The new urban ghettos

Everyone expecting the usual laugh riot, please stop reading this right now and get your mitts on a PG Wodehouse. The rest of you, be ready for some very angry outpourings.

Flashback. Circa 1992. A widow and her young daughter were househunting. They lived in staff quarters because the widow had a bank job, but she was nearing retirement age and she would need to vacate those soon. In a few years. They had saved money. This was the pre-phone a loan era. They went from building to building, from builder to builder, with their meagre savings and their dreams of a roof over the head to find themselves getting turned away for the vaguest of reasons. Finally, the broker they were going with hesitantly asked them whether they could not buy the house in the lady’s maiden name. Which was a Christian name. Much better than her married name. Which was a Muslim name. And could she pretend that her husband was abroad. A single lady with a daughter and that too a Muslim, society members were raising objections. That lady refused point blank. And she managed to find a home in an upcoming project in what was then a distant suburb, on a plot of land which was still then, wilderness. That lady was my mother.

Fast forward to 2004. The daughter is hunting for a flat. She has gotten married in the interim. To a Hindu Rajput. Her first name was always a Hindu name. Her married surname is a Hindu surname. She still visits the church, visits temples, does pujas with her married family, doesnt celebrate Id anymore, but she had done so only till her father was alive. And he had died when she was barely nine.

She gets the red carpet treatment everywhere. And some builders and brokers declare proudly to her that they’ve kept their projects free of Muslims. One of the buildings she saw had a PIL filed against it later by a TV actor. She was told this building would be kept purely for Hindus. She turns away in disgust, bearing in her arms, her then barely year old mongrel baby, he a confluence of Christian, Muslim and Hindu blood. The tears smarting her eyes.

And there are some other buildings. Actually one she loved. Just behind Shoppers Stop in Kandivili. Where she is almost ready to put down a booking cheque when she’s asked if she and her family are non vegetarian. When she replies in the affirmative, she’s told gently, that this project is only for vegetarians. No offence. Dont want the smell of non veg cooking polluting the area, replies the builder. We’ve all heard of the stories of the meat Nazis in Mumbai’s posh Malabar Hill area forcing non vegetarian restaurants to shut down by pouring filth on their customers.

She finally finds a new home. The complex, she is delighted to see when she reads the names off the board in the lobby, has a wonderful mix. North Indians, South Indians, people from the North East, people from Rajasthan and Gujarat. Surnames that denote every religion, every community. And her child plays with their children every evening. Not asking whether they’re Hindu or Muslim or Christian or Parsi or from the North or the South. He forges his own tenuous equations with them, all children, who yet are blank slates, who dont know they’re supposed to be different.

And she knows that all is not lost. Somewhere, sanity prevails. But she also knows she could afford this sanity. What about those who cant?

She refuses to believe that a belonging to a religion or a creed should form the basis of a decision as to where one should live. And knows that, if she would search hard enough she would find the right home.  

And this is not only about Muslims. This is about the ghettoism. About the subversion of secularism. Non vegetarians. Bachelors. Single Women. Muslims. People from the film industry. All not welcome. For varying reasons. Only available for members of a certain community. Preference given to ________. Fill in the blanks. We’re creating our own new fangled apartheid.

The hatred of the other makes me nauseous.

We could rise up as one against the white supremacy to combat apartheid. How can we rise up against ourselves?

Read more about this and let me know what you think.


