In what was then Calcutta there was a popular saying: Fools build houses for wise men to live in.
Calcutta was a tenants’ city. Once you moved into rented accommodation, the landlord, who owned the place, would find it well-nigh impossible to get you out.
The result was that much, if not most, of the city’s population lived as lifelong tenants, often paying peanut rentals which were a fraction of the market value of the accommodation they occupied, and which would then be passed on to the next generation, with little or no increase in cost to them.
In 1793, Cornwallis drafted the so-called Permanent Settlement which created the zamindari system in Bengal. Some 150 years later a latter-day avatar of the Permanent Settlement created a new kind of zamindar in Calcutta called the tenant who, under the protection of the Rent Control Act of 1950, could effectively cock a snook at any and all attempts by the landlord to reclaim the tenanted property, which very often yielded a return of no more than a couple of hundred rupees a month even though it could be a spacious des-res, or desirable residence.
Like millions of other Calcuttans – as we were then known – I lived all my life as a tenant, resolutely defying all attempts by my successive landlords to dislodge me against my will from my rented domain where I was the master of all I surveyed.
As such, though I heartily deplore outgoing US President Donald Trump’s politics, I can’t but give him a high-five for his stout-hearted disinclination to leave the rented premises known as the White House, where he’s been a tenant for the past four years. And my tenants-in-arms, those who live or have lived in rented accommodation anywhere, will share my view.
Indeed, such tenacity of tenancy is not restricted to the Calcutta of old but lives on in today’s Delhi where netas living in palatial sarkari bungalows form the new zamindari class.
And when Prez Trump is finally booted out of his current home he might try to find PG accommodation in India’s capital. Any invitations? From a fellow tenant at 7, Race Course Rd, maybe … ?
This article is intended to bring a smile to your face. Any connection to events and characters in real life is coincidental.
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