July 27, 2015

The ugly truth behind my beautiful home

My recent post on FaceBook where I shared the news of my living room being featured in an article written by my interior designer had friends and relatives congratulating me and sharing my happiness. Of course, I was on top of the moon. However, I could not push away a sense of despair, a twinge of sadness, and a feeling of unrest that has clung to me ever since we moved into this house, our first home.

We all dream of owning tastefully done up, beautiful homes. We strive and work hard towards buying that house we believe will be our cozy haven where we can retreat after a long day's hard work, to sink comfortably into our mattresses, cushioning ourselves from all worldly worries.

However, what if this very dream turns into the bane of your existence?

I'm sure you are now perplexed, aghast even to see how ungrateful I sound.

Let me explain. I love my home, but, this is only a part of the entire truth. And, here, I speak for hundreds of other families who deal with this ugly truth each day. A good locality is as important as a good home, don't you think? And, a good locality necessarily translates to having a proper, clean access road that is wide enough to accommodate vehicles and pedestrians, is well-lit during the night, a functioning drainage system and clean piped water. Even as I type this out it seems unbelievable that these primary demands are still applicable. Isn't it a pity that even after so many years of independence and democratic rule, such basic needs are not met? Yet, we from Thubarahalli locality, stand deprived of all of this, and thus, feel cheated; forced to come to terms with our crushed dreams.




This our "access road" that spells death-trap when it rains, as you can see: a muddy path that resembles the surface of the moon with crater-sized potholes. This has been its state for over several years now. The last couple of years has been most crucial because of the mushrooming of several high-rise apartments on either side. This patch spells doom in all ways for the residents that include several little children and the elderly. The dust storm raised during dry seasons, thanks to the vehicular traffic, has most us wheezing and coughing for the majority of the year. And, do I even need to chalk out the dangers we land ourselves in when it rains?

This is sadly the truth in many pockets of the so-called Silicon City or Garden City that Bangalore is popularly known as. Hapless customers are trapped in multiple layers and levels of bureaucracy. Corrupt, disinterested officials work in tandem with the dishonest real-estate builders who choose to build apartments over pieces of land embroiled in several ownership litigations, leaving end-customers to deal with such aftermath. (If have worse luck, you also end up (like me) reaping the fruits of choosing a wrong builder who decides to also screw up your remaining sanity.)

How is this mess first created? 

Most real-estate projects here are built on private lands with internal agreements between the landowner and the builder to surrender a portion for an access road. How legal or reliable these agreements are, is anybody's guess. The responsible BBMP approves real-estate projects without any due diligence. The builders in turn, armed with "government/sanction approvals" and "clear title papers", lure gullible customers with their glib marketing speech. (In our case, we were time and again assured of how the "road" is just a few months away and will indeed be ready even before their projects get over). Much like the jokes on HR management, in the real-estate sector too, the customer is treated with kid gloves only until the sale agreement is signed. And, in today's times of extra-inflated real-estate prices, once a flat is purchased, there is no looking back for an average buyer.

Caught in the myth of the golden deer, buyers end up running from pillar to post rousing sleeping officials, imploring them to take cognizant of their plight. To show that they are genuinely interested in the welfare of the citizens, the local corporators and MLAs diligently turn up at strategic points in their political career (read election time or when firefighting situations like a mob protest) and make feeble attempts to set right things. A few days of energetic activity around the area and your hopes are raised. Finally, deliverance, you think. The energy, but, fizzles out even before you say cheers and it's back to square one.

And, mind you, this is "supposedly" an upcoming locality with close proximity to good schools, offices, and swanky malls. In fact, there is a very popular school, running their business (education has also become a business, these days, no?) for the past eight years, at the end of this very sham of a road. There are talks of an upcoming Metro and an underpass to ease traffic in the adjacent corridor. You might think that's good news. After all they are signs of development, right? Hell no, I only shudder at the prospect because this would mean more chaos for we all know our government only likes to introduce new projects with complete disregard for their organized implementation.

So, while we live in plush interiors, our surrounding is no better than that of slum dwellers. Such an irony! We diligently pay taxes, squirrel away our savings, live on a shoe-string budget to fulfil our dreams, but end up being mere puppets in a play of power orchestrated by corrupt officials and dishonest builders. Can you imagine my heartburn now as we risk our lives and vehicles, trudging, plowing on this patch several times a day? Even shopping for essentials needed to be a planned affair, because, of course, we need to keep our nightmares to the minimum. 

It's not that we have chosen to suffer in silence. Our voices are just not being heard or perhaps ignored. We have an official FaceBook group that has active members carrying out dialogues with the local corporators, carried out peaceful protests, staged satyagrahas, signed online petitions, alerted the media and even tried to level out the patch ourselves. 

Residents from adjoining apartments joining hands to make the road motorable.

Isn't it time the "responsible" officials do their duty? Is it really out of their capacity to bulldoze these errant landowners to surrender part of the land that is supposed to be a legal road? And, if this is, indeed, illegally seized by the real-estate builders as claimed by the landowners, how did the government sanction the projects in the first place? We need answers and soon!

Come August 1st, 2015, we have planned another peaceful protest. Will we ever see the light, err road?