mid-day editorial: Prejudice mustn't make its home here

In her search for a house in Mumbai, all that dancer-actor Lauren Gottlieb has found so far is rejection.

Currently, Lauren does live in a house in Versova, but wants to move to a bigger, quieter home. Last week, the US native was turned down for the 15th time in two months, evoking memories of similar hardship when she was house hunting three years ago. Then too, she had a long struggle before she could get a roof over her head, and the reasons were the same — landlords didn’t want to accept a young, single woman who is a
foreigner and actor to boot.

This is true of many housing societies or landlords in the city, who have coloured perceptions of various kinds of people. Singles, both men and women, find it hard to get a house on rent. Live-in partners also have to pose as married couples to find a home. Foreigners are often looked at with suspicion. Certain communities are not allowed into housing societies.

People from certain professions may also face a struggle because there is already a preconceived notion that they may throw parties at night, invite guests which may be unwanted by the society, and generally disturb the peace or create nuisance. There is also the fear that once the houses are given on lease, it is difficult to evict them mid-way. Prejudice against actors is still particularly strong. There is also some prejudice against foreigners for different reasons.

We need to make a conscious effort to stop fitting people into boxes, to fit them into our perceptions and stereotypes. While one has to admit that it is up to landlords to decide who they allow into their homes, it is also unfortunate that outsiders have to struggle so hard to find a home in Mumbai, the most cosmopolitan of cities.

Let us, the people of Mumbai, make some effort to open our hearts and minds to people ‘different’ in any way, and break away from notions, bias and stereotypes that label people for their colour, origin, marital status or profession.

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