Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Are you a Brahmin? Or...at least a vegetarian?


I was looking for taking a flat on rent in Mylapore, Mandaveli, R.A. Puram or Adayar in Chennai about two months back. I went through the classifieds columns of neighborhood newspapers.

I shortlisted 5-6 ads and started calling the landlords. The queries of all the landlords were typical. Just listen to a conversation with the first landlord.

 “Sir, I saw your ad in …….Can you tell me something about your flat?

“Two bedroom, hall, kitchen flat…about 1100 sq ft. Covered car park….Modular kitchen, complete wood work in both the bedrooms….”

“That’s good. What is the rent?”

“What is your budget?”

After a couple of hide and seek questions, he mentioned the rent and advance. Then…

“How big is your family?”

Perhaps he does not like too big a family. “We are four.”

“Your parents are with you?”

“No. My wife and two sons…”

He sounded satisfied. Perhaps he does not want old people. “How old are your sons?”

May be, he is not happy with infants or too small children.”Elder son is 21 years and is planning to write CAT. Younger one is 15 years old.”

“Is your wife working?”

‘How does it matter?’ I thought.

He explained. “Working women generally do not maintain their house properly. I don’t want my flat to be spoilt.”

Strange logic! Anyway my wife is a housewife and I pass this test.

“Are you a Brahmin?”

What? I did not understand the relevance of the question.

He repeated “Are you a Brahmin?”

“Yes.” But how does it matter?

I called the next landlord. Same sequence of questions till whether I am a Brahmin.

For a change I said “No. Are you a Brahmin?”

“No. But at least are you a vegetarian?”

Again for a change, I said “No”

He disconnected.

My next call was answered by a broker, a guy called Stephen.

When he asked whether I was a Brahmin or at least a vegetarian, I retorted “How does it matter?”

“No one wants nonsense or nuisance.”

“What nonsense? What nuisance?”

“You know, sir.” He did not want to elaborate.

The fourth landlord was forthright.”When I want the tenant to vacate, a Brahmin accepts without a word. It’s a scared race. I raise the rent after a year. He meekly accepts. He keeps the house neat and clean.”

Why a vegetarian?

“Brahmins are generally vegetarians. Even otherwise vegetarians are better. Non vegetarians spoil the kitchen. They eat everywhere except the dining table. Dinner plates remain in the bedroom unwashed throughout night. Stench.”

“How do you know?”

“It happens in my house. I don’t want the same in my flat.”
My cousin who lives in KK Nagar said he also faced similar questions when he was looking for a flat.

At this point I wrote my conclusion. I showed it to my friend. After reading the article, he drew a conclusion exactly opposite to mine! And it was equally logical! A second friend brought out a point which both of us had missed out.

I deleted my conclusion. I decided to leave it to the readers.

There is more than one lesson. It depends on the way one looks at it.

How do you look at this?

PS: As I was posting this, I got a call from Arumugam, the caretaker of my flat in Coimbatore. I had requested him to look for a tenant. “Sir, shall I look for Brahmins? Or at least vegetarians?”

88 comments:

  1. For a long time we were living in rented houses-and house hunting was a real pain! It was obvious from our names that we were Christians (and so probably non-vegetarians) and we were turned down many times! haha! But I must say that you seem to have house-hunted in predominantly Brhamin-populated residential areas!

    Now we live in our own home and we too have tenants. One reason why we prefer small families is because of the water scarcity in Chennai. In independent houses this is a big problem so the smaller the family hopefully the lesser the water consumption.

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  2. Faced similar problem lately in chennai for being a non veggie.!!
    Some Perception never change.. he he

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  3. Even I have seen this happening in many areas of Bangalore. This is because if the neighborhood is usually filled up with Brahmins, they don’t want any non-vegetarian cooking around them. My friends have faced this problem a lot, cause they are Brahmins but they are non-vegetarians:-)

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  4. What you say is so true!! I think it is also to do with the fact that most properties are owned by Brahmins and this is their way of maintaining ritual purity when they rent out their houses. BTW most people don't rent out their house to single women- because they dont want the "responsibility" if something happens to them? What nonsense!!! You think a woman wants to get raped in her house??? I feel very strongly about this as I was repeatedly denied a house in Chennai due to my single status- in sheer frustration, I decided to get married :-) and then found that I had married a man who had his own house...!!!! Now we have a flat which rent out ONLY to single women!

