Deepesh mailed me the other day asking if I was interested in this rather nice 3 bhk apartment being sold at the L&T. What's the price? Oh, I didn't ask, but you can calculate . . . the apartment is about 2060 sft and the going rate here is around Rs 4000 per sft.
I calculated and could just manage a wry smile that is best known as kashtho hashi in Bengali (literally translated it means a wooden smile). It costs a whopping 82 lakhs. Even if the guy negotiates, he will probably bring it down to 76? When did the property prices skyrocket like this, and who allowed it? When our parents, mostly government officers, retired, they made a paltry amount that they deposited in banks for a good return of about 15%. With the inflation rising and the banks making lesser profits, those interest rates came down to around 10, and even lesser. My dad suddenly realized he has to cut a lot of unnecessary expenses to make do. And meanwhile, the salaries kept rising beyond the limits of decency, and when the companies realized that it was probably sensible to hire an Irish or a Romanian instead, our economy had already been sitting on a huge ball of uninflammable gas. If the ball deflates, people would fall and die, so no need for me to make them burn for the sake of prose. They will die, that's it.
No Deepesh, how can I? I can't make so much money by selling my apartment, and it is indecent to ask for so much, I commented. Deepesh, however, left Mr Subramanium's number with me.
Came home and told Sayantani that we shouldn't keep dreaming of absurd things like a flat at South City in 2008. Maybe, if we bought one in the year 2000, it would still have been affordable. Now women, let me tell you, seldom like to see reason. She made me call the person.
"Hello? Mr Subramaniam? I'm Arijit. Got to know about your apartment and was curious about the price." I managed to squeak over the phone.
"Oh, hello. We can talk about the price later, Mr Arijit. You just come and check out the place."
So, we fixed an appointment with him and went over to check out his place. It was on the 19th floor, huge, and with an awesome view. "Where's your furniture?" I was curious because there was nothing in the house, making it look even huger. The marble on the floor shone like a mirror and the midday sun was reflected on it like a huge ball.
"Oh, I just use the kitchen to boil my vegetables and I sleep in that room," he pointed to the third bedroom that we hadn't checked out. I went in and found a mattress on the floor, with a pillow on it. Everything was very clean, but I was a little surprised because a person who can buy an apartment in a condo like this definitely is rich. Maybe he doesn't stay here, I was thinking, when he almost read my thoughts and said
"I do stay here, you know :). I have a phone, some utensils, my clothes in one of the wardrobes, and that bed. I know you are surprised, but that's all we ever need, don't we?"
"Oh, not at all. I wasn't thinking about that. Very true indeed... what else do we ever need?" I need my internet, my car, my mobike, my freezer full of meat, and also need to change my cell phone every two years, so I was another middle-class man with middle-class dreams. It reminded me of my mom. All she had as a teacher were a huge gladstone, a table fan, and a small kerosene stove. And she could survive on anything. She didn't splurge, neither was she stingy when it came to my needs, but for herself, she needed just a fan. It was hot in Durgapur and she was always overweight. Just a fan, now, but as a student we didn't have ceiling fans either, she used to tell me. I wondered how that was possible. To live without a ceiling fan. It always reminded me of how Gabriel Garcia Marquez keeps dwelling on how sultry and hot it is in his country. His descriptions of heat can make you squirm in discomfort at times. Where is he from? Spain or Mexico? Like Senator John McCain, I too forget my geography at times. And like my mom, Gabriel Garcia Marquez never allowed his protagonists the luxury of a ceiling fan.
"So..." I tried coming to the point, although I knew I could never afford even half of that amount even after selling everything I had and paying off my mortgages "...how much are you selling it for?"
"How much are you ready to pay?" he smiled at us.
Now it's coming, I thought, and was about to say something when I realized it's best not to give him false hopes. "Well, frankly, sir... we cannot afford this place at all, but then, we just extended our dream and made it spill over into our reality." I tried being abstruse. "If I sell my apartment and pay off the mortgage, I will be left with about half of what this apartment is for. And no bank will lend me the remaining amount because we cannot pay so much in EMIs."
He smiled and walked to the french window.
"I'm sorry, sir, we must go now. Thanks for being kind enough to show us around."
Sayantani looked at me and smiled too. I guess she too finally stepped out of her absurd dream and joined me in my reality. There, on the floor, were our Bata shoes, not Guccis.
"But I never told you my price, did I?"
"You don't have to, sir. I know the going rate, and it is rather high for us." I kind of leaned toward the door, pretending to leave...
"Hmm, see... I bought it in the year 2000 for 20 lakhs. Now I am leaving. So you pay me those 20 lakhs and the apartment is yours."
"LOL" I snorted and then broke out into a laughter. (Damn this chat lingo, man, I can't even laugh normally these days)
"Good joke, sir. And my son Aaron can pay you the remaining 60." I tried to continue the humor.
But it turned out that he was serious. Mr Subramaniam even worked out my finances for me. "If you sell your apartment and pay off your mortgage, you have x amount left. Pay me 20 from that, and the remaining can be your retirement package. Just retire and stay here."
I couldn't believe what he said. My wife was about to walk away, thinking he was deliberately insulting us, but he was serious.
Then he told us his story of how he turned into a monk. But now it is almost midnight for me.