What Nita has got, Tina wants it too! With just a nudge of syllables between the first names and a common family name, the urge to rise higher is understandable. Mukesh, the richest Indian, has erected a modern day wonder, 170 meters high Antilia, said to be the Taj Mahal of the 21st century. And what’s more? The ballroom at Antilia is said to be the glitziest in India. Even Versailles Palace is a poor cousin.
Little surprise then that Tina said, “I also want one. And higher. My husband strongest. My house highest.”
Poor Anil! He had permission to build only 66mts above the ground. He now wanted permission for an extra 150 meters. So what if it comes in the flight path to Mumbai airport. The cattle class can wave from the aircraft and say hi to Tinaben sipping champagne on her terrace.
Well, it’s their money and if the prima donnas are donning Dior, and Donna Karan then who am I, living on the ground to comment on their dizzying heights of success and abodes?
Frankly, nothing has changed. We still live in the bygone era of kings and queens, albeit the names have changed. Erstwhile royals had food in vessels made of gold and silver. So Nitaben went to buy a 50 piece dinner set with 22 carat gold platinum trimmings worth $ 2000 in India. Multiply that by 500(she wanted 25000 pieces) and the price hits one million dollars. Wow! Who is going to eat out of those 25000 pieces you ask? Well…. the lesser kings and queens…ministers, bureaucrats, film stars.
Modern day kings are the politicians and the industrialists who run their own fiefdoms. We have BSP Queendom, Congress Empire, Ambani Empire, and the BJP Khand. The Mallya Empire ruled by the flamboyant King of Good Times is facing tumultuous times.Never mind. It is the companies floated by tycoons which go kaput.The personal wealth remains intact.
In Polly kingdoms, power comes to play in an ostentatious manner. Be it the marriage of Praful Patel’s daughter or Gadkari’s son, private jets ferry guests.
All the holier than thou, including the media leave their political differences for television debates and have a gala time. They raise a toast to their nudge-nudge, wink-wink creative partnership and share jokes at the expense of a nation semi-blind with sleaze and scams. In private they feel safe, sharing both, secrets and spoils, protecting each other.
The music in the background might be shenaai, but it is in fact the moaning of the taxpaying citizen who is being sacrificed at the altar of greed.
Modern battles are now fought in the courtrooms. Senapatis fighting the legal battles for modern day royals are the superstar lawyers themselves. During the legal battle of warring brothers Mukesh was represented by a battery of lawyers like Salve and Singhvi who reportedly charge an exorbitant 25 lakhs per day (India Today, Dec). The younger scion was represented by equally impressive and expensive Jethmalani and Rohatgi.
Land was the principal source of revenue during the Mughal era. It was distributed by the kings to buy loyalty. It remains so now. While we pay taxes to build national assets those in power distribute land and spectrum to builders and industrialists as largesse for dirt cheap prices. And then it’s quid pro quo.
It is not a crime to be rich. Temptation is as old as Adam and Eve. It is tough to remain unaffected by the greed and power avalanche. Some manage. Like Azim Premji. While on my flight to Delhi from Bangalore he was in a queue standing ahead of me for his security check. I can't imagine the Ambanis, Saharas or the Gadkaris in the same queue of commoners.
The Indian Royals can however follow footsteps of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates to strive for an inclusive growth rather than exclusive growth.
They say, with great power comes great responsibility. Crap. With great power comes royalty and its attendant wealth. So what if power corrupts?
Power ruled then. And power rules now.
Long live the king.