My entire Sunday evening was spent scouting for a flat in Airoli for my friend and colleague, Amol. He stays in Ghatkopar and wanted to move to New Bombay for the tranquil it offered. I am not too knowledgeable when it comes to real estate, but we were scouting for the flats nonetheless.
We were at an agent’s office to get some more details about one particular flat that sounded promising. The agent started with his customary talk about how it had almost all the features that a buyer would want and how it offered an amazing peace and tranquil despite being very well connected to the town.
Suddenly, he asked “Can I know your name, Sir?”
“Amol Ghanwat.” Amol replied.
“Ok. Are you Marathi?” He asked.
The agent looked at me.
“Ayyappan Pillai” I replied. I need not explain my origin. My name says it all.
Visibly relieved, he said “Well, the reason I have asked your names was to know if you were Muslims.
I had guessed it beforehand.
“We don’t sell flats to Muslims anymore. He continued. “Upar se instructions hain” I am acting upon instructions.
“Earlier we were free to sell flats to anybody. But aajkal yeh sab bahut strict ho gaya hai.” Nowadays, it has become very strict.
I don't know from whom he received these instructions from. Was it from the Police, the Builder or from some Real Estate Agent’s association, but it was for the second time in the day that I came across racial discrimination. Now, let me tell you about the first event as well.
This guy is my close friend. He is a Muslim. We live in the same housing colony and have practically grown up together. That morning, he went to buy a new SIM card for his mobile phone. We knew the local BPL dealer very well.
“Devji, by what time will the SIM card be activated?” He asked.
Devji replied, “Around 9.00 PM”
“9.00 PM is too late, can’t it be done sooner?” My friend said.
“No.It is very difficult”
“What yaar, I know you can do it in an hour. You have done it so many times!” My friend persisted.
“I still do it in an hour. But for you, I can’t. See the name on the application.” He said. “But aajkal yeh sab bahut strict ho gaya hai.” Nowadays, it has become very strict.
My friend stiffened. He was rudely reminded of his identity. That of belonging to a beleaguered community. Little did I know then that I’d listen to the same words later in the day again.