But the one class of men who consistently bring my blood to a high-pressure-boil and turn me towards dark thoughts involving pickaxes, shovels and free swings are Real Estate Brokers in suburban Mumbai. A clan of men unimaginably vile, with a penchant for being the type of shady that would put even Shakti Kapoor to shame. Why the rant you might ask? And tell you I will.
Landlord pulled the plug on my lease last month citing unavoidable circumstances. And thus began my tale of woe. Now in Mumbai, as a lot of you will no doubt know, the standard specs for a house undergo the equivalent of a Fourier transform and emerge from the other end completely unrecognizable. Missus and self had a fairly modest requirement - "Apartment, reasonably spacious (1000 sq ft or so), 2 Beds, 2 Baths, 1 Kitchen, a smallish balcony and if we were to push it a separate washing area" Now I am sure even the meanest mind amongst you will not consider this as asking for the moon. But as it turns out the moon might have worked out cheaper.
I first logged on to those marvels of modern real estate technology - 99acres, Magic Bricks, Sulekha and even something called Kijiji.com. Sample a few ads:
Bandra West, Spacious 1RK (150 sqft), in decent locality, near station, close to Sea, a stone's throw from Buckingham Palace (OK that was my addition. concept borrowed from here). Only 29k. Negotiable" - contact Rajesh BrokerTranslation: Shanty in an overrated upmarket locality. It will feel like you're in Sex and the City (because you're screwed if you live here.. ha ha). Faces the sea in the same way that the planet Jupiter faces the sun, a stone's throw from B Palace only if the stone is an intercontinental ballistic missile and throwing is being done by a launch vehicle
Thane, Godbunder Road, Spacious (800sqft), 2 BHK, Modern Locality, Reserved parking , 24 hour power backup 18k Rent, Negotiable. Contact Rajesh Broker
Translation: Bugerall Pigeon Hole in the middle of nowhere, Reserved parking for pigeon, 24 hour power backup (for night lamp), Rent depends on whatever number I can think of, negotiable in a vague non committal sort of way. We'll make you pay sucker!!"
Rajesh Broker seems to own 75% market share in most of these websites. The rest are owned by Chandrahas Broker and probably Ali Broker. So there. Websites taken over by brokers. Might as well call one of them. The conversation went thus:
J: Looking for a 2 BHK, 18k tak budget hai.One Week and 15 Houses Later, J and Missus find another place paying through their collective noses and the broker is richer by a few Hero Puchs. Buggr'em.
Broker: Sir budget thoda badhana padega. 18k mein kya aata hai
J: Sony ka flat screen TV, Hero Puch, Handycam, Singapore ka return ticket, 1500 plates of pani puri...
Broker: Arre kya joke karte ho sir aap bhi.
J: 18k majaak nahin hota yaar.
B: Aap aa jao sir..main aapko mast makaan batata hoon.
J: Aur brokerage?
B: Wohi standard sir two months...aur renewal pe one month...
J: Matlab 2 sony ka TV, 2 hero Puch, 2 Handycam...
B: Arre kya sir aap joke karte ho.
J: 36k majaak nahin hota yaar!
B: sir aap ke liye consider kar lenge...paanch sau hajjaar kam kar lenge...