There is hardly any difference between a matrimonial ad and a rental ad. Both have strong preferences. The one or two lines may contain only a few words, but hidden in them are a thousand expectations. The broker rings the bell confidently, the front door opens and the lord of the house comes out. He stares imperiously at you. “Nice party, sahebre,” says the broker, breaking the ice. “Come in, sit down. Where are you from? Veg or non-veg? With or without children? Your office name? Night duty or regular duty? Have dogs?,” the grilling begins. Once you pass that ordeal, the landlord says “Come, let's go upstairs, please wipe your feet before entering the first floor drawing room, I took the trouble of cleaning it only yesterday. Previous tenant left behind a mess, you know.”

As you begin surveying, and notice the kitchen in what you assume to be the southwestern corner and the bedroom in the northeast, you dig into your pocket to retrieve the magnetic compass which always points to true north and gives you an idea of directions. But broker keeps saying “perfect vaasthu” every two minutesI walked into one house to take a look at the first floor tenement available for rent. “Who told you about the vacancy,” the owner scowled. “Ramu uncle” I said. The scowl persisted. He then warned me that I should not move in and pack off after six months, just like previous tenants, as he spends four or five months of the year in the U.S. and cannot fly back to Bangalore just to collect the house keys. He noted down my home and office telephone numbers. The next morning, he called me at my office and loudly said that he just wanted to check whether I actually work where I said I did. I didn't move in. Frustrated after showing me 30 houses, the broker one day advised me: “40x60 site tekkoli saar.”

Anyway, how much is 40x60? The illiterate may say ‘2400.' But for the smart-alec from Bangalore, it is equal to 25 or 30 lakhs. Young men from the city have married comely lasses from Mangalore or Shimoga by claiming to the unsuspecting father-in-law that they own a 40x60 site. The girl's father immediately okays the alliance and offers a dowry of Rs. 25 lakh. As everyone knows, one week after marriage, the girl realises that her husband has nothing but short sight. He lives in a tiny rented place, reading borrowed newspapers through thick spectacles.

VENKATESH BHAT

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