Tuscan Blossom, Sherwood, Learning to Fly, Wisteria, Plumeria, Aspen Greens.
No, these are not places in Europe or songs from Pink Floyd or Tom Petty’s. These are homes in Namma Bengaluru.
Earlier housing societies used to have simplistic names that served their basic identification purpose. We had a ‘Sunrise Apartments’ in the locality where I grew up because the building was east-facing. After an American space station turned rogue in 1979 and threatened to smash into Bombay, ‘Skylab Apartments’ became a popular name. ‘Highway Apartments’ of the 70s still stands today on the shoulders of Eastern Express Highway in Mumbai.
Along came B Schools and marketing-branding experts with their value propositions and market positioning strategies. Names have to resonate with the urban lifestyle and aspirations of the new generation buyer, they said. After all, buildings and houses are not mere aggregations of brick and mortar, right? Never mind how far removed from reality the name is. If it’s not something out of the ordinary, your hot cakes aren’t going to sell.
Look around and you’ll find names that are both exotic and symbolic of the ecosystems and ecologies that have been destroyed in their creation. Over the years, I have seen the urban landscape of Bangalore change with builders getting more and more creative in the naming department while their projects wreaked havoc with the city. Silver Woods, a cluster of upmarket apartments, stands where once the wind used to whistle through hundreds of silver oak and eucalyptus. Soon, we may have to drive miles before we can see ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ (oops, that’s another project).
Once, Madhuri & I wanted to own something in ‘Laughing Waters’ but we couldn’t afford it. Good for us, because, over time, the neighbourhood turned out to be “frothing waters“. The builder laughed all the way to the bank even as parts of the enclave were declared illegal. In Bangalore, particularly beware of ‘Lake View Apartments’ as all the lakes have been systematically encroached, violated and turned into cesspools of untreated sewage. The numbers and sizes of lakes have diminished in inverse proportion to the growing wealth of unscrupulous builders, BDA officials and politicians. No laughing water, er…matter this.
Defence officers’ residential enclaves have a typical nomenclature. Two decades ago, Kamanahalli was considered outside Bangalore’s city limits and Jal Vayu Vihar was an island of beautiful 2 and 3-storied houses set amidst a sylvan halli. Now the city has slowly crawled into the residents’ bedrooms and got into their noses. Neither jal nor vayu are pure anymore. Vayu comes laced with noxious gases from thousands of vehicles while jal is controlled by the tanker mafia.
We thought we had bought some privileged space among like-minded people in Bangalore when we invested in Sobha Garrison, a gated-community for defence officials from the three services. Soon, our dream of regimented cantonment living was shattered, caught in the crossfire between two warring factions in the society calling each other names more exotic than you ever heard in the barracks.
Having all but destroyed the air and water of this pensioner’s paradise, builders have now turned to esoteric names that promise to transport you across oceans. Venezia, Casa Grande, Monte Carlo etc. are very much in namma Bengaluru. Only difference is, instead of romancing Zeenat Aman on a gondola and crooning ‘do lafzon ki hai ye zindagani’, you will be wading through knee-deep water at the first downpour of the season. You, the ‘great gambler’ who took out that huge loan for buying a piece of European sky will have to now decide whether to put on your sombrero, turn activist and march to Freedom Park, or buy yourself rafting gear from the nearest Decathlon. I suggest the former. Because in summers, you will be dealing with a different set of challenges, most of which are centred around a lack of water.
I recently heard of a condominium in the National Capital Region called ‘La Vida’. That’s Spanish for ‘live life’. Sure. But in the capital’s colourful lexicon, this is dangerously close to something from the male anatomy. Maybe the branding guys were ill advised about local culture. My colleague and airline pilot lives in Gurgaon’s upscale ‘Nirvana County’. But he carries a baseball bat in his car’s boot to deal with road rage and violent people on the city’s streets. Such a paradox.
When my friend Thekkeparambil Govindan Kutty a.k.a TG Kutty from Kozhikode in God’s Own Country sent me an invite to his house warming, I knew he was onto something big. In Kerala, names usually double up as mini addresses; like a WhatsApp location pin of sorts. Earlier, Kutty’s name used to provide a free roadmap to his ancestral house. Now, having moved into his plush new villa in a gated community, I suggested he change his name to BE Kutty. Bella Encosta – the name of their abode – is Italian-Portuguese for ‘beautiful slope’. When the North Canara rain hits your county and washes away your porch, you’ll fully understand what that means, I told him.
So the next time somebody asks you what’s in a name, think. Maybe it’s a lake that’s dead now. Or a ‘mini forest’ where tall trees used to sway in the breeze. Your condominium is now its tombstone. Engrave it with “Rest in peace, Wildflower. We killed you so we could live”.
©KP Sanjeev Kumar, 2017. All rights reserved.