Wednesday, July 13, 2005
The Real State of Real Estate
For the last 4 days I've had my 2 slices of bread in the morning cooked on a tawa, instead of a toaster. And showered with cold water. And used the stairs, not the lift. Because at precisely 8.45 am every morning there is a power cut.
I live in Vashi, which is for all practical purposes considered a suburb of Mumbai. However, technically, it falls in district Thane - outside of Mumbai city limits. So we don't enjoy the same 'special status' when it comes to uninterrupted power supply.
Things weren't been too bad in the past - bijli went gul only on the occassional Friday. Now, it's like 'kabhi bhi ja sakta hai'. But unlike Delhi, residents here are still in a state of denial. Must be some temporary problem, we're thinking, instead of rushing out to buy inverters.
Meanwhile thousands of square feet of mill land in central Mumbai is being freed for "redevelopment". But can I ever hope to buy a home that isn't 20 km away from town? Not on my budget.
Only the very rich or the very poor have that luxury. And of course, those whose grandparents came and wisely occupied rent-controlled housing decades ago.
Theoretically, more land and more apartments becoming available should lead to more affordable housing. But trust me, none of those new 'centrally located' houses are going to get on the market for under a crore ($200,000 or so).
And since the land is being parceled out piecemeal, each project will be a lurid, fenced-in recreation of First World living conditions in Third World surroundings.
Mera Ghar, mera fort
In the old days, the likes of Shivaji built fortresses as protection from invaders. Modern day builders are building modern day fortresses to protect us from our fellow countrymen.
As an ad for a project at L B S Marg promises: "every Mumbaikar's-wish-come-true city": Kohinoor city. Going beyond the mere swimming pool and granite platform, this one offers "customisable IKEA kitchen" as well as:
* Site meets US green building code
* Guest parking and guest rooms for visitors
* Holistic spa, premium lifestyle club
* International shopping mall
* Modern centre for performing arts
* International hotel and office plaza
* 3 schools on campus
Throw in an engineering and MBA college and maybe one can go from birth to death without having to step out and face the 'real' Mumbai city at all!
With the government unable or unwilling to take a holistic view of how to develop neighbourhoods, 'People Like Us' are increasingly opting to live in this highly artificial and insulated manner.
This is the 'Gurgaon' model of development. But is this really progress?
If you simply want a modest home located next to a garden, with wide roads and functional footpaths (without shanties) - all of which you and I pay taxes for - there are very very few options. Besides Vashi, Sector 17.
If only "let there be light" wasn't just a slogan... for HT.