Red Chillies

My Tenant, the Lawyer

Short Story by Stan Ageira, Mulky  

June 27, 2012

 
The auto rickshaw halted at the gate. After paying the fare, I stepped out and looked at tall building. I owned a 2-bedroom apartment on first floor that I had rented out to a lawyer. Being Gulf based NRI, the flat was kept unoccupied for few years before leasing out to a lawyer. Four years had passed since then. He promptly deposited the rent into my bank account. Nonetheless, my plea for a marginal raise in rent was ignored after the first year. He turned subdued and pokerfaced. Logically I appealed him to vacate my apartment. His unresponsive and indifferent behavioral pattern kept me on edge. I was grappled with crisis and wished whip the status quo.
 
We wanted him to relinquish occupancy and return the apartment back in our possession. The equations of life had changed. The recession hit Gulf country had given us enough shockers. My wife had instructed me to demand and persuade the lawyer to checkout. Relocation back to home country had become essential. Children education was primary concern and my family needed a place to stay. I had rehearsed my viewpoint well enough to tackle the lawyer. I climbed stairs, reached first floor and pressed the doorbell.
 
Someone glanced from peephole and unbolted after a brief pause.
 
‘Good Morning. What a surprise! Welcome….” Lawyer invited me to my own apartment. “Come in. Take a seat. You have come unexpectedly.”
 
“Very good morning. You are not easily available over the phone and I found it impossible to obtain your appointment” I rested my weight on couch. “At times the surprise visit does help in accelerating our objective.”
 
“You are really smart.” He applauded and closed the door. “However, slightly late. We just had our breakfast. How about some coffee?”
 
“I am thirsty. A glass of water will do.” I was dehydrated.
 
“Where are you?” The lawyer looked at kitchen and called his wife. “Look who has come. The house owner is in for a surprise inspection. Please arrange some coffee.”
 
His wife appeared from kitchen, extended greeting and stepped back. The lawyer picked jug from dining table and poured water into a glass.
 
“I am in some kind of problem.” My voice vibrated with note of urgency.
 
“Every problem has a solution.” He offered the glass. “In any case this is your apartment. You are the owner and I am your tenant. You have the right of inspection at least once in a year. Have a look. It’s maintained well like my own apartment.”
 
“We need to talk.” I felt better after gulping water.
 
“You have the authority to push me for a talk. After all you are the owner & I am only a tenant.” He broadly smiled.
 
“You never bothered to pay the increased rent despite several reminders.” I expressed my discontent and briefly forgot the core point of my visit.
 
“I could have paid the increased rent. However it is not as simple as that.” The lawyer asserted. “We can’t ignore the law. In all fairness we have to live within the parameters of justice.”
 
“What do you mean?” I questioned him. “Can you explain me the line of unfairness in my request to increase the rent?”
 
“Oh come on. Did I say that you are wrong?” His words stayed away from my level of comprehension.  “Based on annual measure of inflation as an owner it’s your right to demand a hike in rent. Please do not feel bad if I overlooked your plea. It is not that I cannot afford. I have my reasons.”
 
“I didn’t understand.”
 
“Four years back while offering this flat for occupancy you never had cautioned me on rent increase every year. Our rental agreement too does not show any such clause. If you had mentioned, then I would have thought twice before accepting. Now in any case your apartment is well taken care like my own apartment. I don’t think you should have any reason to complain.” He pacified me.
 
I had believed the lawyer. Although being the tenant I had allowed him to draft the rental agreement. Perhaps I was at fault. I should have had taken absolute care while stating the clauses.
 
“It’s okay.” I hesitantly carried on. “At this moment I need a favor from you.”
 
“Your request for favor does not sound appropriate.” He spoke with conviction. “You are the owner and you have the authority to order.”
 
“The rental agreement will come to an end by end of this month.” I reminded him. “I am moving my family back. The future is uncertain in recession hit Gulf countries and I would not want my children education to get affected in unforeseen circumstances. I request you to hand over the occupancy.”
 
“It’s very wise decision and I am not surprised.” He stayed at ease. “Many have turned back. This is your apartment. Rightfully you have to claim possession.”
 
“Great.” I felt relieved. “When do you plan to vacate?”
 
“Did I say that I would give up the occupancy?” The lawyer indifferently replied. “No. Perhaps you have forgotten your words.”
 
“What do you mean?” I was shaken.
 
“I would like to retrieve your memory.” He spoke distinctly. “As far as I remember, you had affirmed that you may not require this place for ten to twelve years.”
 
“Did I tell you?” In my inability to recall the past, I sounded low.
 
“Do you think it’s figment of my imagination?” He questioned back. “You made me to believe the availability for minimum ten to twelve years and now you intend to terminate the contract within four years. This is not done.”
 
“I don’t think such clause is stated in the contract.” I lawfully disagreed.
 