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  5. Well, thankfully I haven't come across such a situation here in bengaluru so far. (But I have heard such stories). For the matter of fact I am brahmin but a non-vegetarian. But it is strange that if one is brahmin they think - he would keep the house neat and clean. I have many friends and have seen their rooms, well the logic doesn't apply there.

    But one question that is always asked apart from this while looking out for rent was bachelor/married. And I think most of them prefer married people because they believe if a family stays as tenants - they would keep the house well organized (atleast compared to bachelors. I know this because I have lived both lives in a rented house :)). And I think, this critiria would make more sense than other queries.

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  6. NICE ONE.

    I dont understand really, how many are not eating nonveg so strictly, I suppose these house owners should go on a tour to china, korea etc. so they may realise

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  7. I can very well understand what you went through.
    To tell you of this incident of 2004 when my daughter was infant and we were renting a beach side house in mangalore-Surahkal. Though brahmins we are non veg too- is what we revealed to our strictly vegetarian house owner.
    The day we moved into the house where he lived in his, just next door,I was shocked when he lent us drinking water by keeping a jug outside his door and not even a humanitarian courtesy of "would you come on in?".
    It ended with hello, welcome, bye.

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  8. Never heard such thing when I was in Bangalore or NCR. But, this is definitely strange. One thing is for sure that landlord can ask for anything absurd. Nicely written Sir.

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  9. Nice...... having grown up in a similar environment, empathy was easy. Well narrated and punches the message clear.

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  10. Hilarious! Recently, a friend in Bangalore was negotiating better access to elevators for residents with pets. During one such discussion another resident protested against dogs as pets an he stated that he had a right to his views since he was a puuure vegetarian Brahmin! Huh?! The relationship escapes me, but perhaps the landlords you've met might be able to explain :)

    Cheers!

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  11. Thanks for your comments.
    25BAR-Yes I am.
    Anne-As you have suggested, it is possible I was searching in Brahmin areas. However my cousin faced similar questions in KK Nagar, where you see a mix.
    KP- I understand.
    Prasanna- Possible.
    Meera- Good to see that you are doing what is possible from your side.
    Sunil- There is a reluctance to let out to bachelors. However there are some locations (Siruseri/ Perungudi in Chennai) where they prefer bachelors (IT guys) and put 6-7 in a flat and charge Rs. 5000 each.
    Gowardhan- Thanks. I have heard about the food habbits there.
    Sush- What happened to you is worse. You took the right decision.
    Saru-Chennai is different. While I hear similar stuff from Bangalore, NCR is relatively better.
    The mind behind the mindless lampoons- Thanks
    Manreet-Thanks. The instance you have mentioned is interesting.

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  12. It's really interesting how people expect standards from others, standards which they won't have themselves.

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  13. Strange are the ways of Indians, especially in Tamil Nadu, I've heard that their orthodox behavior goes to absurd lengths..that's whu I think most youngsters stay clear of chennai..

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  14. Well, Mumbai is no better. There are Jain only societies, where even onion and garlic is not allowed into the societies.

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  15. Unbelievable! Nicely written. Anyway Krishashok has a lovely post on this issue http://goo.gl/AhORI

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  16. really??? thank god I am in NCR...I am a Bong, I cannot do without my fish and meat :)

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  17. gosh! i have stayed in bangalore but it was better....i am a bit scared now...cast is a big deal in india....

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  18. that happens in chennai...

    but in my area even some of the brahmin's also eat fish...! it's big deal.. not all the non-veggies are the same spoiling the kitchens...!

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  19. Good things to remember in case I ever want to rent a house in India!

    BTW, if guys like me who read about it and then give false answers and the landlord finds out in the end that it is a single guy, non vegeterian and a non-Brahmin who has rented their house? Or do they conduct some kind of verification?

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  20. I don't think cleanliness is adherent to being vegetarian or not. But Being vegetarian is a better life choice for one and for the planet.

    check this blog post: http://fragileblogs.wordpress.com/2011/08/21/vegetarianism-a-sustainability-view/

    -FP

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  21. This is nothing new. That is why we have "Agraharam" in every town in Tamilnadu. Tamilians have their own place in RK puram in New delhi as also the Bengalies. But in New york these guys stay in Indian 74th street

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  22. :) Interesting. When I look for an apartment, I announce I'm a non-vegetarian upfront. I have known about the "reservations" when someone cooks meat from my bachelor days. If you end up with a roommate with strict dietary restrictions, then all sorts of complications arise.

    But asking for your religion and caste is a bit too much. Very soon, apartment rental ads will be very similar to matrimonial ads. What say?

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  23. A good read.

    When it is concerned with the behavior of others, we are very happy to advice them. But when it is us who need the advice we are very reluctant to accept it!

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  24. All are human. they are forgetting that.

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  25. No, it doesn't happen only in India. I'm a westerner, and a vegetarian, and I'd never rent my property out to a meateater. Never. Not a chance. And I know a lot of vegetarians: thousands. They all have the same view.

    It's not so much about "caste" as it is cleanliness. You all immediately pounce on the caste thing, and talk about how "others" are caste obsessed, but that's your first conclusion: caste. Strange :)

    Some people are cleaner than others, and the Brahmins do have a standard that is higher than others, so why would they want to lower that standard for people who will live in their properties? It's common sense, not caste distinction....

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  27. Good one sir, had faced the same questions in Chennai about 3 years ago house hunting, no such trouble in Bangalore. For the record I am a brahmin and a vegetarian.

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  28. Good post Sir.

    Yes, what you say is true.But these so called landlords, make the mistake of generalizing everything. I know Vegetarians who never maintain the house or kitchen, and Non Vegetarians who keep their houses clean, sans any stench. I know Brahmins who eat Non Vegetarian. They just dont have the common sense to realize that, it all depends on the individual and the family, and not just based on whether the person eats meat or not.No offence to any landlords, Yes we know it is your house, and we have no intentions of living just for the sake of spoiling the walls and floors. God save the people of Chennai.

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  29. If all landlords insist on brahmins only as tenants, then they should rent out properties only in the US.
    How come everybody could be a brahmin in Chennai for purposes for rent while for jobs/schools/colleges, brahmins are not preferred ? Strange logic isn't it ?

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  30. It's strange but true. We have faced similar questions when looking for a house.

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  31. good post.. really why do landlords want to be in complete control of their tenant's lives??

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  32. So very true and so well written.....I must remember next time I need to give a flat out on rent:)

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  33. Well written at one level it makes us laugh but at other it brings out the harsh reality. I read in history that Aryans pushed the Dravidian to South India so I could understand that Brahmins accept raise meekly.
    As an owner I would like to give my house to people who would take care of it and not bug me for repairs and pay on time.
    My experience has been there are all kinds of people in the world. In North or in Bangalore being Brahmin is not asked but yes about vegetarian ..
    Did you finally get the house?
    Good post

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  34. Thanks Matheikal,Ana_treek,Sudha,Liberalcynic,SUB,Chintan,Sunil Deepak, Fragileprints, Captainjohann, Nona, Jobin Martin,Sowmya, Ketan, Dr.Vikram, Ashwini, Amaruvi, Vijay Menon, Shruthi, Satish and bemoneyaware for your views. I am glad you liked the post. Also it is interesting to know that many of have faced similar questions.
    Thanks Braja for your different views. In fact my 2nd friend (whom I have referred to in the post) made a similar point.
    Amaruvi- You have hinted at reservation. That is a subject by itself.

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  35. lol...funny how we indians think.. :)

    http://trickle-prattle.blogspot.com/

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  36. 'Like' Braja's point of view. Evidently an outsider's view - an impartial one.

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  37. I think a lot has to do with the fact that we do not have a proper document to sign at rental times (among other things). We don't have a way to enforce rental agreements. I don't see a problem with people wanting their property maintained well. What I see a problem with is the caste based discrimination. It cuts both ways: the common perception seems to be that Brahmins are clean and that they will put up with any kind of rental extortion without a fight. Now, why do we need to exploit either the renters or the owners? Why should it be a zero sum game? If it were stated clearly that there are rules and that these need to be obeyed at all times: no throwing garbage on street, no odors emanating from the home, hefty cleaning fee if you leave the apartment messy -- including cost to repaint if there has been damage, no drunken shouting and destroying the peace of the neighborhood (by the way, no over loud devotional music either!!) etc, and if there were ways to ensure these rules, pretty soon everyone will follow them. The renters are also not always honest. We were trying to rent out our home in Chennai and we did not want to do this sort of community based screenings either. We talked to a potential renter who said he liked to rescue dogs and cats and so he had two dogs living with him. We ourselves like dogs and knew he would have difficulty finding a place in Chennai so we interviewed him. During the interview it came out that he has 2 cats and 3 dogs (not a problem, except, it would have been better if he had been up front about it). Then he said he was planning on leaving the cats and dogs out most of the time, not necessarily confining them to our yard only. He was wishy washy about clean up after the dogs and cats. (We have a lot of plants and fruiting trees so its essential to maintain the yard as well). Needless to say, we decided not to rent it out to him. It would have been much better if he had been honest right up front.

