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.


  1. Anonymous4:28 PM

    yes Rashmi, my sentiments exactly. things I never imagined happened in Bombay are happening here in vashi - and regular power cuts is just one of them. we have learnt to scheule our lives aorund thse power cuts- and yes, avoid using the lift aorund that time!
    from one vashi-ite to another.

  2. I think such isolated homes have a negative effect, even on the practical level. By isolating the elite from the mainstream, solutions to actual problems on the ground will receive far less attention than they should.

    But ultimately, whats the fun of living in Bombay city where you can't know the charm of bookstores in Kings Circle, the relaxation felt at Mocha at Churchgate, or the heavenly taste of a bhutta on Bandstand on a rainy evening? Fencing yourself with comforts in a small area is simply against one of the best things about city life - a plethora of larger experiences.

  3. If only "let there be light" wasn't just a slogan... for HT.

    This was the kicker statement!

  4. Very true... after I changed my job (office at Andheri), I havent gone downtown for two years....I miss downtown a lot but it seems too much of an ordeal now to go there...

  5. Bang on spot Rashmi!!! I work in Vashi and exprience the artificial metroplois-cum-satellite township in exactly the same manner each day.

    "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!" That was hilarious!!:)

  6. Anonymous12:06 PM

    The issue this post talks about could actually be a full page feature in leading dailies.
    But why would ToI and Express risk the wrath of the big realty players who contribute significantly to their ad revenues.
    Excellent article.
    Vinay Upponi

  7. right abt it.. gurgaon model.. you got that right.. as long as you're inside your office or a mall, things are fine.. the moment you step outside tho.. did you know there's no public transport in ggn?? even the autos are on 'shared' basis!

    gotta stop reading your blog tho.. it makes me want to start bloggin again.. annd i can't write for nuts sake :p

    keep writing.

  8. today i came across the municipal commissioner of TMC talking on a news channel about the advantages of switching to solar power and the benefits the TMC has reaped.

    he states that the cost saved is Rs. 9 lakhs already in the first year.

    he spoke about implementing a policy of making it mandatory for new residences to install solar power apparatus.

    also giving an incentive to old buildings by way of a 10%cut in taxes to install solar power generators.

    this way power can be diverted to the looms at Bhiwandi and you won't have to suffer powercuts.


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