Mumbai’s favorite sons

My last blog was on taxi drivers in Mumbai and really my adventures here would be incomplete without a little something on the wonderful set of human beings that comprise the brokers in this wonderful city. Love em, hate em, avoid em, but you just can’t do without em.

So there I was a year and half ago, a starry eyed Chennai bay (Madrasi) entering the big city and my initial plans on finding a house were quite simple, log onto (working for em should have given me an advantage), post an ad, pick the best 4 in one day and I should have 1 house and 3 spare ones. Unfortunately, the problems started there – cause as it turned out the 4 house options I had before me all apparently had the same owner. A blighter named Ethedsham….Here he is

At first I thought he was a heir to the ‘Etisalat’ crown..but soon enough as I found out, he was my introduction to the wonderful community. So, he said, let’s meet outside St.Andrew’s church (The favorite meeting points for all brokers in Mumbai…I still don’t know why)….will show you lots of houses.

Now – there are a few thumb rules you must know of when a broker begins to show you houses:

Rule No.1: Acha Quality Building actually means that the building is on its way down and has exactly about a year of life left. If you sign a 2 year contract…may god and a spring bed be on your side

Rule No.2: If he doesn’t say ‘Bada rooms’…it means its actually a ‘1 bhk’ converted into 2. If he doesn’t say anything about the toilets – it means there’s only 1..and chances are its Indian style

Rule No.3: If he says ‘Fully furnished’ – chances are you’re missing a bed. If he says ‘Semi’ – chances are that a bed is all you have.

Rule No.4: Whatever the location…its actually about 3 kms north of it. Mumbai has a big south fetish… so brokers (Builders and Snoots) refer to Lower Parel as Upper Worli, Mahim as upper Dadar and Mahalaxmi as Peddar Road..if you live in Malabar hill there’s a good chance that they might actually refer to it as North Madagascar.

Rule No.5: This rule however doesn’t apply to Bandra. Bandra is Bandra…and will never ever be referred to as North Mahim. If you were to go by the’d think its a combination of America during Woodstock, Oxford street during Christmas and Rio during the Carnival. (Bandra’ites are convinced it is).It demands a 40% premium – why? Your chances of getting lucky in Bandra are 40% brighter. Simple.

Rule No.6: Whatever price he quotes….just add 20%. The broker’s plan is very simple…his first step is to lure you in. When you meet the landlord face to face…he goes in to get the water…or his chappals whichever is nearer.

Rule No.7: He never discusses brokerage – its below his dignity. You’re supposed to know its ‘one month’. What’s more he will never discuss the fact…that he believes it should be one ‘month’ every year. If his belief is true and is complied with…then this there is no doubt in mind, I’m putting in my papers and becoming a broker tomorrow.

Rule No.8: Brokers always work in packs…just like wolves. There will always be one sellers side broker / shifter. Now these folks are generally flower arrangers outside temples / Pundits and the lot who old women have great affinity for. Their core ability lies in pacifying old women convincing them that the thugs who actually want to become tenants…are infact descendants of Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus Christ or Prophet Mohammed depending on her religious preference.

Rule No.9: The broker himself has one area of core expertize…and that’s bringing out the recession to the landlord in all its glory. For him – the recession is something which will affect all of us till we die, the effects of Lehman brothers crashing property prices in Matunga…is unmeasurable. Another strategy he’s very good at is not showing the landlord any buyer once he knows someone is interested…one blank week after a half decent offer…automatically increases its value.

Rule No.10: By and large all landlords are the reticent type who take their titles a little too seriously. For them, anyone but the broker is a rodent, who’s out there to ruin his house. And Yes, no pictures are allowed, no nails, no additional televisions, no noise and keep your bell on? He will paint the walls…salmon pink though is his favorite color.

It was one such landlord with whom I had my first surreal experience, he picked me up on his bike, showed me the place, we discussed the price and a million other things. Just as he was to drop me back, he added the simple one liner “By the way, no drinking, no music, no friends after 10 PM and no Non-Veg food.” He might as well sell his property and buy something in Northern Tibet.

The next one was with a slightly senile old man – while his wife served us some extremely sweet lemonade, we had our final discussions and he brought out the papers. The lights were dim, there was an eery silence and we brought out our pens. Suddenly, one of us (not a very bright one) decided that now was the apt time to ask the broker whether he wanted commission for the 2nd year again. Then in a jiffy, the pens went up in the air, the lemonades were whisked away, the old man stood up and said something on the lines of “Tum bahut kich pich karney waley log hein.” And that was it. We were back on the street.

Finally, I realized that the easiest way to get the job done is to move from house to house….moving backwards from office. I was thrown out of the first one since it was the RBI quarters, the 2nd ask me to meet a broker, the 3rd looked at me and said there was no way I could afford anything here…finally I was pointed to a broker – Bala was his name – he showed me a place – I met the landlord – dived to touch his feet and the deal was done. Be assured – touching feet works only occasionally.

And just when I thought I was done with this whole shennanigan, a month or so, the impending change in my maritial status meant it was time to re-visit the ghosts. After seeing some of the worst houses in Mumbai, me and the missus were finally pointed to one nice one. It was time for the grand discussion – after the customary drinks were served and pleasantaries were engaged, the scene was set. Me, my wife to be – sat on one side. My mother in law to be – the other. Philomena (Yes they always come with strange names) our landlord at the top of the table and the broker and the shifter opposite. It soon became evident that there was a heaven and earth difference between the price we were told and the price that was on offer. Just when we were heading for the door – the broker looked at Philomena and said almost desparately ” Ap Ek glass paani to pila sakte hein na?” (This is pretty much akin to “Let’s go for a smoke in the corporate world”…or I know things are f$%^& up but lets give it one last chance). Just at that moment…the shifter – Rohidas aka Rohjas scurried behind the landlady to help her with the water. 2 Mins passed and she came back a changed lady. A smile on her face – 2 days later the deal was struck.

What transpired across the water cooler we will never know. What I do know is that he’s certainly not getting brokerage 2 years in a row!

8 Responses to “Mumbai’s favorite sons”
  1. charles says:

    good stuff my friend. Guess i’m sticking to my 11th floor abode where my only agreement is a verbal ‘understanding’. šŸ™‚

  2. Siddhu says:

    Married?!?! So raman wasn’t makin it up. Congrats!!!

  3. Sudhir says:

    Charles…my man. Stick to the 11th floor…my friend. Keep the fruits down and stock some more beer!

  4. Sudhir says:

    Sid…the kid. Engaged buddy….not married as yet.

    The big wedding is in December and you and your wife must come for it in Chennai.

    Will speak to you soon and give you all the details.



  5. Vikram says:

    I have been living in Mumbai for the past 4 years and Would have dealt with Brokers for more than 2 dozen times…Your post is too much of a exaggeration…

  6. sudhirsyal says:

    Guess we met different brokers šŸ™‚

  7. I am impressed.

  8. Sagar says:

    Absolutely true… Brokers are money suckers… every other fellow is a broker in mumbai…. This is my second year and I paid brokerage for the second year too….

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