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  38. Its a normal practice for a vegetarian landlord to look for veg tenant and vice-versa not only in Chennai but else where also. It is their prerogative . Some wants bachelors, others don't want them.Just as we want to buy the best in market, they try to pick up best tenant from their view point and I do not see any thing wrong.As the saying goes, BOSS is always right!

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  39. very good post.

    in Bangalore, the stigma not sooo strong & exists mostly in brahmin dominated localities. Muslims do face a problem tough. hence the concentration of muslims with tamilians in certain areas. here the main concern is marriage. they prefer family to bachelors. logic: clean house maintained by the woman!

    in my case, our present owner(brahmin) doesn't have a problem, he is more concerned with the money but strangely two other tenants in the building do. they are "pure" (haha what the hell is that???) brahmins & act like they are some kind of Godly creatures.

    the 4th landlord you met is funny: his own house is dirty but he wants his flat clean !!

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  40. Thanks Shassha. Thanks Anonymous.
    Agnija- What you have pointed out also true. The prospective tenants are not always transparent.
    Thanks Mr Ayyangar. One of my friends also pointed out what what you have said viz. owner's prerogative.
    Thanks Sujatha. Bangalore landlords seem to have fewer expectations than fellow tenants!

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  41. very true... in bangalore also vegetarians will rent their house only to veggies.... cos they will have plans to shift to their own house after few years. as u say even non veggies will prefer brahmins for obvious reasons. but u cant expect today's brahmins to be so timid!!...

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  42. lol this post just brought memories back...stayed in mylapore, adyar & alwarpeth over my 4 years stay in chennai...but lucky enough not to have faced such problems... :) :) :)

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  43. it is even worse for bachelors...
    I see it in a lot of residential apartments... it's almost like "Dogs and Bachelors are not allowed"

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  44. Being neither Brahmin nor vegetarian, sure would have encountered hurdles finding a flat in that neighborhood. Yours was an eye-opening experience :)

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  45. ive faced a few like this in hyderabad! but bangalore is good, atleast compared to what is written! it is a nice write up! good to be here sir!

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  46. Thanks Blaze,SuKupedia, Indranil, Jitaditya,SprigBlossoms and Sawan for your comments.

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  47. Good post. I am okay with having reservations about renting one's house only to vegetarians if they are so without talking about caste. I have come across many such landlords in Bangalore.

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  48. It always happens in Chennai sir... especially in and around the areas of Mylapore, Mandaveli, R.A.Puram etc. We need to change a lot...

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  49. Thanks Bharathiraja and Anand for your views. Looks like Chennai landlords have more expectations.

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  50. Hello Mr. Hariharan,

    I cam upon your blog through blogjunta...just loved this post...
    I am so disgusted with such attitued of Indians, it makes my head spin...
    Like these people are making such sweeping generalizations, than why shouldn't others, say Americans use the same logic while denying an Indian an opportunity to rent an apartment ??? No, that would be racism, and we will start howling about it at the top of our lungs...but when we do castism and discrimination within our own people, which is far worse, then it's acceptable...I can never understand this...
    Castism is alive and well in India, castes only went away on paper, not from people's minds...ughh...
    BUt loved your post...you have a new follower...:D

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  51. wow. interesting post Mr. Hariharan.. came across ur blog thru blogjunta.. count me as ur follower now and p.s I am also a brahmin :D

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  52. We definitely live in a strange world...on one hand we fight against discrimination and on the other hand we are discriminating among ourselves....how can we carry on like this?

    We complain about racism when we can't sort of differences among our very own...

