Travails of being a Paying Guest


We find them everywhere in all the major cities and towns of our country. Young men and women who leave their family homes and move to other cities for the pursuit of education or professional careers. Since they do not have near and dear ones in that area, many of them opt to live in private homes, almost like family members, but paying for their boarding and lodging. This arrangement is much more convenient and economical  as compared to living in a mess or hostel, where the homely comforts are certainly lacking.

During the last decade or so, taking on paying guests has become a  flourishing nay roaring business, requiring very little by  way of investment. The major players in this arena are mostly elderly men and women, and matronly ladies (whose grown up children are settled elsewhere. Or alternatively issue less couples) whose homes have ample spaces which they are unable to utilize.

Putting it simply, a paying guest makes use  of these rooms, shares meals with the family members, uses the owner's bath and privy. He/she makes use of the basic facilities available e.g. power connection, water
supply telephone, television etc. But discipline also comes as a part of the package deal. For instance he/she must be indoors by a stipulated hour, must not leave the lights on for the whole night, must not make noise, must not smoke or drink without the owner's permission and so forth.

However,there are certain drawbacks, in this system of taking in paying  guests. It is not roses, roses all the way. To begin with, many a landlord charges the paying guests exorbitantly, so that the young people almost pay through their noses.

Pinki Gupta, who lives as a paying guest in south Delhi,narrates how college girls with limited funds are often herded into one room, with hardly any storage space for their stuff. There is virtual cacophony everyday in such rooms with blaring music, nonstop conversation, shrill cries etc." It is impossible to study in such circumstances,"laments an inmate of one such establishment.

"Forget about the homely atmosphere and comforts, my landlady charges me an extra 750/- for daily supply of milk (2glasses only! ) and hot water for bathing", reveals Sujata Das, who lives as a paying guest in the capital.

In some cases, the house owners deny their lodgers the use basic appliances like electric iron, immersion rods, music systems and transistors. At the peak of summer, the paying guests often have to make do with rickety ceiling fans or at best room coolers, for which they again have to pay an extra amount. Dusting and cleaning of the rooms have to be done by the residents themselves, as maids are often not allowed in.

Often the house owners compromise on the quality as well as the variety of meals. Accordingly non vegetarians might be forced to eat only  vegetarian food, just because the owners do not consume non-vegetarian food.

That is not all, Suchitra Pal, who lived as a paying guest in Mumbai for a considerable length of time says," I had a harrowing experience; the landlords were nice people, but a nephew of theirs who was a frequent visitor to the house, bugged me no end. He would stare at me whenever I was within his range of vision. He would
leave personal notes for  me when I was not  in my room, peep through keyholes and bathroom windows and so forth. He irritated me so much that eventually I quit and took up quarters  as a paying guest elsewhere.........". 
A similar anecdote is narrated by Rashmi Singh, who lost a lot of personal belongings while staying as a paying guest in South Kolkata. She laments, " I lost some beautiful pieces of jewellery , silk scarves, expensive pens, a lovely silk kafatan, woolen tops and of course plenty of cash. I did  lock up  the drawers and cupboards in  my room. I wish the owners had taken a little personal care.  It could have been one of  the domestic servants, the cook, the casual visitors to the house..........."

The young people complain of how the landlords/ladies often interfere  in their  private lives. Anita Gupta who hails from Indore, says her landlords discourage all visitors, irrespective of their sex. So much so that when her grandmother  came to the city from their hometown,she had to be put up elsewhere. Her colleague and roommate Caroline Saritha hates the way the landlady haranguesher about  not wearing dupattas/ chunnis,even though she wears fairly loose salwar kameezes/churidars. Mukul Kumar got into trouble with his landlords, owing to his habit of using excessive perfumes, which apparently bothered them a good deal.

Telephone facilities often prove to be a b`ete-noir for the paying guests.Though legally telephoning facilities are to be made available to the lodgers, very often the house owners deny access to even incoming local calls, not to speak of outstation/long distance ones. Making phone calls from the house is mostly ruled out.Sometimes messages are not delivered and sometimes garbled. This makes life hard for paying guests,especially women,who would hesitate to venture out at late hours to make personal calls.

Since the system of paying  guests may well be termed as a necessary evil,  the young people could do well to take certain measures in order to overcome the problems that crop up:

Checkout the antecedents and  the general back ground of the house owners. It would be advisable to put up with families already known to you, for then they will tend to be a trifle liberal.

When you enter a written agreement with the house owners make sure you have a couple of  witnesses. They will come in useful in case of a future conflict.

Be sure to get the agreement/rules and regulations documented so as to avoid  complications.

Keep your valuables,  precious possessions in the bank lockers rather than keeping them at home.

Remember to lock your room before going out. Use your own lock and key instead of a lock with duplicate keys, one of which is inevitably retained by the landlords.

Be polite and civil with your landlords but do not get  too familiar. As the saying goes:  Familiarity breeds contempt.

If the landlord's visitors or guests happen to bother you,sort out the matter by confronting the offender, instead of merely keeping quiet.

Right in the beginning make your intentions and demands clear to the landlord. Put your foot down firmly regarding visits by  family members and friends, your dress code, daily habits etc. In case these  are not acceptable,you could look for accommodation elsewhere.



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