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My Life as a Paying Guest

November 2008:

I’ve been living in Bangalore for the last eight years now and it has been a whirlwind of a journey. I came to Bangalore as a raw student fresh from senior school with dreams and aspirations of making it big in this wonderful city. Little did I realize at the time that I was entering a maze of what would seem like an eternity. Being a fresher to almost everything, I thought I would adjust quite well to my life of independence; however I was not left free for long.

My uncle decided that he would move in to take care of me so I would have a home to come back to and food on the table when I was hungry. I stayed with my uncle for the three years of my college life. We had our ups and downs but we got through just fine. After a while, mom and dad decided to buy a place in Mangalore, hence uncle decided to move there to take care of the flat and this is where I begin my foray into the paying guest world.

Stage 1: Finding the place

It was a cold winter’s day and I was wandering on the lonely roads of Indiranagar. I fell in love with this place from the very first instance. I knew that this was where I wanted to stay. I located a broker like so many of us do and entrusted him the job of finding a nice place so I could move in and start my life as an independent young Financial Accountant for Hewlett-Packard.

The broker had taken me to a couple of shabby places. They always show the worst first before displaying their prize collection. I had seen this house a couple of times and I had always wondered how nice it would be to live in a house like this. Somehow, I never pictured this to be a PG. In we walk with our arms outstretched reveling in the splendid creation standing before us.

As I walk in, I’m amused by the irony of how big it looks outside compared to the size inside. True to most Bangalorean owners, maximum space was utilized here making the place look like it can hold a lot more people. Well, I wasn’t concerned with that. My main concern was to have a nice proper lighting, clean water and access to hot water. Along with that, I got a TV in my room, 24 hours hot water, fridge and a trendy washing machine. No looking at any more places. This was going to be my home for the unforeseen future. I discussed the rent with the owner and though I did consider it high at that point, I did not want to leave Indiranagar. So I paid the requisite amount and started making arrangements to move in.

Stage 2: Moving in

Moving into a new place was the least of my worries. Packing; now there’s the problem. It’s not easy to pack an entire 3 year set of clothes in two bags. It takes a lot of patience; something which guys don’t have. We never like to see the work getting done and then enjoying the fruits of it. No, we like to enjoy before, during and after the work is done, which is why we never finish anything on time. Try asking a guy to get paint the fence or mow the lawn. He’s going to start his tantrums as soon as he hears the word ‘work’ or ‘task’. Once he puts his mind to it though, you can expect a masterpiece. In my case, it wasn’t an art but the sheer willpower to pack clothes neatly in one bag and then going through the whole rigmarole of unpacking was becoming a big pain. I chose to do it nevertheless.

It took me almost an entire day to pack all my clothes, my utilities and other stuff which I’m not going to bore you with. With a nice chilled beer in my hand, I called up the owner of the PG and told him that I would be moving in tomorrow. I was all happy and with that, I called it a night. Moving from one place to another was never a problem for me. I was in touch with a very enterprising person by the name of Imtiaz who had organized the movement of my personal effects from time to time. Helpful as always, he said he would send his men straight away to help me move my things to the new place. A steel cupboard, a study table, two big bags of clothes, my guitars and my trusty steed – read motorbike, moved into our new home. This was the beginning of some beautiful memories, I thought as I stepped into the house and my room.

Stage 3: Meet the Roomies

‘What’s up dude?’ You know you’re in a boy’s PG when the people greet you with a ‘What’s up.’ What a nice way to start your first conversation. I can’t imagine an opening to a conversation these days between kids and youth alike that don’t start with ‘What’s up.’ ‘Well,’ I go, ‘My name is Sheldon. What’s yours?’ ‘My name is Vedant’ replied Mr. ‘What’s up.’ That was my first friend in the PG. As I start unpacking and loading the clothes into my cupboard, I see that there’s another bed vacant right next to me. I was going to share it with two strangers. Hmmm! I’ve always had a room of my own since I can remember and here I am sharing a room with strangers. I had heard stuff like PG’s were the worst place to stay. Rumors used to float around about the constant abuse of drugs, drinking and pornography – not necessarily in that order. I chose to keep my cool and see for myself what it was like. I was a mama’s boy without any doubt, but my dad had made me self-sufficient and rely on my instincts, traits I still admit I’ve picked it up quite well from daddy dearest. This PG did not house any smart alecs so I was pretty satisfied that I had picked up a proper place.

It’s 10PM now and I’m wondering what to do. It’s my first night at the PG and you can’t sleep. There’s always a nagging thought at the back of your mind that something nasty’s going to happen to you, but it wasn’t the case. I had an amazing sleep that night and woke up fresh on a Saturday, something that had not happened in a long time. I got up and brushed my teeth, took a shower and combed my hair for the very first time in my new home. I felt good.

