A series of unfortunate incidents: In search of a Sorting Hat in Mumbaipur

Sir, yeh colony aapke liye nehin hain. Yahan sirf Mohammedan log kharidte hain,” said a security guard, trying to be helpful. And that’s the tale of my search for a house in Mumbaipur.  If not a Mohammedan, then it was some other community that refused to share space with a Bengali non-vegetarian. It’s as if our breath stinks and pollutes the environment.

I was denied the chance to even see the sample flat at many places simply because I am an omnivore. And then there was my dad. He loved taking the mickey out of ‘geniuses’ who would be looking to shut their doors on our faces during the ‘treasure hunt’.

Once on being told that we weren’t welcome in a colony because there was a temple and we were fish-eaters, he coolly replied, “But what if we light incense sticks while cooking fish? Nobody would come to know and the smell would be only of sandalwood or rose. It would be only near the garbage dump where cats would gather that you will smell something fishy going around.” We would be promptly shown the door. That day, we enjoyed a fish lunch.

The treasure hunt also saw us, sometimes, embark on limb-threatening exercises like the one time we went to see a row house and the owner came out with a stick to beat us and kicked us out of the gate soon as we stepped in. No, we hadn’t gone unannounced or had indulged in trespassing. It was just that the person we had spoken to, the one who had put up the house for sale on a website, was the owner’s brother and they were engaged in a property dispute.

Another time my wife and I walked into the sales office of an upcoming project only to be greeted by a young receptionist who looked us over contemptuously and practically announced the cost of an apartment in that project. Her tone clearly suggested that it wasn’t for the likes of us. Agreed, we weren’t wearing D&G suits, Jimmy Choo shoes and Rolex watches, but we weren’t dressed in our night suits either and the apartments were very much within our budget. But such is the fate of a middle-class Mumbaipurkar.

The best part of the treasure hunt is that I have discovered several lovely food joints and hidden gems of the city that would have remained hidden forever to me if it weren’t for the mission.

The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is divided into four houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. And the likes of Harry Potter and Hermione Granger have a Sorting Hat to decide which House they belong to. But that Sorting Hat ain’t available for people in Mumbaipur and beyond. Here we are looking for a home so that we are ‘sorted’.

The gods seem to be laughing at us and play the song “Do deewane sheher mein; Raat mein ya dopahar mein; Aab-o-dana dhoondhte hain; Ek aashiyana dhoondhte hain…” from Gharonda on the radio or playlist of the cabbies who are transporting us to another stop on our quest. Well, I think I will stop searching for a house and instead start out on a mission to find a ‘Sorting Hat’.

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