Tuesday, January 21, 2014

House Rents and Tenants: The other side of Bajo Town.

Bajo town, consist of roughly 131 buildings, and I presume from the things that I have heard, these were the buildings that would come under some Town Planning done by the Government in order to build a better township. A planned town or city is a very new thing in our society, and many have criticized Bajo for being Ugly ass town. Well, you asked for a planned town, this is how it would look, if you hadn't given one Consultant to photocopy the very same drawings eh. The town is planned well, Urban planners did a good job, but the individual buildings just got messed up. See, little things where you don't put your passion and khemey si attitude would build up an eye sore for few who would never step in the town, just wave by from the other side of Wangdue Thimphu high way. But what is done is done. And we can't use big excavators to demolish the old town and create a new one, just to avoid it from being an eye sore. Not all of us share the visions of Nero.

However, this town has a great controversy in it. Few rumours and talks here and there, how the plots were allotted, how roads and street lamps were built before, how drainage was done then and how eventually people were assigned the plots and how the street lamps were effected, roads and drains spoiled and then how again, this little town came up. One of my friends finds it very funny. He calls these house owners the chosen lucky ones, for this town, government gave people lands and loans, asked them to build houses and few haven't yet completed their buildings yet. And guess what? The greatest fear the house owners have: How would they clear off their loans? I sympathize their feelings. Nobody would like to live a life thinking about means to pay off the loan, except us, the Bhutanese. Sarcasm man. Apologies. {during olden days, people who weren't in debts were rich, now the ones who have greater debts are richer}.

Anyhow, you have few of the stories in kuensel. 1.  &  2. And isn't it depressing? They want the hospitals near them as well, and for that they don't mind stopping the on going construction? Well, any how, let's get back to the house rents in Bajo. I live in an apartment that costs us 10.3k. We have to pay off extra 100 bucks for sweeper and 100 bucks for water bill. Our house owner is a gentleman and till date, we haven't had problem with him. He is a nice guy and I don't have much problem with it.

Let's discuss few of my friends' house owners. One of my friends' house owners decided to increase his house rent from 10k to 12k within six months and the reason was this: he had sheltered his juniors to stay along with him. The land lady saw three Assistant Engineers staying in same apartment, so, she got greedy. To this, my friends couldn't do anything and it has been a year, that they haven't moved out yet.

Let me share another story. One of my friends from school opened up a restaurant, which happens to be next to our office. He makes delicious momos and these days, most people crave to have his momos. The house rent in spite of being in basement was 10k I presume. And in basement meant, washing of dishes had to be done outside the restaurant due to no proper drainage. It isn't a decent site to see where your plates are being washed. My friend now is asked to leave that building for the house owner wants to run the restaurant. My friend says, he just had started to earn well.

Let me share you another story as well. This is a very funny one. My friend didn't get house, and it is not a strange thing not to get a house in Bajo town. Few of our coworkers have converted the unused snooker room to live. And well, these boys got a flat. There was a man who asked for security deposit, and they paid him. Later on, his sister turns up who happens to be the actual house owner. She tells her to give her security amount again. And my friends were like, we gave the money to your brother. She says, since she and he are not in good terms, and she is the sole owner, she won't make an agreement if they don't pay up. Funny thing, they had to pay her again. And the house owner collected roughly Nu. 750 for water bill in past three months. Seems like the bill she showed was due amount in municipal office. They didn't want trouble and they paid her. And if they delayed payments for a day, they would be scolded and threatened to leave her house.

These untold stories make Bajo a very special town, a town filled with gossips and everybody knows anyone. At times I am shocked at how fast the rumours pass in this town and I won't be shocked if people would curse me over having written this article. But few of the house owners are very decent people. They have principles and may they be blessed and their loans be covered in time. Some have started to open up shops themselves and don't rely much on house rents for their life styles. Some  have bought vehicles and put them in projects and some have opened discotheques. You see, it is not only the rent that is to be considered as golden eggs from the goose. Anything that is different and innovative does get paid off. Some of the restaurants give you the best meals in entire Bhutan I presume and it is cheap as well. Cheaper than Thimphu. But if one is to believe that everybody is project worker and they would charge people three or four times the actual cost, these people aren't that dumb either. I would rather buy few things in Pling and get it transported here, for that would be cheaper. Like any rookie entrepreneur, which is too common in our business society, most of them don't see that their flow of commodities out of their shops should be in haste, so that they could buy new stocks. There is no profit in buying a shirt at 300 bucks and selling it off at 900 after nine months. Buy it in 300 and sell it off at 350, but do it tomorrow itself. And moreover, it isn't that these people don't have their own families. They are taking this pain staking jobs to make their lives better as well. One should never forget that. 

But seriously, I don't get it how some of our house owners know us by names, even though we don't know them. I at times feel that every move of mine is being scrutinized, more than my bosses would.

We have two mega projects here, and people would die to have projects of this magnitude be built in their neighbourhoods. But then again, the essence of not seeing things in long run has consumed us: people just seem to be happy with having barrels, scrap metal pieces, oil and tyres from someone's vehicles.

The rents have escalated violating the tenancy act, and nobody seems to care and why would one? If one wins the case against house owners then they would get a month's rent from the house owner, which one has already paid as security advance and even if he does get the money back, how is he going to get another house? And if he losses, he would have to pay one month's rent extra and put some cotton in his ears for wrath of owners and reminders to leave their houses won't be an easy task. Correct me if I happen to understand the tenant act in wrong way. Khemey si, we would say to avoid all the troubles. Already our jobs are time consuming, why would anyone be interested to create a mess.

I did hear once, I am not sure how much truth lies in it. Once told to house owners to compromise with rents, they would say: their house allowances are high. I am like, how much I earn is none of your business.

But all in all, Bajo town is interesting. Too bad, my Dzongkhag friends remind me time and again, how badly they wish these project people to have gone from here, for they had to leave apartments in order to get cheaper houses. I am not saying that house rents should be 3k or 4k. Fine, if you want to keep it 8.5k keep it. If you want to keep 15k, keep it. But at least have a human decency to keep your word. Don't increase it in every other season.

Perhaps, this is the first time, our society is seeing people getting better salaries. But one should also not forget that everybody here is on contract and nothing is permanent. And where I studied, I am not even earning half the amount my friends are earning today, out there in India and Third countries. This even my project mates shouldn't forget, for if they think that this is the best god damn jobs they have, they would be living in a tiny pond.

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