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Run Lutyens run

A few ambitious drawing rooms even boast the complete never-opened volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica, says Mayank Austen Soofi.

art and culture Updated: Aug 21, 2008 15:10 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi

I’m young. I, too, have a dream. I want to be rich, famous and a VIP. In other words, I want to lord it over a Lutyens’ bungalow. Meanwhile, can someone tell me how high-class is the taste of hi-fi folks who live inside those pretty white houses? How are their living rooms? How thick are their curtains? How is the view outside from their frosted glass windows? How cold are their air-conditioners? How many paintings hang on their walls? How many carpets deck their marble floors? How many bookcases do they have?

Who knows? I’ve never got invitation to a Lutyens living room. Living in a jamnaa paar apartment, I’ve been invited only to jamnaa paar living rooms — which are very ‘classy’, very ‘artful’, very ‘valuable’. There I’ve admired made-in-China Mona Lisas, rexine sofas, glass-topped coffee tables, artificial flowers and plastic parrots.

A few ambitious drawing rooms even boast the complete never-opened volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica. The hosts in such living rooms are almost always polite, the tea always comes with milk and conversations always deal with who-is-getting-married-to-whom and who-is-getting-what-salary. Like Jane Austen transported to a desi setting. Netherfield turning into Nangloi.

But the suspense remains. What’s the world like inside Lutyens’ bungalows? I talked to a friend’s friend who, thanks to his address on the other side of the Yamuna, has regular access to these exalted places. “Most of the living rooms there are very simple,” he revealed to my shock. “The rooms are usually large and they’re never crowded with furniture or carpets.” Indeed, the ostentation is limited only to mahogany bookshelves.

Ahem, dear reader, a warning here: don’t take my words for the absolute truth. These are versions of a friend’s friend and you had better double-check the claims with your… well, friend’s friend.

Just to widen my research, I called up a friend’s mother who is a sort of social butterfly in Chankayapuri living rooms. She said that she often sees old sofas, handsome writing tables and some odd pieces that do not always reflect a coordinated look. That’s excusable. People living at that level can afford to look confused.

However, not all Lutyens’ living rooms are simple and artsy. The social butterfly recently went to the house of a new acquaintance whose name she wouldn’t divulge. “You’re with HT City; you’ll leak everything and ruin my friendship,” she said.

She then went on to ‘leak’ that her new friend’s centrally air-conditioned house has granite flooring, giant marble statues of Venus and a grand piano. “Everything looked flashy, everything was self-consciously placed and everyone was saying kya zabardast ghar banaya hai. It seems jamnaa paar is no longer restricted to jamnaa ke paar. Lutyens, run for your life.