For female professionals, landing a decent job can be easier than finding accommodation
If you are a group of single women working in the IT industry and looking for an affordable, plush house in the areas surrounding IT parks, chances are 100 per cent that you will be preferred over your male counterparts and sometimes — considering the high rent you will pay — even over families. But woe unto you in case you are a single woman hunting for a house.
“There are hundred questions asked, and if by any chance you take a male colleague along while you go house-hunting or to negotiate the rent, your chances get even slimmer,” explains Abhaya Roy, a 29-year-old marketing professional from Bihar who works in the city.
The number of women employed by the IT industry in the State exceeded 1.3 lakh this year, the highest number recorded by any State, according to NASSCOM. The city alone employs over 1 lakh women in various IT offices and BPO units, and hundreds of others in the banking and retail sectors. Life for these women employees is fraught with many challenges — and those who are single find it extremely difficult to feel at home in the city.
Akshi Chattur, who has been in the city for five years now, says while Chennai is safe is many respects, it still has to come out of its conservativeness. “House hunting is a ritual every IT fresher goes through. It is fun as a group, but when you do it alone, it takes almost three months to find a good house because many landlords do not understand why a working woman might want to stay alone,” says the 32-year-old professional.
The best way is to get an elderly couple accompany you, she says. As someone who is in the auditing wing of an FMCG company, Akshi travels to different cities and even when she is in Chennai, has to go to different offices every day. “Even the most liberal of landlords here think that as a single woman, you will leave in about a year to get married. When that does not happen, awkward questions are asked, and even your guitar tutor is suspected of being your partner,” she says.
And since houses are rented out on yearly contracts, most often, single women find their contracts not renewed by the landlord. “Even the reasons are not clearly specified,” says Mansi Pandey, an advertising professional living in Thiruvanmiyur.
There are several neighbourhoods which are more liberal than others, but the rents can be high. “They always don’t tell you on your face that you are not suited. They either quote a very high rent or say the apartment is not ready.
I remember a broker once told me that the landlord is very cultured and a family man and will let his house only to cultured people, and that I should arrange for two more room mates,” says Tara Agarwal, a manager in an IT firm.
Many PGs have their own way of working and rules too. Asha Kumari, a BPO employee in Triplicane says, “My landlady demands that we call our parents every day in front of her and also participate in the morning prayers. Call centre employees with night shifts are not allowed and outings are permitted once in a while we all go out to watch a hit Tamil movie.”
As you get older, the problems seem to increase. For instance, several working women’s hostels do not permit women over the age of 35. “We do lease out rooms on daily basis, but not for a longer time. There are adjustments problems,” J. Kalyani of Easwari Working Women’s Hostel explains rather cryptically.
Living on the outskirts — or for that matter on GST Road or OMR — might be an option but safety becomes a question. For instance Mansi, who travels almost 20 km one way every day, is emphatic that she still can’t think of staying at Siruseri or Navallur, where her other colleagues stay in groups. “If you want a house for yourself, you have to be in the city,” she says.