The Colonial Fetish…

Friday, May 27, 2016

Sekhar Olympus… Sai World Empire… Lodha Casa Bella… Raheja Exotica… Tanna Mangeshi Elite… Ekta Terraces… Fairmont La Paradiso… Hiranandani Gardens… Poonam HeightsKingston Annexe… God’s Gift Towerz… Ittina Soupernika… Arihant Explodus… Mahagun Depend-On-Us

Just a few names if you scout around for exotic, semantically sublime, neo-classical living in most of our cities today… doesn’t matter whether it is Gurgaon, NOIDA, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai or Hyderabadu…

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When most of my friends and colleagues who come visiting me through multiple airports criss-crossing half the world… the first thing I tell them about what they would see… is an India – a Country of Contrasts… a strange mix of tolerant co-existence of exoticities…

  • temples with scented walls, sandalwood doors and gold adorned idols… yet uncouth young and old spitting and urinating not too far away from it…
  • tall Manhattan-esque towers with glitzy glass facades where you cannot know what happens inside… and blue tarpaulined shanties right next to them where everything is visible to the naked eye in microscopic precision…
  • crowds of people all around… yet myriads of lonely lives…
  • chaos rules the order of things… yet people crowd temples and mosques to find peace…
  • and the most contrasting… the Government is on a name changing spree of cities, towns and streets with names and no names… to anything that might sound extravagantly Indian… and the average Indian finds supreme saintliness through a festooned fetish for anything that remotely sounds voguish French, Italian, Spanish, or an equally anachronistic Greco-Roman…

It’s chic… it’s kicky…!

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“Why do you want to rent an apartment here… look at the name… “Mahavir Pratishtha”… it doesn’t go with your multinational job and a lifestyle… the courier guys can never get the name right… moreover, you cannot even call your dog Mufasa any more here… you have to give him an Indian name…” my realtor friend Bansal had advised me when I was changing cities… and jobs… a few years ago…

While I eventually settled on “Ganga Satellite” (GS) in Pune… owing largely to the fact that being from Gurgaon… I was used to spaces and the GS provided for that space for starters… but over the next 2 years and a half that I lived in GS, I could neither find Ganga flowing past my housing complex… nor did the Satellite help in alleviation of any pain caused by an oft breaking down wifi… and the perennially defunct Satellite TV broadcasting…

Instead… I spent 3 monsoon seasons full of a foul stenched, mosquito infested nullah that ran just outside the campus… so much for the Ganga… and so much for a Satellite…

Over an era of living in Apartment complexes of all sizes, shapes and forms… and names… I tried getting under the skin of the ‘nomenclaturing’ in our housing sector in India… particularly of the colonial connect…

Until the springing up of Ramdev Baba’s multi-million cottage industry… “Make In India” seems to have acquired a peculiar distaste… particularly of quality, dubious as it always was… none of the Indian brands… more so if Indian sounding… never seemed to have instilled the confidence in the first fifty years of our so called independence…

Add to it the Gandhian (of the Bapu variety) generations always cribbing about the “Country going to the Dobermans and the Chihuahuas”… and how life would have been great if the Queen continued to rule the country… albeit from London… and everything superlative was associated with continental Europe… or Amreeka… and later Kanedda… and still later, Oz land… and how privileged, HS (High Society) up-man-ship usually manifested when the shopping bags were from Harrods; H&M or YSL…

With the world getting flatter… what with glitzy malls… world schools… hi-tech hospitals… and Bittoo Meat Wala renaming himself and his khandaani (ancestral) business in Pritam Pura, Delhi as BMW… the only industry that was left behind and crying hoarse was the housing industry…

With privatisation… communities of “builders and developers” as most of them liked calling themselves… started usurping acres and hectares of land to “colonise” the Indian in us – to provide that “sar pe chhat” (a roof above the head) – a quintessential Indian middle class dream…

Now, how can you have “colonisation” without an umbilical “colonial connect”… especially with English… and anything else “phoren” (except Chinese)… being the lingua-franca that binds a Subramaniam… and a Subroto… and a Sukhwinder…

You cannot expect a Subroto, who sends his children to Global World School… and on Sunday evenings has his dinner at “Mashima’s Kitchen” at Phoenix Market City mall… to live in “Mahavir Kutir” all measuring 4 floors without elevators… how uncouth…

So… for Subroto and Subroto alone… Mahavir builders have “Mahavir Icon”… the latest razzmatazz in Suburban Mumbai…

Well… while Mahavir gets iconic… mom and pop bucket builders are equally having a field day… “Rohan Vasanta” at Whitefield in Namma Bengaluru has taken the double barreling of naming residential projects to a new high… of 14 floors – so to say…

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Meanwhile… my friend Monty Manocha is getting busy to launch a Solar Energy project in Hissar and Rohtak… he tried doing that 10 years ago when he was in India… the Haryana Government had spurned him away at that time… this time he has come through to the same Government as a businessman based in London… introducing latest in German technology… to produce power at 3 times the cost of what he had proposed 10 years ago…

Nothing has changed in his project proposition… except that now, he is a London based businessman… with vested interests in his home country… wanting to put his finger in the Great Indian “Make In India” pie…

“Brown Colonisation” – it’s time, you might say… and the last I heard, his project has sailed through…

And Bansal, my realtor friend… had gotten Manocha to live in the Great Indian “Saini Sky Villas” in Gurgaon…

Happy Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

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