About Kiran Manral

Kiran Manral published her first book, The Reluctant Detective in 2011. Since then, she has published eight books across genres till date. Her books include romance and chicklit with Once Upon A Crush (2014), All Aboard (2015), Saving Maya (2017); horror with The Face at the Window (2016) and nonfiction with Karmic Kids (2015), A Boy’s Guide to Growing Up (2016) and True Love Stories (2017). Her short stories have been published on Juggernaut, in magazines like Verve and Cosmopolitan, and have been part of anthologies like Chicken Soup for the Soul, Have a Safe Journey (2017) and Boo (2017). Her articles and columns have appeared in the Times of India, Tehelka, DNA, Yowoto, Shethepeople, New Woman, Femina, Verve, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Conde Nast Traveller, DB Post, The Telegraph, the Asian Age, iDiva, TheDailyO and more. She was shortlisted for the Femina Women Awards 2017 for Literary Contribution. She is a TEDx speaker and a mentor with Vital Voices Global Mentoring Walk 2017.
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45 Responses to The new urban ghettos

  1. goofy mumma says:

    What a wonderful thing to write about, and so beautifully written. The builder’s choice of buyers is a very prominent thing in Bombay, it is restricted by religion, community and all of that. It is sad, especially so, because we call ourselves a secular country, we have the freedom to dwell any place in the country, its our constitutional right as a citizen. Its disgusting, discriminating and generally saddening that the constitution, fundamental rights, actually have no worth in the country anymore, where the Shiv Sena openly comes up with statements like,they will chuck out all non-Maharashtrians from Maharashtra! Sorry to hog so much of space, just that I am terribly disgusted by such things.
    By the way, its wonderful that you have found yourself a place with a mix of people from all backgrounds. 🙂


  2. Gauri says:

    Good One Kiran. True – though humanity today claims to have progressed on many fronts, fact remains that there are a lot many more on which human behaviour leaves a lot to be desired.

    There had been a email exchange recently between a VHP member and Vic …. will forward that to you …..

    I was appalled …… that such zealots exist and are merrily spreading venom …. its scary.

    I do wholly agree with you in saying that though outwardly a lot of humanity protests against apartheid of the “publicised” kind, there is a lot of apartheid being fanned on the other hand, by the very same human race.


  3. aneela says:

    I understand (and can identify to an extent) with you…I didnt change my surname but I do know that my stay in Mumbai and elsewhere(courtesy my first name and the husband’s ‘pedigree’) is way smoother than someone else’s…but I also have to acknowledge that in Mumbai there are the ‘safe havens’ where a mix-match couple like my husband and me can live/travel/work et al..NOT AT ALL the part of the world I come from…lately I had my low days where I would lock myself up and cry as how any kid we will have will a) be picked upon where in my hometwon for being Pathan read Taliban (my young male cousins have confessed how class mates tease them about going on beheading sprees and more..but of course they ‘apologize’ the next day and say it was all in jest..and how their best friends are Pathan) and b)in the age of Azmi’s et Warsi, Saif Ali Khan’s disclosure have probs renting/buying property because of their problematic mom….but well I realise that it is a wide world out there and for all the ‘ghettos’ of darkness and despair there will be ‘oasis’ of light…it is just that we should acknowledge these issues and speak out about them rather than sweeping them under the carpet, or just refering to the other”but they do worse in Pakistan (or in) India”…and basically stand up ,do our bit and be comfortable with our life choices…yes, I am culturally sensitive depending on my circumstances, welcome God in all His manifestations in my home but I do have my sense of self and I think that is what we should all be doing, rather than get paranoid by any ‘difference’ entering the building compound!!


  4. aneela says:

    p.s. as in the progeny renting/buying property in India in scenario (b)…and ummmm sorry for such a long winded comment. I promise to ‘ration’ my words in the future.


  5. sneha says:

    when we see people of only one kind around us, any other type of people look like aliens. we tend to fear them, dislike them, even hate them.

    especially for children, it is very important that they grow up watching all sorts of people from all corners and communities of the world we inhabit. the adults seem to be so hard set in their moulds that anything unfamiliar and the ALARM goes off.

    i have seen people living in perfect harmony in the old city area of ahmedabad. hindus and muslims, hand in hand and not so long ago. the city that the media loves to hate. but the city has witnessed riots after riots and then when people prosper and move out of the old city and buy houses in suburbs, the hindus choose certain area and the muslims choose some other. no one wants the “other kind” of people in their vicinity. and so it is so much more polarized that the next gen will find the “other kind” of people more and more alien. it is never going to end, isn’t it?

    sigh.. this always brings tears.


