Friday, December 10, 2010

Modern Mumtaz

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.


  1. We are gradually going back to days of colonial raj. Modern days industrial rajas, modern days RULERS--Modi-Nitish as their performances are converting states into Rajvadas.

  2. Long live the king.

    the sad thing is that we'd all love to be them.

    Loved the blogs ending.

  3. OMG...wat a post! I can sense rage of a common man...hitted hard wid your words...

  4. The war of the Ambani bhens...LOL And we are but the lowly tax paying minions. Well said Alka bhen.
    A standing ovation for this hard hitting post.

  5. @BK Chowla... As I said power ruled then...Power rules now.

    @Beyond Horizon...Everyone is on the make and on the take. People are angry. This is the only way I could vent it out...ha ha

  6. @Alpha Za....I thought as much. And I contemplated. It is not a case of sour grapes...As I said it is not a sin to be rich..We all want a comfortable life. But beyond a point, we have to learn to share. Inclusive growth rather than exclusive growth.

    Appreciate your taking time to read my rants..

  7. @Purba...Coming from you the comment means a lot. Made my SATUR-day!

  8. And we remain mute spectators to all the power game! Read a stats few days back, 80% of our country's total wealth is with 20% of the rich and powerful (and foolish) population!

    Excellent article Alka !

  9. Over a billion eyebrows might have raised..who cares? Morning show hosts might have called it 'outrageous'..doesn't matter!

    The modern day Maharajas (and thier Mumtazs) show-off thier wealth since they lost all thier normal senses and sensibilities.

    Powerful article with a thousand pound punch!

  10. Haha brilliant!!
    One of your best ones :)

  11. @Sourav C. Pandey, Ravi ...Crony Capitalism continues to make rich richer.



  12. Good read, Alka. And informative too!

  13. Yes this is where we are headed....going back to the colonial raj! A very hard hitting post indeed. Very well written.

  14. Brilliantly said Alka..
    I was quite annoyed by the sheer wastage in that landmark of a house..especially after the mammoth electricity bills were revealed recently...but couldn't have voiced my disagreement so decidedly n in your face as you do here:-) if only those in power were sensible enough to have your good sense:-)

  15. so true... parents and I were wonderstruck by the amt of cash being wasted... on an interesting aside, I guess for both Nita and Tina, SIZE DOES MATTER :)

  16. I just wish a few things to happen.
    I heard that Nizams had diamonds studded into their slippers.
    I just wished they visited a temple and kept their slippers outside. I'd care to leave a little smiley with lips curved up to the ears.

    Money corrupts? so to the poor as to the riches.
    A nice analogy, royalty isn't gone, it has just shifted realms and names.

    There is a song I recall,

    Yeah decency, she done left our home
    On her roller skates, so I guess she's pretty far gone
    Left me with my greed, to answer for my own
    For how could a deadened sense tell right from wrong...
    Mirror mirror on the wall
    What do you give someone who has it all

    More, just to be sure

    Blasphemous Aesthete

  17. What a fabulous read. Couldn't agree with you more.

  18. we are runing downhill towards disaster... maybe we should ask the british to come bac and rule us .. we were far better then :)


  19. @Giribala...Ria....Those in power know that there are fortunes to be made. Am glad you liked it.

  20. @BA...God, its tough to type your

    The words from the song are so apt..

    @Tanvi..Thanks dear for stopping by.

  21. 2Bikramjit...If you are reading this, why is your blogger profile unavailable?
    When everything is on sale from bandwidth to morals..any rule will do. British are in the midst of an economic predicament. How about China?

  22. running behind materials.. human has lost the value. our standards have gone so low that we are letting few 'powerful' people lead us, rule us no matter how stupid they be... the world has surely gone to the dogs.

  23. @Suruchi, Deepika..Crony Capitalism is the modern bane. The powerful try and protect each other...There is insurance in numbers..

  24. The ultra-rich are known as conspicuous spenders. That’s not the case in societies where wealth is distributed more equally. If most people make roughly the same income, people do not obsess over material goods. When everyone can afford to buy what’s available, possessions lose their significance as status symbols. But inequality changes this outlook. The more wealth is concentrated in a privileged few, the more important consumer goods become. The wider the income gap becomes, the more goods are available only to the rich. In unequal societies, possessions identify those who have succeeded and those who have not. You are judged by what you own, by what you consume, not who you are.

