Rent Act controversy: Should we keep our bags packed, wonders old SoBo resident

Jan 22, 2016, 08:04 IST | Hemal Ashar

Meher Sanjana (67) Colaba resident, looks out of the windows of her 1,250 sq feet home, and smiles wryly. All around, there are landmarks that are an intrinsic part of her life. The Radio Club sits squat, a few feet away. The hotel Taj, looms across the SoBo skyline. The waves at the Gateway crash and break on the rocks, mirroring the turmoil within.


Like so many living within the pagadi system, it is the comfort of the familiar and the trepidation of the unknown that grips Meher, when asked about the current controversy swirling over the Rent Act and newspaper reports stating that pagadi tenants may now have to pay rent at current market rates.

The garden is one of Meher Sanjana’s favourite spots. Pics/Bipin Kokate

“These reports keep cropping up,” says Meher, sitting on the sofa of her home and rifling through papers. Yesterday, her hours oscillated between quiet contemplation and a frenzy of work. She lost her father last month, and now, it is intense paperwork, names to be changed, legalities to be followed up that is taking up her time.

The garden is one of Meher Sanjana’s favourite spots. pics/BIPIN KOKATE
The beauty and comfort of the familiar, Meher Sanjana on the steps of her home

Meher takes up the narrative. “I remember going to Fountain in a protest against Rent Control Act amendment in the 1990s. Then, again there were sporadic reports about amendment, one as recent as six months ago. Now, of course this. Does it mean that I stand ready with my bags packed, ready to move out of my home at any time? A home, where so many like me have lived for more than six to seven decades, and inherited from earlier generations? My father had his pension, now, I have to live on my Fixed Deposits (FDs). If I knew it would come to this, I would have moved to a small place elsewhere or an old person’s home even, but to tell us to move out now….” she trails off angrily.

The anger evaporates though and a smile replaces a frown when she talks about her landlady. “All of us, tenants and the landlady/landlords of this building are like friends. I have an excellent relationship with my landlady, when my father died, everybody was at home to help me. It is not just the fear of leaving big homes or familiar spaces that dogs people, it is the friends, the neighbourhood, ties that bind.”

Leaving the building, Meher points to a favourite spot, a small patch in the garden where she spends a lot of time. Meher ends, “we all tenants, landlords all are upset. This, at the thought of having to break away and it leaves a bad taste in the mouth and has shattered our peace.” Sedate white flowers, competing with shouting red hibiscus sway gently in the breeze, nodding their head as if in full agreement with Meher.

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