  6. chennai is full off vegetarians only and brahmins only on the ads for rental
    hate that


  7. goofy mumma says:

    Hi, i have linked this post to something I had written just yesterday… here.


  8. This post is so beautifully written. I have always hated this attitude and am not at all surprised and totally disgusted at VHP and BJP’s reactions to what Shabana Azmi has said. It’s people like us who will save this world. Let’s not change.


  9. Suki says:

    OMG, K. This should go on your stateofindia blog. Can’t believe such things really happen! Never heard such stuff while flat-hunting – have I just been lucky?


  10. dipali says:

    This is one of the saddest and most shaming things about our country today. Belonging to a minority in India today is no easy task. I wish that things were different. Dividing people into ‘us’ and ‘them’, creating dualities that negate our common humanity, is a sin against mankind.


  11. Gigi says:

    The whole situation reminds me of America in the 1950s. A friend’s mom is a real estate agent and she actually recalled the days when they weren’t allowed to show homes in some neighborhoods to “those Jewish immigrants”. Thankfully housing anti discrimination laws prevail today.

    The pick and choose stuff is restricted only to potential roommates.
    itchingtowrite – I really believe most of India cannot afford meat on a regular basis and is not vegetarian by choice but by necessity.

    I’m curious if most property owners are vegetarian though.


  12. maya says:

    i don’t think it is a matter of looking down on another community as much as wanting to be with people of your own kind. its easy for me to be righteous about it right now, and say yes – i am all for living anywhere and everywhere – but don’t we do this in every area of our lives? we wnat to fit in. we send our children to schools where there are other people like us. we want to dress like everyone in our circle dresses. we want to be with our own kind.

    would you go in a burkha to a disco?


  13. Kiran Manral says:

    Gauri: Waiting for your mail.

    Aneela: Please never ration your words in comments to my blog. I welcome them. yes it starts in school. The kids bring in prejudices from their parents. My son came home the other day chanting dirty Mussalman, and I was shocked. Where did you hear that I asked. Some other kids at school had ganged up on one child I am told. I had to sit him down and give him a long talk, and tell him that he too is part Muslim and would he like it if someone called him that. And this is a so called elite school with elite people sending their kids here.

    Sneha: That is what is really really scaring me. Its becoming a vicious circle. Its becoming urban ghettoism.

    Itchy: True. Scary, huh.

    Suki: No, the stateofindia is only for feel good news. Which reminds me havent updated it in a while.

    Dipali: Our country, the world. I think the issues are similar everywhere.

    Gigi: It is prevalent everywhere. And thats the scary part. And always has been. It is why wars have been fought and countless humans murdered, because we want to force a homogenity on ourselves which is not possible because we are by culture and climate and appearance different.

    Maya: These are two completely different issues. One is fitting in within the social strata one lives in. Through externals like dress, schools, etc. The other, is alienating a particular segment of society because they donot belong, or you chose to make them not belong because you do. Wanting to fit in is different from ostracising the other. Doesnt it smack of Nazism to you? It only is degrees away from the pogrammed Holocaust. When do you start drawing up the lines of what is acceptable ostracism and what is not? Going to burkha in a disco is trivialising the issue.


  14. Veena says:

    Beautiful post, Kiran. Sorry to hear about the issues you and your mom had to face. Yes, there is so much “ghettoism” everywhere. I think it begins as a need to associate with like minded individuals and morphs into something very ugly.


  15. sraikh says:

    Kiran, do you know in Singapore, the government owned flats in which 80% of Singaporeans live in have a predefined number of races that can live there. On each level, there will be a Chinese, Indian, Malay family.

    When scouring the for sale listings, one will see, Only available to Indians or Chinese or Muslims. Isnt that neat?


  16. Silvara says:

    Loved this post – actually it inspired me to write on something on similar veins – mainly my own ranting but I think essentially the same issue. Hopefully – things have changed.


