Bachelor Girls is an eye-opening documentary made by Shikha Makan to highlight some of the issues single women face while trying rent flats in Mumbai. Bachelor girls (much like bachelor boys, some would say) are not welcome, looked upon suspiciously by prospective landlords, housing society auntie-jis and more nosy parkers than you would think exist, unless you’ve been in a similar position.
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Whether it’s your average everyday sexism and misogyny on display, or stronger prejudices and mistrust of young independent women who are (god forbid!) sexually active, and/or socially active, there’s a rule and regulation to monitor it. Plan to have friends of the opposite gender visit? Not allowed. Your brother is visiting from out-station? Only a few days allowed, and that too are you sure he’s really your brother?
It gets worse, because these women are harried and harassed, including for having “modern values” (read: no chastity belts) and some very patronising, patriarchal property dealers even say that they have to be “looked after” or “looked out for” and monitored, since their families are not there.
From women who openly admit on camera that they have to lie about various aspects of their lives to keep their rented accommodation — sometimes because of the job they do, for example, there’s both a younger actor struggling to make it and a very emotional Kalki Koechlin on how there’s no space for actresses in these housing societies, to a visibly traumatised director Alankrita Srivastava, who’s forced to move out of a housing society, despite a landlord who wants to stick up for her but can’t.
Writer and journalist Deepanjana Pal probably has the best line of the film, summing it up as: You’re being judged for having a vagina. It’s hard to dispute that, when you hear from these harassed and harried tenants, some of whom just want to throw in the towel and leave the city, job opportunities be damned
In fact, what broke me as a viewer (and panelist at the Delhi screening of Bachelor Girls) was how many girls just give up. It’s the everyday discrimination that gets to you after all. As someone who’s lived on rent across almost every part of Delhi over the past two decades or so, I know this is far from a Mumbai-centric problem. I can’t actually quite believe, this City of Dreams, Maximum City, that so many of us think is the magical city of opportunity, discriminates so rampantly on the basis of gender and marital status.