YASHICA SITARAM writes: Having spent the better part of our growing-up years here, we had always wanted to make Mysore our home and when the opportunity presented itself early last year, my husband and I jumped at it. At least, we would be close to our parents when they needed us most, and our children would be close to their grandparents when they needed them most.
Finding a suitable home was the obvious first step.
After having lived in different cities in the United States and North India, we were seeking the kind of home where we would have the peace of mind to pursue our own interests. Friends and relatives chipped in with advice. Finally, we found comfort in a walled apartment block in the southern corner of the City, in Visweswaranagar, better known to Mysoreans as Industrial Suburb.
At first sight, we felt it had everything we wanted. It had a nice Sanskrit name. It was far from the madding crowd. It looked good from the outside, with nice, modern colours. Plus, there were promises of a gymnasium, a swimming pool, a guest room complex, landscaping, a kid’s garden, 24-hour power backup for common areas, underground parking—the whole nine yards.
Or so we thought.
Six months later, these just remained promises.
Worse, the condition of our spacious three-bedroom duplex deteriorated so rapidly, and the maintenance remained so abysmal, that living in this place that was painted to be paradise became pure hell.
First, the power repeatedly failed. Surprisingly, this would happen even when there was power in neighbouring houses and establishments, and in the industries and other visible areas surrounding the apartment complex.
On one occasion there was no electricity for three whole days and nights.
When we made calls to the electricity supply board, we were matter-of-factly informed that the builder—a prominent member of the Builders’ Association of India to boot; a man whose face regularly adorns the local newspapers—had not procured sufficient power sanction for the project and hence power had been terminated.
We were shocked, because while our apartment did not have power, there seemed to be power in the premises for the construction of the other apartment blocks, for pumping water, and for operating the lifts. Clearly, the only conclusion to draw was that there was somebody in the mains room switching off and on electricity as per requirement, like a DJ in a disco.
Worse, we found our air-conditioners disconnected from their outdoor units, all as part of efforts by the builder to conserve the meagre sanctioned limits. When called, the A/C servicemen expressed surprise that the wires were cut and frayed at the ends indicating a clean splice.
Very soon, we came to realize that the builder had not procured sanction for supply of municipal water, either. Wells bored into the arid, salty crusts around the hill were being relied upon to supply water for drinking, washing and cleaning. And an antiquated motor which was a sight to behold, pumped the water up into our homes.
So dark and dirty was the water that the purifier in our kitchen kept repeatedly getting choked, and the milk kept curdling due to the high salt content.
For the first time, we had to rely on packaged drinking water, the supply of which, was solely left to the mercy of the suppliers because “your place is too far, Madam, we will charge 10 rupees per bottle extra for delivery”.
And then, it rained. When I mean rained, I mean it rained right into the house. The duplex, built no more than a year or so earlier, leaked like a sieve.
One evening, we were shocked to see the entire beam ceiling of the duplex covered in small droplets like sponge dripping water. The windows leaked and rivulets ran all over the living room. The rooms leaked and ruined wooden beds. Our furniture started taking a beating. The skylights, constructed without any manner of engineering, leaked and poured.
It was a royal drench.
Since these extraordinary developments kept us occupied, we never paid heed to instances like getting stuck in the lift and having no trained personnel to open it. One night, when my daughter and I stepped in and pressed “4”, the lift shut down, the lights went out, and it became suffocatingly clear that we were trapped.
Luckily, there was a feeble signal on the mobile phone, so I called my husband. He got the security and grounds people together and soon found that they were not trained to handle such emergencies. The head security guy began dialling the maintenance number of the lift manufacturer! My husband, seeing this situation, got hold of a steel rod lying on the floor and yanked the doors open.
Another instance, equally scary, was when the groundwater sump got poisoned by a neighbour’s kid who emptied the fertilizer meant for the garden into the sump and myriad other daily threats that seemed to pale in comparison.
Sitting amidst the noise, din and water one night, we were glad we had only rented the apartment and not bought the place.
When we enquired with our neighbours, they just shrugged it off saying their houses leaked too but they had no recourse since the builder had shut them up by saying, “You got what you paid for.” This was short hand for an extraordinary form of price speculation that the whole enterprise was being run on.
We, and all those who enquired, were told that all the apartments in our block, and the other blocks under construction, had been sold. In reality, this was just fiction. The builder, it appeared, was exploiting his social and other Rotary Club contacts and connections in a masterful way, to jack up prices and make a killing.
In the course of this depressed six months, the rot set in. In a few weeks following the rains, white algae and fungi patches started to form. That was it. We vacated.
All along, I’ve wondered about the greed driving such projects. And the gluttony, unappeased and insatiable. Perpetuating such perversity is unbecoming for projects which nurture lives, kids, families who plan for lifetimes to purchase homes.
The response I received was: “Why did you live there? It’s only an investment. You pay something down, you get an apartment allotted. You wait and don’t register until you find an unsuspecting buyers and palm it off at a hefty profit. Why stay there? Everyone knows not to stay so far… so far from progress.”
Six months down the line, it seems like sage advice.
Photographs: Yashica Sitaram