  17. Priyanka says:

    Loved how beautifully you wrote it. Doesn’t seem like a rant at all!!
    You know, I faced this when I was house-hunting with my mom and sis. Had lived in my grandparents’ ancestral home till then so was completely clueless about such biases. The number of houses that I was turned away from coz my sister was non-vegetarian was depressing enough. But turning us away just coz ‘there is no man in the house’ was something that I had never even dreamt of. Can’t imagine what you must have felt when they asked you to change your mom’s name.
    This kind of sect-ism or groupism or whatever you want to call it has always been prevalent – be it either via religion, caste, economic status, home-towns, language or sheer nit-picking like food habits. Especially in India – am afraid that nowadays its growing because of sly political backing.


  18. Gayatri says:

    Appaling…I’ll write my thoughts in a post because I know I’ll take up too much space with my incoherence!

    Thanks for bringing this to light…


  19. Dottie says:

    Unbelievable. Unbelievable. I am a Hindu and a vegetarian with a man in the house…never did really realize what was happening around me. I got an inkling of this, just a couple of years ago, when chit-chatting with BG’s collegue (who is Christian) about the flat-hunting he was doing in Poona. I mentioned a locality in poona where some other (Hindu) collegues lived and asked if he was considering that area and he shook his head. He said they ate non-veg, so it would be hard to buy a flat in those communities. And that they were not cosmopolitan. I realised it much later what he really meant.


  20. Cee Kay says:

    Your post brought up feelings that I had forgotten I had, Kiran. Living in USA for the last 9 years has been like living in a bubble as far as issues back home are concerned. The school system, the caste system, the housing situation… I feel horrified each time I read something on this.

    It really is shameful that people are divided over so many things. Always makes me wonder – did the British rule over us by dividing and conquering or did we make their task easier by being divided already? Maybe they just exploited our pre-existing flaws.

    This tendency to make people conform to what WE think and what WE do is the biggest roadblock in creating a tolerant society. I hope our kids will learn from US and not from these intolerant buggers.


  21. gnd says:

    What audacity to suggest that your mom change her name and create an imaginary husband! UNBELIEVABLE!!
    I also think that deep down this may be also partly be a tease against women! Just the sadistic pleasure some Sons-Of-B#$%$!s have!
    Religion or macho-power, it’s disgusting either way!!

    I sometimes think there is a bigot in me too, which surprises and scares me a lot. This surprises me cos growing up, one of my closest friends was a Muslim. Studying in a convent school, I had loads of Christian friends, visited the Chapel ever so often, made such good friends with some of the nuns in our school, etc. And when living in Zambia for a couple of years, my best friend there was a Zambian. We were such close friends, that it made Pup (we were engaged at that time) jealous 😉
    My point is – despite that, I’m afraid that I have a bit of a bigot in me – not really against religion, but race. I think I’d be scared to live in a primarily Hispanic or Black neighborhood. I feel happy when I see at least one desi kid in my kids’ classes.

    I have never offended someone with caustic remarks, but I am acknowledging that it exists in me. Phew! Feel so much better having said that!

    But I do have to say (to itchingtowrite) that if a rental ad is from a home-owner (as opposed to a builder or an apartment complex), I think they have the right to choose whom they want as tenants. It’s not fair, but it sure is their right.


  22. Vinz says:

    cant believe such things happen these days also.
    Or maybe I am not aware such things occurring around me…
    But all these things should be condemned…

    nicely written..!!



  23. Kiran Manral says:

    Veena: It starts with being with like people and morphs into ghettoism. Thats when it becomes scary because when does it stop, where do you draw the lines? I have mothers in my son’s school speak disparagingly of Muslims, not knowing that I am of mixed blood. And these are wellheeled educated folks. Not the lowest common denominator.

    Sraikh: A universal issue, huh?

    Silvara: Hopping over to read yours.

    Priyanka: What scares me is that it is getting more rabid, open and direct.

