Delhi Diary – No City for a Muslim
Personal account of discrimination against Muslims
[By Saif; picture by Mayank Austen Soofi is not the author’s photograph]
Finding an abode in Delhi is not easy, especially if you are a Muslim like me.
A journalist in a blue-chip media company, I had been longing to get a calm, serene and clean place somewhere close to my office in south Delhi. I zeroed in on Sukhdev Vihar and rounded up property wallas there. Most of them left me in lurch after they got to know my (Muslim) name. People in Sukhdev Vihar, I was told, were not too eager to rent their houses to Muslims.
Finally one kind agent agreed to help but she warned me of difficulties ahead. To be honest, I was prepared for challenges. But I was not prepared for such intense scrutiny about my faith and background.
The very first apartment that the dealer Ms. Manju showed was great. While the gentle Sikh landlord kept staring at me, Ms. Manju did a good job of marketing me. I was described as a good natured and educated (unlike Muslims!) professional working with a reputed media organization. I too played to the gallery and did not even bother to bargain the quoted rent.
The gentleman assured us that he would give it a thought.
The next day Ms. Manju called up to say ‘sorry’. She suggested that “why don’t I look for a house in some Muslim locality?”
In my search for a good house in a desired locality, my faith was becoming a problem.
But I again bravely set out on the Mission House Hunt. Again it started from the start: I liked the flat, agreed on the exorbitant rent; and then the landlady asked my name and lo, she went into deep shock. The woman made me feel as if I had invaded the privacy of her house. As if I was some alien under the guise of a normal human being.
These were her exact words: “actually, you know, we are all vegetarians and you people have different eating habits. It won’t be possible for us.”
Humiliated, I returned to my present flat, where the landlady, who always calls me beta, treated me to chai and bread-omlette. That was relief. All the bitterness of the day evaporated with the tea sweetened by her motherly love. This landlady, however, is not a Muslim. What’s more, she is a vegetarian. Yet she has never made me feel as if I’m different. Clearly, it is because of people like her that made me go on in this city.
Meanwhile, my search continues.