Paradox is the name of the game

Then for a while, Hollywood took over and we had new projects named Bel Air, Palo Alto and even Sunset Strip. All of which must have baffled but gratified its residents.
Image used for representational purposes only. (Photo | Pexels)
Image used for representational purposes only. (Photo | Pexels)

What’s in a name? A lot of aspirations, apparently. Before this becomes a scattershot viewpoint, let me specify that I’m talking only about names bestowed on buildings.  It began in a benign manner. Apartment blocks of modest-rise that came up beside a water body in a city invariably carried the moniker Lake View. Sometimes the builders grew bold and named their structures after a lone tree that stood on the lake’s shores. Well, the lake shrank, its banks receded and someone cut the tree, so the name of the building now carried an element of wistfulness. For those who remembered that tree, that is.

Then for a while, Hollywood took over and we had new projects named Bel Air, Palo Alto and even Sunset Strip. All of which must have baffled but gratified its residents. Most would not be able to trace the genealogy of the names or would have only a hazy idea of where Bel Air or Palo Alto is, but not what it was famous for (though it boggles the imagination what Palo Alto could be famous for) nevertheless, they were happy to reside in a place with such exotic nomenclature.

Because you are where you stay, at least in the bigger cities. The Sumukti apartments in Mayurganj never quite cuts it like Acrovista in a tonier part of the city. And never mind if you can’t quite remember or correctly pronounce the name. I totally get why builders bestow names on  buildings like Whispering Meadows (invariably pronounced Whispring Meedows), Rhapsody and Athene Terrace. In fact, mangle the name a bit and see the expression on your friend’s face change from perplexity to awe. The stranger the name of the place, the more plush it’s likely to be: maybe Malta marble instead of Italian, his and her WCs in the huge loo, a mirror on the ceiling above the gold filigree beds… the possibilities are endless.

What these aspirational apartment/villa/bungalow owners seem to be oblivious of are the sometimes grotesque mismatch between the area and the building coming up in the area. I have passed an Alps Residency standing smack in the centre of a dusty field, the grime faithfully adhering to the walls of the building. I have seen what can only be called Communist-era Brutalist buildings that carry names like Acropolis; a Wildflower Farm by the side of a dreadfully crowded street choked with traffic, dust and noise. 

I have seen the name Bijoux emblazoned on a cement block of apartments that made the aforementioned Brute architecture look positively luxurious. I have scratched my head over a vomit-yellow building named Serendipity, which stood on an unremarkable street, in an unremarkable part of town. I have seen a condominium named Still Waters with nary a ripple of water from a brook, stream, or even drain nearby; it would have had the late great architect Frank Lloyd Wright sue the builder, if the former wasn’t deceased. As for Dhruv’s Ecstasy, I’m too embarrassed to comment on it.

I’m not even going into pretentious names like Windchurn in my Brain, Where the Earth and Rain Meet, What Your Heart Desires. 

I often wonder if the inhabitants of suchly named buildings wince when they need to tell the Dunzo man where to deliver. But I have cheered loudly when passing a modest-sized apartment block that was called Poetic Meenakshi. Then again, we need to be reasonable. Would we really like to reside in a building named, in all honesty, Simple? Dreary? Duststorm Vista? Train View? By the Stormwater Drain? 

Mmm, I don’t think so. 

Sheila Kumar 


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