Why the chairs in the sunroom do not match? Image Credit: Getty Images

Reading about a belly dancer who became a day trader on the stock market because of coronavirus and its effects on jobs and the economy, reminded me of my situation.

No, I did not wish to become a belly dancer, though it is a wonderful exercise for those who chug beverages every time the sun goes down, and carry their extra weight in their jiggly bellies, under their belts, I thought being a real estate tycoon would be a nice side gig.

I watched a very rich American landlord on YouTube, who looked like Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad Poor Dad, and he was adamant that nobody should buy property with their own money. “See this block of apartment buildings, I am the owner and I bought these dirt-cheap,” he said.

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I imagined how it would be managing renters, hiring plumbers who charge as much as a laparoscopic surgeon, and dealing with mini fascists who go under the name of Apartment Associations, in India. These people, both men and women, walk around taking high goose-steps and making everyone’s lives unlivable in their nervous communities.

Since I can’t even get a credit card in Canada (or for that matter, here also in India) because I am self-employed, sort of, I asked my wife if she would take a mortgage, to fructify my idea of becoming rich. “No way I am going to keep paying mortgage for 30 years,” she said. “What if the renters lose their jobs and can’t pay mortgage.”

Selfie video with snow scenery

I then watched an Indian entrepreneur in Alberta, Canada, and there he was taking a selfie video with the snow-white scenery in the background, and he said, “See the man behind cleaning windows, don’t be like him working on daily wages (which I thought was mean), be like me and I will show you how to own many properties for cheap,” he said.

He then took me into one of his large properties and inside it was like a ‘desi’ habitat. Everything seemed like it was picked up from the sidewalk after someone discarded it. “People back in India think, Oh, they went to Canada a few months ago and now own a $1 million home. They don’t know these people have become slaves to the banks for the rest of their lives.”

“Be like me, ” he said. “You know why these chairs in the sunroom do not match, my friends and I picked these up from the footpath. These people do not have any value for things.” He then took out a whiteboard and started doing calculations on how to buy properties and make a ton of money.

Foray into home ownership

Our foray into home ownership wasn’t anything like this. We went to Canada and then tried to get our money online from India, which we accumulated from selling a property in Bengaluru. The bank and our CA refused as it had something to do with me becoming a resident Indian, from a OCI (Overseas Citizen of India), for having lived in India for more than a certain number of days in a year.

We came back and managed to send the money after paying a horrendous amount of money as tax, and then coronavirus happened. So our money is there and we are stuck here now.

We are shopping online and our real estate agent showing the house, commented: “Outside on the patio, you can set up the barbecue and have ... well, not right now,” she said, as the place was covered with snow. Reading further about the belly dancer, I thought perhaps this pandemic is a time to be multi-skilled and stock market is not a bad option.

— Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi