Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | June 21, 2009

Delhi Devils – I

During the course of my life in Delhi, I have come across some of the weirdest of landlords (home owners). My experiences have made me believe that landlords in Delhi are unique specie in them and they deserve to be categorized differently than humans. May be it is some circumstances which make the behave the way they do with tenants, but whatever may be the reason, being a tenant can be harrowing experience in Delhi.

I would try and talk of some of the experiences without naming the people. Devil may be a harsh word but to me these 5 landlords were no less than that. My apologies that I cannot think of any other adjective.

Landlord 1

When I joined my workplace office in Delhi, my office arranged for a paying guest accommodation in Jungpura, Delhi. The office was supposed to pay for first fifteen days. I was put up in a house where there were many tenants mainly university students. However, since office was paying for my stay, the landlord ensured that I stay in one of the best rooms he had. I did not have much to complain about the room and the amenities. I was well looked after. The food cooked by the servant was very good and I decided I would continue to stay in this place even after my initial fifteen days get over. The landlord’s behavior and the location of the place being the primary reasons for my decision.

Once the first fifteen days were over and I conveyed my decision to the landlord, he informed me that the room where I was put up was very expensive. He suggested that I shift to another room where I had to share it with two other students. That room of course did not have a television and was not really the best. I did not object because that time I was just out of a hostel myself and sharing did not seem a bad proposition.
However, within a few days after I made the move (to this new room situated on a roof top and in Delhi lingo known as Barsaati), I was stunned by the attitudinal change of the owner and the new rules. The residents of those rooms had to adhere to completely different set of rules than the residents of the ‘so-called prized room’. Now that I was part of the ‘normal residents’, for obvious reasons I had to get used to those rooms. Rule number one was, one had to enter from a backdoor which was situated in a dirty by-lane as we the ‘normal residents’ were sort of pariahs. Rule number two was, come whatever the situation was at night our room would be locked from outside. Therefore, in case the residents have to go out during the night, one had to climb down the pipes or stay inside. Rule number three was, the quality of food served would be drastically different than what was served to me in the previous room. There would be newest forms of vegetables that would make you wonder ‘ wow, who knew this was an edible vegetable’. Of course there were other rules too which mainly related to no communication with the other residents in front of the landlord (mainly to protect and women residents in some other parts!) etc.

After one and half months following a few collective fights, I left the place. I would remember this landlord who created one of the most dreaded hostels in the heart of Delhi.

Landlord 2

Landlord 2 had a rural background and if someone has idea about South Delhi’s prominent Katwaria Sarai village and the landlords there, one would get what I am trying to say. Katwaria Sarai village deserves a separate post in itself and it would remain one of the most unique places I have ever stayed.

Landlord 2 was an erstwhile farmer from Delhi’s Haryana region and looked very far from the urban definition of civilization. He was loud, abusive, had a raunchy sense of humor, did not have any bank account, never paid taxes, was oblivious of the facts that computers were already invented and believed he was the king in his own right. Most unique thing about him was, despite my roommate (a peer from my university) and I always ensuring that we pay him on the 1st of every month, he would come knocking on our door, enter the house and shamelessly ask for money. Thank god, he did not have many rules though and did not have control on our food. It was a disgusting apartment anyway and though we never really had a fight, I did not stay there for long.

Landlord 3

Now that I had had experience of staying in houses belonging to weird landlords, I had a feeling in order to get a humanly landlord, I need to move to a decent locality first. My assumption that, people staying in expensive localities are normally educated and civilized was proved totally wrong. It is a place called Delhi where the only education that most people get is to how to make money, flaunt it and if possible cheat to get it.

Anyway, so from Katwaria Sarai village, which was very much slum like (a bit better than the ones the world has seen in Slumdog Millionaire though), I moved to Greater Kailash -1. Those who know Delhi would agree that Greater Kailash – 1 is one of the most expensive locations in Delhi. I was not getting paid much by my office, but I wanted to be there to seek mental peace. As a bachelor I did not spend much time in my residence, but whatever little time I spent I wanted to feel that I am with decent neighbors.

Landlord 3 had a big house where he stayed with his wife, son, grandson etc. He had a few big cars too. Though I wondered how could he make such money after having retired as a not so senior Government employee, but these thoughts were irrelevant.

The room that I was in had a separate entry than his and was in the ground floor. It had a backdoor entry which meant I had to enter from a street which was normally used a garbage dump. I agreed since it reduced the rent I paid to some extent. Indeed he was peace-loving man and he did not create lot of fuss about my existence.

However, he was tremendously miser, so whatever renovation etc that he had to undertake for the room he just did not bother to do it.

Peace though was broken sometimes thanks to his teenager grandson who had a fascination for disgusting music that he played quite loudly. Anyway, this was the place where my wife came in after our marriage. Though as she came, we realized that we have to move to a bigger place because I did not have a proper bed to make her feel comfortable and the space was very little. We also realized that I had company of big rats in that room about who I was completely unaware despite my bed being on the ground.

Landlord 4

We moved to a neighbouring house from this place and met Landlord 4 who was undoubtedly the most notorious landlord whom we have ever met. His thoughts still give us sleepless nights.

In the next post, I would cover him and landlord 5.

One tip for everyone who is staying as a tenant in Delhi – try and take an apartment where you don’t have a constant presence of your landlord near you. Trust me, their constant presence can lead up to lot of trouble.



  1. Whereas many other old boys living in rented flats in Delhi assure me that you are right in everything you have written, I wonder whether Delhi’s landlords are particularly to blame. They are simply cashing in on the massive living-space crunch everywhere in urban India, I think. I have heard horror stories about Mumbai since I was a teenager. And as far as intrusiveness and rudeness are concerned, many people now tell me that Kolkata’s landlords are not far behind! … I fervently hope that my daughter will get a decent place to stay in if and when she goes over to attend college in Delhi.

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