while cleaning the house and he no longer wants to rent the house to girls. Can you hear the sad sarangis playing in the background? Can you? Can you? For, I can still hear it. Heartbroken I came back to Bangalore checked into a service apartment and continued hunting. Mind you, coliving places were nonexistent back then.
I finally found a furnished apartment in a community on a sharing basis which had other girls. The house was good and I made dear friends too except that too many unhygienic girls kept moving in and moving out and there was a spy lady in the house who was the confidant of the owner. It was pretty much like a big boss house. You have no idea where the camera is and how the big boss gets news, why the big boss is shouting and evicting people out of the house. Everything is a mystery :P On one such high drama scene I said like a hero in the movie, "Am vacating the house, take it, one month notice." Here is the beauty, the big boss wrote an apology mail and asked me to stay back. Guess what the high self-respect girl did, decided to move out. Karma!
Trauma again. Only this time my two friends I made at the house, stuck around and we were looking for houses together. So we walked around street after street, apartment after apartment, village after village looking for a house. Nothing worked out. Meanwhile, girls were coming to check the house and my room. Big boss found the next tenant while I was still on the road. There were just three days to vacate, we had started packing and still nowhere to go. I was wondering if I should beg to the big boss to extend my stay and I did and she said leave next one is waiting. After much search, we found a two-bedroom apartment, and it was available just in the nick of time. We closed the deal, put our luggage in a tempo and moved into the house. The house was neither cleaned nor painted. The owner asked us to give a couple of more days time. Again stay at friend's place and office but eventually we moved in.
It was going really well with my friends only that they decided to move out due to their personal commitments. Girls get married early you know! My owner was a super money minded guy, who was prompt in 12% rent increment and make us fix every damn thing in the house. Now that my roommates were vacating I was looking for roommates and I realized I can no longer take the risk of testing out hygienic or not. Cos the IT crowd is well dressed and speak well and all that, but when it comes down to hygiene, you never know. So I decided to find a house just for me. The owner realized that it was just me and I might vacate any time. The time to renew yearly rental agreement arrived and he pressurized to make a new one. His masterplan was this. The agreement had three clauses, payback one month rent for painting, one month rent for maintenance and one-month rent if I vacate the premise before ten months. After living there for three years, he decides to make a new agreement, show it as if am leaving before ten months and was demanding to give me an additional one month rent. The world I tell you guys, the moment it realizes that you are standing alone, people would want to take advantage of you in all possible ways. I eventually brought in a lawyer to save my money.
Between all this, I bought a house. Within a three month time period, I bought a house, did interiors and moved in. I was so fed up of finding people to live with, dealing with unscrupulous house owners, being treated less that I decided to have my own space. And that could be a reason why I love my house. However far I go or be away for months, I know there is a safe space for me waiting there. Even though people ask me why I need a house, you are single person, blah blah, I just think of the days of roaming in the road with luggage, weeping profusely when I had a meltdown in a public bus stop and for weeks had no place to stay. I just feel blessed now.
Spoiler alert: The family in To Let movie is.. Never mind, watch the movie :)