As soon as I step out of the shower, four monkeys – literally come howling into the room shouting “breakfast.” They see me standing there gaping at their outburst, say their hi – hello’s and continue their circus antics. I walk out of the room obviously surprised by their behavior and was walking out to get some breakfast myself when Changu, Mangu, Pinku and Dinku invited me over to have breakfast with them. I flatly refused stating that I had to get some work done and hobbled away from the scene as fast as I could. After a wonderful breakfast, I came back home and see the four monkeys playing a game of cards – Bluff.  It took me awhile to get used to the terminology but I understood what they were doing and it was fun watching them tear each other apart when it came to a wrong bluff. I took out a nice book to read and was quite engrossed in it when Changu wanted to get more acquainted. He started asking me a whole lot of questions and the rest followed suit. I didn’t want to sound rude after my morning behavior so I just played along and answered each question of theirs patiently. As the day went by, we got to know each other pretty well. The fact that we were from two ends of India didn’t bother us at all. When it comes down it, whether you’re an Idli or a Roti lover, you’re an Indian and that’s the connection that people share.

Stage 4: Encounter with the Drunk Owner

Life is like a barrel of whisky,

The more it matures, the finer it gets,

And the faster you drink it in the hope of enjoying it better,

Everything becomes so much more easier.

–          Sheldon Coelho

We’ve all heard the rumors and the tales but when the door starts banging at 1 AM on a cold Sunday morning, you know, the ghost of your drunken past is back. Or, it could just be your landlord. Either ways, it’s better to run and hide than face the evil outside. I was used to drunken friends, but drunken landlords? Now, that’s a face you don’t want to see at that point of time in the night (especially when you’re drunk yourself) but then there are times when you just have to do it.

A few times, I had the misfortune of coming face to face with him while he was at his best – should be pretty self-explanatory. So, I developed a very effective method of not engaging him for long. I practiced my long drawn haggard look in front of the mirror several times before finally deciding to use it on him and it worked like a miracle J. The moment my owner saw me in that state, he just couldn’t bear to talk to me lest I collapse right there in front of him. Over time, he stopped disturbing the rest of the inmates and eventually decided to stop his activities – the cause of that is something else, but I believe it was a life changer for him.

Stage 5: The Neighbors

“Love thy neighbor” is what we hear from our parents growing up. And love them was all we could do because adjacent to our PG was a Ladies PG. The evenings were lit with conversations of who was the most beautiful that walked out of those gates. Some of the boys pretended to have conversations with them whenever they got a chance but a look from the owner of the Ladies PG had our boys running a mile away. Slowly a rumor floated around that the girls were not that interesting in the first place and soon, our boys drifted away into new-found passions and interests, the more recent of which, IPL. Naturally, our conversations, animated as they were about who would win, would take a break when the cheerleaders came on and in a unified show of strength, we’d have our eyes glued to the telly as a sign of respect to the skillful cheerleaders.

Stage 6: Festivities

We Indians love our culture and our heritage so much that even though we may stay a hundred miles away from home, the festivities bring in us a sense of togetherness and belonging. The festivities in our PG brought together people from different faiths, religions and ethnicity. We used to celebrate festivals like Holi, Eid, Diwali and Christmas like one big family. There was never a dull moment for either of us during these festivals and the thought that we were all away from our families during these events never bothered us. We enjoyed ourselves to the maximum sometimes even staying up till late in the night talking about the fun-filled stories these festivities brought with them.

Stage 7: Moving out

When you reach this part of your stay in a PG, that is, if the journey has been fun, the moving out can be a very bitter end to an otherwise beautiful period. When I wanted to move out, I felt like a bride was leaving her mother’s home after marriage. There was no crying, yet sadness filled my heart as I was now embarking on new ventures and I could not stay in this PG if I had to fulfill them. Some of the boys helped in carrying my bags down and spoke to me through the process, giving hi-fives, wishing good luck for the future and also a lot of “we’re going to miss you” faces. We spoke of never losing touch with the other inmates and promising to write back whenever we got the chance to do so.

September 2010:

I was staying in this PG for almost two years before I had finally decided to move out to a place closer to my office. It was going to be with a bunch of guys which I didn’t know again, but this was a house and not a PG. There were a lot many things different that were going to happen and a lot more experiences to talk about. Whenever I pass by Indiranagar, I still go and have a look at the old PG and remember all the crazy times spent over there and wish that I could rewind the clock and do it all over again.

Sometimes, it’s easier living in the past than dreaming about the future…

Disclaimer – The views and opinions written in this article are not only the author’s but also his PG Mates. Being their spokesperson, the author has willingly decided to stand in the firing line for writing about their choice memoirs. Should you have any concern with the authenticity of these events, please leave them with your local psychiatrist. 

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