A friend once told me that buying a house was like having sex. There is a lot of planning, too many people are involved, you feel tired after wards and almost always there is none of the appreciation that you expected.
Around May 2009, Rekha had started cozy-ing up to me. When your wife starts cozy-ing up to you four years after marriage, and you already have a car…there can only be two things: She either wants a child or wants you to buy a house. Since we already had a child, in our case the innocent me suspected a second child.
After one month of planning and winning my confidence, Rekha opened up: “Rajan, it has been five years since we got married.”
“Shouldn`t we plan for our future?” She insisted. She was on my chest by now.
“Haven`t we already planned? Did you know that it is criminal to have the number of LIC policies that we have? We can`t get any more LICs!”
“No…different kind of planning.”
“Ohh, you mean a second child? Shouldn`t we look to adopt?”
“No….no….sweetheart. It is always so difficult to make you understand.” Rekha is a smooth operator. She knows when to call me a sweetheart and when to call me the duffer that doesn`t understand things easily.
“Radhika, that Cognizant colleague of mine from Chennai….remember her?”
“Yeah, that pretty Iyer girl…?”
“Yes. And remember Deepa? That Malayali Cognizant colleague of mine….?”
“Ohh yeah…that really pretty one? How can I forget the fight we had after we came back from there house….you know…I will still say that I wasn`t staring at her.”
“Forget that staring bit. I know you weren`t. So, both of them have bought houses…and will be shifting in early 2010.”
“Wow…good for them.” I tried to distance myself from the topic.
“Shouldn`t we also buy a house?” Rekha can be persistent.
Over the next twenty minutes, when I was my most vulnerable, Rekha made me promise that we will buy a house.
Since then, a lot has happened. But before that let me tell you that wives of the past weren`t as competitive. My mother for instance, didn`t bother my father about buying a house. When my father retired after 32 years in the Indian Army, it was he who first called the whole family in a room and said: “Guys, I have decided to build a house in Madurai. What do you all think?”
We as children had only one question: “Will be allowed to make STD calls to our friends in Kolkata?”
My mother didn`t even have a question. She just said: “It is your hard earned money, and I know you will be careful with it.”
Back then, my father had got three Lakhs (or so) on retirement. He applied for a two lakh loan which was instantly granted and built a house for five lakhs. The year was: 1993.
Apparently, houses now don`t come for five lakhs. Here is a conversation that I had with my real estate agent, who helped me zero in on a property.
“Listen Ramesh, my budget is five lakhs – I am looking at something within the city of Chennai, closer to the malls, and a good school.”
“Sir, for rent I presume?”
“What do you mean…for rent? I want to buy!”
“Sir, now-a-days you can`t even buy a good car for five lakhs.”
“What do you mean? It can`t be that costly – my father built a house himself for just 5 lakhs!”
“Sir, you will have to multiply your budget by ten times….and then you will get a house of your liking around 20 kilometers from the city center.”
Anyway, to cut the long story short we decided on a house in a new property coming on Old Mahabalipuram Road in Chennai called Bollineni Hillside – around 35+ kilometers from the city center. (It is a pretty nice property. Download layout here)
Like I said earlier, buying a house is like having sex…there are way too many people involved…the builder, the banker, the real estate agent…and I am not talking about sex here.
Before the bank gives you a home loan, you have to give 15% of the house value yourself…to show everybody involved your intent to own the house. We didn`t have that money.
“Rekha, can we ask your father for 9 lakhs?”
“Rekha sweetheart, shall we ask your sister…they are rich…aren`t they?”
“If you are going to block all my ideas, how are we going to gather the 15% to buy the house?” I was getting furious.
“Dear sweetheart you should have thought of this requirement before promising me that you will buy a house.” Suddenly Rekha had started acting up.
At that point, I took an oath…that next time Rekha cozies up to me I will maintain my composure and won`t get carried away. The oath got broken in the next 15 days itself, but that`s irrelevant here.
One month later, we did manage to collect nine lakhs in cash from various sources – I am not including the money from the Kidney Donation Center because I had developed cold feet at the last minute. I have to mention here an initiative that ten of my best boy friends had worked out. The plan was to raise money by donating sperm at the Apollo Hospital`s excellent facilities on Greams Road, Chennai. For some reason, they dropped the plan when they came to know that @ Rs 250/visit they will have to make 3600 visits to the Sperm Bank to make Rs 9 lakhs.
Anyway, we decided on a bank and visited the Bank Manager.
“Sir, we are interested in buying a house. We need a home loan from your bank.”
“Do you know the interest rate?” The Bank Manager asked us.
“Sir, our interest rate is 100%….we completely want to buy this house.” Rekha responded.
The Bank Manager immediately knew that he could quote any interest rate to us and we would readily agree.
He handed me a lot of forms to fill, which I did….but not before telling him that I hadn`t come to the bank for a PHD, but for applying for a home loan. He hadn`t even smiled at my joke.
It took us three months to complete those forms – address proofs, income proofs, identity proofs….Rekha`s father didn`t ask me so many questions before giving away his daughter in marriage as the Bank Manager did before accepting the forms. He made me wonder about Rekha`s worth.
As of today, we have submitted the forms….but there is one huge hurdle. Apparently, there is a so called CIBIL rating, which almost always decides if a person should be given a loan or not. And as somebody who has negotiated & settled two credit cards – Standard Charted & ICICI – in his bachelor days, I could be in for trouble.
The irony is that, all the expenses on these two credit cards were part of my ‘Make Rekha Love Me` strategy. Life is one full circle, isn`t it?