How do you survive a city where everyone is hell-bent on buying a house but you are not interested?…Where friends greet you with an offer to form a housing cooperative more frequently than they comment on your new dress?…Where the most practiced form of romantic outing is searching for a perfect flat to buy in the suburbs? Delhi is a real estate crazy city. Here people love to talk, walk, and eat buying and selling of properties. However unreal it may sound to everybody else, I fail to appreciate the point.
For almost all my life I loved travelling, specially by road. Reading road signs, posters, and hoardings is almost a habit with me. But nowadays while travelling to work or in and around Delhi, I usually avoid looking at hoardings. In this strange place called NCR, you find only two kinds of hoardings-
1. Unknown political wannabes wishing you Eid/Holi and New year (or even worse, the birthdays of their almost-in-grave leaders) or
2. Real -esatewallas advertising for some new housing project promising you a Jannat on earth
“Elegant and stylish living!” “Cosmo living – just a few minutes from city centre” “Give your family an exotic lifestyle” “ A house you’d like to boast” and so on…. I dread these ads for housing projects like plague. In Delhi alas, there is no way you can escape them. A polite conversation in Delhi starts with “Did you hear about that housing project coming up….” or “You know that XYZ builders are selling flats like hotcakes?” It seems even in this scam and pollution filled capital city, people no longer talk about politics and weather. I am sure with my colleagues; Japan’s tsunami would have evinced less interest than selling of forms for DDA’s latest project. Even every second radio ad is about these real-estate projects in NOIDA-Faridabad-Gurgaon. Try to avoid that, and there comes unwanted SMSs promoting some housing project or the other. I wonder what happened to the good old times when people used to sell toothpaste and shampoos, soaps and mosquito repellent through radio, print and mobile ads. So much so, hoardings claim that some cricketer or singer has also booked a house in the project- no one tells me why should I follow suit ? I wonder why I need property advice from MS Dhoni, Kailash Kher or Bipasha Basu. Believe it or not- I broke out of my office lunch club, largely because it was impossible for me to tolerate the real estate talk every afternoon. To top it all there is always free advice – “Double income no kids…and not yet buying a house, how can you?” “Arre…so and so, got a house in such-n-such sector- 2BHK plus study , go have a look at least.” “If for nothing else, just for investment, may be”. Uncles and aunts, friends and colleagues, bosses and neighbours – they all seem to be convinced that one must buy a house. And that is precisely the problem.
While in my generation, people start dreaming about buying a house the moment they get their appointment letter, and here I am, even after a decade , I have absolutely no interest in owning a place. No no…don’t get me wrong. I do want to live in big, beautiful houses all through my life but I see no reason why I should own one. It is difficult for me to commit myself to one house. I still love and cherish memories of all the houses I lived in…but when it comes to owning a house, I don’t see the point. It seems no one other than me subscribe to this kind of disinterest in buying of properties. …..not even my better half. For most it seems so unreal to believe that they start pitying my naiveté. All my contemporaries are either in the process of buying a house or have already bought one.(interestingly, in Delhi people do not stop after buying one house, they simply graduate to either bigger /better house or get into commercial property talk.)
For most people, buying a house is the costliest financial bet of their life and they desperately want it to go right. The “successful” seniors brag of building one house for each child before they retire. Even the juniors declare with such pride that they asked parents of both sides to help them buying a house as wedding present . People somehow, just love the thought of – a roof of my own. Getting a house and talking about it is a passion with this city. At least for the salaried class 30 something, it is nothing less than a hobby. I know several couples who love to spend weekends scouting for a house. Romantic, some would believe. Someone even tried to portray a very emotion-tinted picture of “one mortgage –two kids” theory of modern life. For the life of me, I do not subscribe to it. While in good old world people used to brag their children’s report card, in Delhi people brag about the appreciation in housing prices of their locality. The disease is contagious and is spreading fast in all cities. Most however, get cheated in the way and spent a considerable time justifying their decision or reversing it by finding a buyer. The real-estate enthusiasm , however, does not fade .
Hubby informs me very authoritatively while reading the Economist, that in last 100 years property prices ( inflation adjusted ) have not actually risen at all in USA. I am not so sure about India but leave aside the price inflation , buying of property is hardly hassle free.It is one sector which can make even the most honest person, dishonest . But most people doesn’t mind that . I tried hard to understand the emotion/logic .
To my credit for the last few days, I really researched on the argument, but I know, when it comes to brass tacks, I am what I am- a gypsy in my mind. I read all housing project ads on my way to office (even the one which claims that the tower would be so tall that the moon will look bigger!)…..I suppressed my amusement at the “Holi Dhamaka” offers and did not frown at the lousy radio ads promising everything from swimming pool to Golf course with the flat. I came to the conclusion, which I already knew; I can’t make myself get into the let-us-buy-a-house mode.
The interesting part is that even the sensible ones fail to see the fallacy in the tall claims of these projects and go for it. Most young couples are ready to compromise comfort and luxury in their youth in order to get an assured place to live later. One of the most sensitive take on this issue was in a movie titled “Grihapravesh” . A couple saving each cent to build a house but only end up distancing themselves from living a life. Many real life couples experience that but can not resist the urge to buy a house of their own- specially when it is kind of accepted landmark event of middle class Indian life . I do not doubt the intention with which people in this city invest their time, hopes and energies in buying properties but then it escapes me by miles. I just accept the fact that happiness comes to different people in different packaging . Whether I will change my mind ever in life , whether there will be a house tempting enough that I yearn to own it ……… I just wait and watch.