“A legal contract is just a formality. It is not above human values and feelings.” He spoke, stirred by emotions. “That’s not all. Please try to memorize. You had mentioned the accessibility of multiples options in case of emergency. The uninhabited ancestral villa in outskirts, 2 added apartments in city limits and one more posh duplex in state capital were the alternatives you had admitted.”
 
“Are you sure I was the one who told this?” I was uncertain. “I have no other place of my own to reside.”
 
“See this is what happens. You misled me by saying something deliberately or perhaps ignorantly. You have to understand the predicament, caused by your irresponsible words.” The lawyer accused me.
 
“The validity of our contract is restricted only to eleven months subject to renewal.” I made the legal reference.
 
“A contract is necessary. However it is insignificant while compared with words we give.” He overlooked my reference. “The words we speak can not be judged against the piece of paper. Words are connected with human relationship. We must understand the value of that we say and intent behind it. I feel let down.”
 
“Do you really remember such talk? I am not able to recollect.” I was frustrated.
 
“Now don’t feel guilty.” The lawyer appeased. “It happens. We human beings are fallible in more than one ways. We have a tendency to remember that is critical to our lives and disregard inconsequential aspects.”
 
Instantly I believed him. His contention had taken hold of my mindset. Perhaps, I was weakened by uncharacteristic memory disorder.
 
“What do you suggest? I would like to resolve.” I called for solution.
 
“It’s simple for me. I can just file a false FIR stating you visited the apartment along with couple of hired thugs and assaulted me.” He folded his hands and reclined. “You could be prosecuted under criminal offense. That might prevent you from overseas travel. However, I cannot stoop so low. It is easy to spin a yarn. Yet, we are answerable to God. We can not escape from our accountability by telling lies for short term worldly gains.”
 
“I am sorry.” I scratched my head while rising from couch. “If I have spoken such utter nonsense, then I am at fault. Nevertheless, I really don’t remember.”
 
“It’s a great virtue. There is no shame in identifying and admitting the mistake.” He stood up and followed me. “In any case don’t worry. You are the owner and I am only a tenant. I will look after your apartment like my own. Incidentally, I forgot the coffee. Would you like to have some coffee?”
 
“Not today, some other time.” I felt heaviness in my feet. “I have plenty of work to do. Choosing right school for children and finding a rental apartment are key assignments.”
 
“If you are looking for a house I can help you.” The lawyer put forward his proposal. “I own a two bedroom apartment not very far from this area. It is within the vicinity of church, school, hospital and marketplace. The rent is just five thousand more than I pay. The clause of annual rent hike will be incorporated. The agreement is strictly valid for eleven months, subject to renewal.”

 

 


Comment on this article

  • E P Cutinha, Mangalore

    Tue, Jul 3 2012

    Stan Ageira's writings are not too far from reality and this story is not an exception. Do keep writing. Thanks.

    Agree [2]

  • Lavina Cardoza, Katpady

    Fri, Jun 29 2012

    Yes , this is very true I have seen atleast 5 people loosing their hard earned or inherited flats because of tenants, who talk with honey laced tongues till 3/4 yrs. and then they never go out of the place....even I have seen ppl who are given places out of sympathy and then they turn against the LandLords...

    Agree [2]

  • Ronald, Mangalore

    Fri, Jun 29 2012

    Very good story. Thank you Stan.

    Agree [2]

  • paul d`souza, balakunje

    Fri, Jun 29 2012

    If it is efforrdable to a owner, insisted to keep the apartment closed. LAWERS Too corrupted now a days.Purposely they skip out few rules in the agreement,so that on the approch they make some earnings. Complaint to police & PRESIDENT of a BAR COUNCIL may solve such problems. Must prepared correctly with legal advises & then approch.

    Agree [2]

  • Jerry, mangalore

    Thu, Jun 28 2012

    It doesn't look like a story. Looks like the author's own experience. Thanks Stan. We are cautioned by your experience.

    Agree [2]

  • Tony Crasta, Mangalore/Sydney

    Thu, Jun 28 2012

    Another brilliant piece of writing by the master story teller. Well done Stan! Thoroughly enjoyed. Moral of the story is one would better off be extra careful while dealing with the Lawyers!

    Agree [2]

  • geoffrey, hat hill

    Wed, Jun 27 2012

    A quid pro quo sequel to this lovely narration would make the picture complete.

    Agree [2]

  • CGS, Mangalore

    Wed, Jun 27 2012

    One more beautiful short story by
    Stan Ageira. This story seems to be based on facts! It's another Red Chillie from Stan!!

    Agree [2]

  • Melcom Lewis , Kallianpur/Dubai

    Wed, Jun 27 2012

    Its so true and felt like i am the victim. All people who buy flats make sure the building has a NOC from the local authorities, else you wont be able to secure ration card, voter id, or door number. Secondly try to avoid renting the apartments. If you do so strictly with the help of your own lawyer, read the contract again and again and consult with a third party lawyer.

    Agree [2]

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