Holi and Real Estate

Of all the Indian festivals, Holi is the ultimate expression of trust in a community. It is the only festival where we surrender our selves and our bodies to fellow revellers, and accept forceful application of colour and water, while being grabbed or pelted.

This surrender requires an enormous amount of faith in the other – such that the completely voluntary letting go of inhibitions and acceptance of a physical onslaught is totally acceptable. Where being picked up by many others and thrown in a water pool or locking in playful hand-to-hand combat with a mere acquaintance is not a frightening prospect but a joyous abandonment of inhibitions.

This kind of trust eroded for many decades and for most the memory of Holi is from a distant past of our childhood, when times were simpler. Modern, fragmented, urban communities did not lend themselves to such trust – and most of us became wearier of celebrating Holi. Holi was to be feared, and the joy was gone. The rise of gated communities in urban India has suddenly brought the festival back.

With water tankers commissioned for rain showers, organisation that commissions food stalls and other activities, the ticketing of these events has led to a curating of guests. Communities are weaving a new fabric of trust again: People Like Us belong together and we are back again, celebrating with complete abandon.

While people in homes from Vikhroli to Malabar Hill, Patparganj to Greater Kailash stay indoors for Holi, gated communities across the country are celebrating Holi with a vengeance.

Groups are going door to door, dragging protesting residents out and dousing them with colour and drenching them with water – and everything is just fine.

Therein lies the real lure of these communities, which cost more per square foot and have high common area and maintenance charges. Holi is the ultimate symbol of the success of these new communities.
As published in Hindu Business Line on March 17,2016

Hello Confusion, My Old Friend

Simon & Garfunkel must have groaned a million times as lazy scribes, this one included, indiscriminately mangle their songs for cheap twists. Heh heh.

“I’m confused” is a common enough, frequently articulated, sentiment. Most times, it comes with an undertone of embarrassment, even a hint of apology. After all, what kind of an indecisive person looks at a menu card/wardrobe/design options and turns catatonic? Shouldn’t she show conviction and get on with it?

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Not so quick.What is confusion? I’m presented with three great ideas. I see compelling advantages in all of them. However, choose one and I automatically exclude the others. The mind is, at this confused moment, doing something quite marvellous. It is allowing multiple ‘right’ answers to coexist. It is stepping beyond the easy way out of “If this one is right, the others must be wrong”.

It is embracing ambiguity, caressing the gentle Right Brain and reining in the muscular, but domineering, Left hemisphere.Simplifying a choice to THIS/THAT is tempting, if for no other reason than efficiency. Pick one and you’re done.Unfortunately, efficiency is tedious. And monotonous. And, frankly, boring. The well-oiled assembly line is unbeatable for efficiency. All it can produce, though, is thousands of identical products. Watch Pink Floyd’s ‘We don’t need no education’. Efficiency emerges, without exception, as a novel solution to a persistent problem. Once activated, it gets set in stone and specifically discourages the non-judgmental whimsy and trial-and-error that created it in the first place.

We live in the times of puzzling contradiction. Mass production of every product and service means that shared experience now spans every historic division. An Android phone, whether in the hands of a forest ranger in Kaziranga, a soldier in Siachen or an equity analyst in Mumbai looks, feels and acts identically. A bag of standardised milk gets into the daily diet in Golf Links and Dharavi. But there hasn’t been a time when we are more desperate to mark out our unique specialness. To that end, the Android device sports our special wallpaper, protective case and caller tune.As the world pushes us relentlessly to homogenize, we push back, seeking distinctiveness.Confusing? Sure. And exciting, precisely for that reason.You may have heard about the scarcity/abundance duality. Scarcity says the difficult THIS OR THAT choice we alluded to earlier.

Abundance argues for THIS AND THAT. The path to resolving the duality is transcending it.Indian mythology offers rich imagery of this contention. Shiva, the very embodiment of the male principle, regularly represented as a Linga, a phallus, is also manifested as Ardhanari Nateshwara, the Hermaphroditic Cosmic Dancer. If this isn’t enough, he sports a third eye in the centre of his forehead, the mystical orb that, when opened, unleashes the creative destruction of the universe. Confusing as this is, it is rich with opportunities for contemplating creation and creativity.Confusion is the beginning of the Dance of Shiva.