If you are a single, young working adult slowly embracing your freedom away from the glare of parents and relatives, beware, there’s another set of binoculars trained at you — the RWAs’.
Imagine if Arnab Goswami and Navika Kumar were part of your RWA — snooping into your lifestyle and judging your partners and friends, as they did with Rhea Chakraborty. End of freedom and privacy.
You could dismiss this as exaggeration, but behold this notice allegedly issued by a Resident Welfare Association (RWA) in Bengaluru’s Whitefield/Kadugodi area.
— Surekha Rao (@surerao) September 28, 2020
As a single woman living alone, the absurd conditions put forth in this notice highlight the countless unpleasant and downright offensive rules that both landlords and RWAs try to force down the throats of single women for ‘your own safety, beta’.
RWA — urban khaps or pseudo parents?
From leading the patriotic charge by breaking Chinese television sets to issuing elaborate diktats during the Covid-19 lockdown, RWAs clearly love being the centre of attention. And they seem to upgrade their rules faster than iPhone upgrades its software.
These welfare bodies form the backbone of moral policing in India when it comes to ‘singles’. In fact, singledom by itself might not feel so terrible if you did not have these pseudo parents, aka RWA members, sneaking up on every move and tracking your every night-out.
All of India’s biggest ‘modern’ metros, be it Delhi, Bengaluru, or Mumbai, can offer lakhs of tales on how singles/bachelors are refused accommodations for a variety of reasons: cleanliness, lifestyle, the kind of job you have, the kind of friends you may have, religion, or just unfounded suspicion of ‘illegal activities’.
But if you’re lucky enough to score an apartment, don’t worry, the barrage of moralistic rules will continue to make sure you regret your single status. And with the current investigation in the Sandalwood drug case in Karnataka, wherein narcotic substances were recovered from upscale gated communities of the capital, it seems Bengaluru’s RWAs have found a new clause on ‘drugs’ to insert into the ‘rulebook’ for single occupants.
All the single ladies
While Indian men, too, face the RWAs’ absurd restrictions (‘won’t rent to bachelors’), women definitely bear the brunt of these ‘lakshman rekhas’ more.
The 2016 film Pink offered audiences a glimpse into the mindset of RWAs, as colony uncles and aunties testified to the ‘character’ of the three protagonists on the basis of their ‘late night’ entries.
Unfortunately, it was not a case of Bollywood imagination at work. As recently as 4 August, a resident of Gurugram took to social media to share how she had been accused of “supporting prostitution”. She, and several other single tenants, had spoken up against the discriminatory restriction against ‘singles’ not being allowed to have visitors of the opposite sex, and a heated exchange between other residents and RWA members ensued.
In another incident from the National Capital Region (NCR), a woman from Noida was asked personal questions about her male friend by her security guard.
From prohibiting pets to girlfriends/boyfriends, RWAs seek to be your parents, who, in many ways, could actually have a much broader mindset. Also, news flash, if you are legally an adult, you should not be answerable about your actions to anyone or anything except the actual law.
But RWAs, the modern-day panopticons, have taken it upon themselves to create their own systems of law and order.
One look at filmmaker Shikha Makan’s documentary Bachelor Girls, which explores the ordeal unmarried women have to suffer to find accommodation in housing societies, will make you go, ‘been there, done that’.
From your clothes to your trash, everything can and will become a matter of scrutiny if you’re single. And not even a pandemic can really stop these ‘morality warriors’ from pursuing their self-chosen path of policing you.
Views are personal.