    Gayatri: Send me the link, please.

    Dottie: 🙂 Happens everywhere na?

    CeeKay: You got the nail on the head. Its the divide and rule policy again. Played now by the politicians.

    gnd: Yup its the people like us versus the people like them fear, and it exists to a certain extent with all of us. Its normal. But as long as one doesnt infringe on any other’s constitutional rights to freedom to buy property. And yes, a strict vegetarian might find it offensive to give out their home to a non vegetarian, that I accept. But builders of mass housing?

    Vinz: Well yes, they do. All the time.


  24. Abha says:

    well! its just scary and horrible!! sometimes i thank my stars for not having money to buy a house!!

    but renting it cant be easy either! even in bangalore we faced the vegeterain bit. but eventually found a deecent place. but my pal tam brahm pal who married a muslim guy and moved to Mumbai had a very difficult time getting a house! and it just made me so mad!!

    when we were naming Cubby, Kabir, lotsa people told us why do you want to keep a muslim name. i said, no one knows, what is Kabir’s religion. he was just a great man! and i dont care a damn!

    but when the same pal, who is now convered to Islam, also said the same thing, it made me realllly sad.

    someday Kiran, i hope we can move beyond all these things…



  25. Atul says:

    Reached your blog from
    Worth it, I am gonna add your blog in my bookmarks for sure!

    And as for this particular entry, I can’t say anything more than what you have already written, or people have added in comments and .. all I will say is that WE have to do our little bit and things will change .. eventually.

    Honoured and do keep dropping by!


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  28. shyam says:

    It’s a disgrace that people are treated like that because of their religion or food habits (!) … and I agree with you, every word you’ve written echoes my feelings. It makes me so ANGRY to think of it!


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  30. anonymous coward says:

    Lots people here are pissed off about being turned away since they were non-vegetarians. As a vegetarian, I find the smell of non-veg food disgusting and makes me want to puke. If a housing society has been created by veg-people, I can understand why they don’t want any non-veg people to come and create a stink. People can say all they want about their constitutional rights etc, but your freedom stops where mine begins. Since you cannot stop the smell from your kitchen entering my home, I have every right to object.

    My 2 cents.


  31. Sue says:

    Anon Coward — Try being at the other end. I do not like the smell of fish frying even though I’m staunchly non veg but I have never somehow thought I am important enough a human being to be allowed to decide where other people may or may not live. A little tolerance goees a long long way — you never know when you’ll need some yourself.


  32. Anonymous coward- infact the aroma (i prefer to call it that) of non veg food is what makes all of us go weak in the knees! off course the cooked one- I am not saying I love the way non veg smells (now thats what i call a smell) before they are cooked.
    now that being out of the way- may i point out that there is no such thing as a veg society – its bad enuf that we hav communal divides and now u r adding this veg-non veg divide whereas conversely the vegetarians in my opinion are getting more tolerant from the old days when they used to visibly cringe at non veg being eaten at the same table and to now when they don’t mind sampling a little gravy from the non veg section. if u find non veg smelling bad- its a personal choice not a generalisation. best kept to yourself


  33. Kiran Manral says:

    Anon: That is the most ridiculous argument I have heard. If I am allergic and intolerant to perfumes, it means no one should come in my vicinity wearing any perfume. Wouldnt it be simpler to shut your windows rather than crib about smells you find offensive and segregate people on the basis of their eating habits. Where will this segregation ever end? The next will be only good looking people allowed in this society as ugly people are an assault on our visual sensibilities.


  34. IBH says:

    Anon dear – you have no idea what you have gotten into! Let us assume – you have the oppurtunity to travel and go to US..lets say…just try this arguyment there baby! you will be jailed for racism!