    Said one of these privileged Ultra-Rich, “Well, I do think it’s excessive. It is absolutely excessive. No question about it. But it’s amazing what you can get used to.” I don't know if we can blame them.They know when they buy a private jet,that it costs almost a million to change the broken windshield!

    Having said this,there are good examples among the rich who take up social responsibilities,Like Bill Gates and Tata.70% of Tata income goes to charities.Overall,the Indian rich are very poor at giving.Americans lead the world when it comes to giving.

    We live by the Golden Rule. Those who have the gold make the rules.

  25. very well written..kings and queens of modern India..I read this here in the biggest house has been discovered on planet Earth lol..
    Seriously its jus a waste of resources and nothing but a status symbol...Poor..who has nothing to eat and Rich which has money to throw is the case here..Do we really need to flaunt?
    Look at the population in India and poverty??
    I think they need to make more place for homeless people like in US and keep put them to work ...something more constructive ..and at the same time ..create a better impression on others or visitors to India rather then showing their own palaces..the environment besides the houses are same ..slums and poverty..which nothing but a joke for the kingdom built!!!

  26. @sm and Deepika..Thanks for spending time.

  27. @dr. Antony..I value your insightful comments. Yes, we have to work towards more inclusive growth rather that exclusive growth. The gap between the rich and poor remains the same even after 50 years of indeendance.

  28. @Harman..Austerity has to start from the top. Unfortunately the divide between the rich and poor is widening due to exclusive growth rather than inclusive growth.
    Are you studying in the US or settled?

  29. Leave aside the rajas of spectrum and sport czarians. When it comes to flaunting wealth, to each his own, if he is making his wealth legitmately. I won't blame the Ambani clan for the modern pizza towers and Taj mahal. They made wealth and they flaunt it. Also lets not forget there hard work and biz accumen generate millions of work. They are not to be compared with the loose scamsters on the prowl. When people earn a 6 digits a month want to flaunt high rise luxury flats, villas, merc n bmws, richie rich would want to flaunt it on multiple scale. Leave the richie rich, how many of us who earns in 5 digits or 6 digits are bothered about social cause? we all flaunt in our own way. Its ingrained in our society.

    P.s do activate name url for commenting. It saves the trouble of having to login to google just to comment. :).

  30. Thanks for the comments Lakshmi.
    As I said in the post that it is not a crime to be rich. It is their hard earned money and they free to spend it, any which way. I was reflecting on the fact that industrialists, politicians, and the super rich are the Maharajas of today. Because they wield power. And power ruled then. Power rules now.
    However the vulgar display of wealth by certain politicians during the marriage of their children or otherwise is nauseating.Praful Patel had an air strip laid at Udaipur for his daughters marriage. Gadkari did not allow the Parliament to run for the entire winter session ostensibly fighting corruption. But he spent crores on his sons marriage. Where has this money come from?
    Regarding display of wealth, what better place than Delhi. I can see the huge change, coming from Bangalore.:)

  31. Hi Have changed it , Now you can see the profile , though it does not say much :)


  32. Pretty good thoughtful post.. Loved the ending para !

  33. @DG...You stopped by a little late. I honestly wanted you to read this one. Your comments mean a lot.

  34. Enjoyed reading throughout.nice comparison to the "king's rule.True its not a crime to crave for more or be 'rich'.:)Tina ji's comparison was ,Premji's humility is appreciable.I can even realte Mr.Narayan murthy of Infosys in the same lines.

  35. Thanks Raji... for stopping by.

  36. Lovely post! You have hit the bull's eye, with each of your words! Modern maharajas and maharanis :D

  37. @Vaish...Appreciate your spending time on the blog.

  38. hello
    first tym here and i loved your blog. i loved this post :)

    keep writing :)

  39. Well written..Funny & real, enjoyed ti..I love dthe ending though.

  40. @Maitreyee...Welcome to Freebird. Appreciate your time. Am glad you liked it.

  41. Fabulous post. Love your tongue-in-cheek style.