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  53. Haha...Nice post.Funny but so true.
    I apologize for I belonging to the smaller brahmin / Vegetarian group. & I am a tamilian who has lived in a lot of places including a long stint in Chennai. Things are are not so bleak & black as many have made out. I like the way you have handled the topic Mr. Hariharan. I agree with Braga that it is mostly not about caste any more in most areas in Chennai. I have lived in lots of areas there & have my owm place in Valmikinagar.There was a mixed crowd in all these places. & the only objection some vegetarians like me had was the smell of the fish or meat being cooked. We just couldn't handle it.Caste did not come into the picture at all.And this problem is not restricted to Chennai alone.I live in Baroda now. Its the same here too.

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  54. LOL! The irony is the ones who are looking for "brahmins" or "veggies" are themselves not. They themselves are degrading their race...

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  55. When I rented a House in Coimbatore, the house owners did not ask this at all! In fact, after knowing that I was a vegetarian, they even tried to convert me by offering a few non vegetarian dishes which I politely refused :)

    In fact, I was single back then - Seems they didn't mind that as well! Now I realize how sweet they were :)

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  56. Being uptight is fine especially if that's what you are used to. But makes me wonder that if certain people (Brahmin or otherwise) are so particular about their space then why do they rent it out? Greed I guess has no caste.

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  57. My conclusion:people just want their homes to be well maintained. But of course, there are those rigid "strictly brahmin" people who want brahmins purely because they are brahmins, people of higher caste. The same happens here in Mumbai, several high profile actors have fallen victims to this. If you try to buy a flat, you need approval from the building society. And some people, due to their religion beliefs, were rejected. So, bottom line is not clear. Is it due to the desire of the owner to see his house kept clean that he demands a brahmin vegetarian? or is it elitism? ah well, till then, we might as well wait for tomorrow's paper and see the classifieds for new ads eh Sir? :)


    if you could spare a few minutes, could you read a post of mine? And if you like it, give it a vote? I'd be honoured if you leave a feedback, and much obliged if you vote. Every vote goes a long way in helping :D

    http://www.indiblogger.in/indipost.php?post=90039

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  58. Good one. Some vegetarians also think that non vegetarians are cannibals. and because they eat non veg they have a violent nature. anyways good one sir. Peace:)

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  59. I don't want to undermine the narrow mindness and shallow thinking of the landlords in your post , but the conversation is seriously hilarious.
    "Working women generally do not maintain their house properly. I don’t want my flat to be spoilt." - Oh Lord , it makes me grin. Interestingly enough ,I am in the process of finding condos/townhome in US and landlords here like a working wife. They feel relieved knowing that no one is at home all day , so the house will be cleaner. Interestingly opposite perspectives !

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    1. Indeed interestingly opposite perspectives...people have their own fixed ideas and generally do not drop them so easily.

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  60. Very well written article. We often get "Family or Bachelor" and "Vegetarian" questions in Bangalore.

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    Replies
    1. Bangalore is more cosmopolitan compared to Chennai.

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  61. Thanks for sharing, I will bookmark and be back again



    Odessa Flats

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  62. Thank you sharing and also reading my posts.
    Phew! Must be so tough to deal with such people

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  63. Where I come from- landlords don't rent out to Indians- because we cook with aromatic spices which they feel stain and stink up their kitchens. This is amusing but true.

    The locals are happy to buy cheap food from outside- consume it in their little plastic boxes and throw them in the trash.

    Their kitchens are usually pristine as a result- sometimes their microwaves will still have the plastic sheet on them, and their stovetops will be sparkling and golden- as though they live in a kitchen showroom.

    Their houses on the other hand- are another story altogether.

    ~deviousDiv from Singapore. ;)

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    1. That's interesting...such spotless kitchens...you should one day write about their houses...

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  64. This poses a problem for tenants but the read was humorous and interesting :-) I enjoyed it!

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  66. Being a Brahmin myself, I have gone through all of the lengthy questionnaire so many times. Sometimes I feel, much of Brahmins assume they are living in iron-age! That includes my parents.

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  68. There is another reason to prefer brahmins. Brahmins will generally not steal your house and call it their own. Some people have let out their flats only to find the tenants filing cases in court claiming it as their own. This wont happen with a brahmin as a tenant.

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  71. Sir, I fully agree with all those flat owners you spoke to. The justification for my answer are two question? How many criminals are there in our country and how many of them are Brahmins (A brahmin is a vegetarian too, if not, he isn't

    ReplyDelete
  72. Sir, I fully agree with all those flat owners you spoke to. The justification for my answer are two question? How many criminals are there in our country and how many of them are Brahmins (A brahmin is a vegetarian too, if not, he isn't

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