    I am a hard core veggie married to a guy who eats anything and everything that does not bite him back! It was for sometime that I could tolerate the fact they stopped eating non-bveg coz i dont prepare..but after sometime it got to me! why should he sacrifice coz i dont eat! I started COOKING for him! now this is how relationships build, humanity blossoms and world becomes the better place to live! people like you who are very narrow minded will not understand this broader argument and wills till come back and give your unwanted 2 we dont want it here


  35. LOL! oh lookie – we got a troll Lady K. And its wrinkling up its delicate nose at the big bad non-vegetarians. Don’t mind – they need to crib about SOMETHING – after all living under a damp toadstool can leave you rather stinky yourself.

    Hey anon – its easy to object to something or the other all the time. and perhaps you’re as ugly as hell which is an eyesore for me. in which case do i shut my eyes because i find you offensive or keep you locked up and away from society?

    i’m afraid you have a long way to go on the path of tolerance. And I think you’ve taken your first step towards healing by calling yourself a coward. acceptance does help. good job.


  36. Lady K – can we have the IP address to pass around and check on our WP blogs and sitemeters? It helps control the menace. Pass it to all of us.


  37. dipali says:

    You know, the building next to mine is redolent of fish frying around lunchtime every day. As a vegetarian, I don’t particularly enjoy the smell, but I cannot imagine not allowing people to cook and eat what they like in their own homes. Unless you are living in a particular ashram or registered religious society premises, which make their own rules.
    The less differences we agonise over, the happier everyone would be.
    All human beings are imperfect, in some way or the other. Picking on each other for being ‘different’ from us just doesn’t cut it.


  38. maya says:

    “Wanting to fit in is different from ostracising the other. Doesnt it smack of Nazism to you? It only is degrees away from the pogrammed Holocaust. When do you start drawing up the lines of what is acceptable ostracism and what is not? Going to burkha in a disco is trivialising the issue.”

    i think in our haste to be politically correct, we often see holocausts and ostracism where frankly, it is simply a matter of trying to be on familiar ground. when jains fear a goat being sacraficed in their building, and don’t want that – how is that osctracism? if i were sacraficing a goat at home, i’d want to do that in a building where no one is scandalized by it. why make such a hue and cry?

    i don’t think i trivialised the issue at all. i’d say – do something that makes you stick out. and see if you want to do that 24×7. it is easy for societies that have a uniform culture – but where we have such different cultures flourishing, it makes sense to give everyone some breathing space to be themselves.


  39. desiGirl says:

    My neighbour downstairs is from the Caribbean – the sweetest family you’ll ever see. Come sunday, the whole extended family gathers for a proper Sunday lunch and the smell is enough to make you run for the hills. Honest! So what do I do? Close all the windows and keep it zipped, that’s what! Cos that’s what it means to live in a society doesn’t it? Live and let live, etc etc.

    You’ve arrived, K – got you a troll! Now you can stand tall with the mad person!


  40. Cee Kay says:

    Anon dear, you comment started out being just a dissenting opinion, which is fine because, you know, we all HAVE different thoughts and opinions. What grated on my nerves was the proclamation “your freedom ends where mine begins”. Really? How can you say that? May be YOURS ends where a non-vegetarian’s begins? No? I grew up in a predominantly vegetarian area – in fact, growing up I didn’t have a single non-vegetarian friend. But I still don’t think like you do. So, please don’t paint us (other vegetarians) with the same brush as yours. I don’t like to be categorized with intolerants.

    Also – some food for thought. Suppose one community blares prayers etc. on loudspeakers during their festival season or during their daily prayers. Now, one wouldn’t be able to stop that sound from entering the ears of people from other religions. So should they be justified in prohibiting the other religious communities from inhabiting, and practising their religion, in the same area? How would you like to be at the receiving end of such discrimination?


  41. Dottie says:

    Anon: Its your problem then, not theirs. Really. You don’t like the smells, you move out. And I hope and pray that you are think twice before passing on your miserable values to your offspring(if you have/plan any that is)


  42. Subhashree says:

    Anon coward, I’m a staunch vegetarian and so is my family. But I think you need to devpelop some sense of tolerance for the people who share this world along with you. Please grow up. And keep your doors and windows closed.


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