All around, I see buildings that look like haphazard monsters growing out of the ground. While some are shaped like phallic rockets about to take off, the mere enormity of many other structures makes me believe the land beneath it is going to collapse. Shudder.
Developers, who want to maximise their profits, believe in optimising the available land by squeezing the life out of it. In architectural lingo: ‘Kitne buildings beetha sakte hai’ (how many buildings can you fit?) — obviously from the repository of predesigned unused building plans. The only thing that matters is the Vaastu, a main concern of the builder. Whichever architect ‘fits’ the maximum number of buildings is the winner! The zombie buyers, who feel that having a swimming pool in the building is more important than a larger living space, spend two to five crores on this ‘luxury’.
Luxury is an obscure term. Recently, while having my favourite kadak pav butter and chai, at a newly discovered chai tapri in Juhu gaothan, my mind wandered back to my childhood. Placed in an attractive courtyard-street, surrounded by one and two storey houses, the gaothan reminded me of my childhood home in Juhu. Memories of climbing trees, cycling and playing with stray dogs came to my mind. The street had children cycling and adults talking, while the old people gathered around a tree. Typical. Teenagers watched cricket through an open window. Stray-dogs were treated with love, a baby was exchanged (to play with) across first floor balconies, and an entire community celebrated a birthday. All in 10 minutes. Unknowingly, it was celebration of life. Ten years down the line, I could imagine a building here. Isolated lives, a gated community and all the amenities of the world, luxurious, really? But that’s me.
Despite the builders’ efforts to make beautiful buildings and offering this so-called luxury with every amenity one can think of — club houses, squash courts, tennis courts, pools, gyms, parks etc — these gated colonies lie vacant.
Suddenly the buyers seem to have disappeared. Fourty and 50-storey towers stand lonely, already looking decayed without use, and the seven and eight-storey towers, all full and brimming? Is it acrophobia (fear of heights) or a cost phobia? Or maybe, just maybe, people are just realising this folly. A paranoid builder, in the middle of construction reduces building height — from 40 to 30. Hmmm.
So now, what about me? I am single, 25 — born and bred in Mumbai. I can’t afford any housing! Anywhere! Not even in the outskirts of the city. Whatever happened to a middle-income housing, let alone low income? The only place I could probably afford is a kholi or two in a slum, as the city and its builders apparently only design for the rich. Where can I look in this mess, to get my childhood back, for the sake of my future children?
(Pooja Dalal is an architect and lives in Juhu)