Back in the days of yore, when the pace of life was slower and Facebook wasn’t a reality, there were, it was thought, four phases to a man’s life. Without being overtly complicated about it, these consisted of being a kid, being a nerd, earning a living, and ultimately pausing to think what the hell all that was about anyways.
We’ve changed since those simple days. Today, the phases of an Indian life are as follows: get an engineering degree, get an MBA degree, get married, have kids, and – this is most important – buy a house. So busy does one get in completing these phases that one has no time to think about what the hell all that was about anyways before popping off. Some people think this is an improvement over earlier times.
Of these phases, none is taken more seriously than the purchase of a house. It is considered the ultimate form of financial security to take an eye-wateringly large loan in order to buy a grossly overpriced home that you will never want to sell because you happen to stay in it. I haven’t, I’m sorry to report, an MBA degree, but I have read some books on finance, and all of them are silent about the wisdom that underlies such a purchase.
What makes me happy these days, and this is why I am writing about this today, is the fact that a little test of my own development seems to indicate that the trend of buying a house because It Is A Thing That Must Be Done is on the wane. This little test consists of the following: set off from a particular place in Pune. Let’s for the sake of argument, call this particular location place A. Drive, ride or walk towards another location in Pune – we’ll call this place B.
In the interim, count the number of advertisement hoardings you see. Of these hoardings, count the number that display advertising related to real estate. Over the course of the last four years or so, this percentage never ever once fell below eighty percent. Builders would offer to sell you houses that looked Venetian, bungalows that were uncannily like Spanish haciendas and gated communities that cocooned you in levels of luxury that the rest of your country could only fantasise about. Each of these offers were only going to be around for a couple of days, these hoardings would remind you, because everybody else is already lining up to buy these houses. Hurry, or regret forever, they urged you in strident, but attractively colored tones.
About a couple of years ago, the hoardings changed tack. Now, they told you, you could still stay in those huge haciendas, or wallow in those Venetian verandas, only this time, without paying registration charges, VAT or any other taxes. Some builders, in a fit of generosity, also told you that you could stay without paying anything at all for at least a year or so. Some might have interpreted this as a sign of desperation, but balderdash and ballyhoo, those silly sceptics were told. This simply is to make it more attractive for people to buy their own home – and what, pray, is more important than that?
Today, however, those hoardings display, well, nothing at all. For the last six months or so, the little percentage test I mentioned above hasn’t once gone above thirty percent. Online and offline retail, software companies urging you to join them in their coding extravaganzas and blank white spaces have replaced messages asking you wake up in the Scottish Highlands.
It’s almost as if they don’t want you to buy houses anymore.
He doesn't expect the paradox to be resolved in his lifetime