Showing off riches A new fad in India

How do you communicate new wealth? Rachna Bisht-Rawat finds that, in a bid to show off their millions, people are blowing up obscene amounts of money on gizmos, gadgets, sexy cars and private yachts.

When Chandigarh-based businesswoman Renee Garewal is ready for work each morning, she takes a few minutes to decide which of her two BMW cars she will take out  —the black X5 or the white sedan.

A Ludhiana-based industrialist has created newspaper headlines by ordering 11 solitaire diamond rings, worth Rs. 1.5 lakh each, to gift to guests at his daughter’s wedding this month.

Film star Saif Ali Khan recently refused to divulge the price of the shoes he was wearing, saying they cost an “obscene amount.”  

A  growing breed of rich Indians have a lot of money to spend and they are not hesitating to flaunt a lifestyle  that only deep pockets can buy.  They are breathing nonchalantly on their manicured fingernails, flicking invisible lint casually off their designer suits and saying: “Look at me baby, I’m rich.” The rest of us can only gape in awe.

If you want to see the  most expensive house in the world, it stands right there in Mumbai, scraping the sky at 570 feet, dwarfing all its other landmarks. Mukesh Ambani’s Antilla is twice as high as existing buildings and considerably alters the skyline. Looking like a dozen fat books  stacked up in an untidy pile, it is not just Antilla’s lack of looks making people go giddy.

At a jaw dropping $1 billion, it becomes the most expensive residence in the world. Obviously built keeping people like the great Khali in mind, it has just 27 roomy floors in spite of being as tall as a 60- storeyed building. And, proud owner Mukesh Ambani can happily give giants, giraffes and the Himalayan Yeti a walk through.

If you are curious to know just how many people will be staying there — the magic number is six, — which includes the man himself, his wife Nita, mother Kokilaben, three children and a modest 600-person staff to attend to their needs.

Besides roof-top landing space for three helicopters, the house has a health club, a gym, a dance studio, a ballroom, guestrooms, numerous lounges, a 50-seat screening room, an elevated garden and underground parking for 160 vehicles. And no, he is not going to use it as an office. Just his private space. You can close your mouth now. He’s a rich guy!

Showing just how loaded you are seems to be in fashion. And, opulent lifestyles are not restricted to the fourth richest man in the world (yes, that’s  Ambani). Though recently, Forbes magazine predicted that he would overtake Slim as the world’s richest person in 2014.

Last year, a richie rich family in Ludhiana gifted seven BMW cars to the bridegroom’s family members at the milni ceremony at a wedding, where the bride’s family meets the bridegroom’s and gifts are exchanged. This month, in the same city, another rich dad is gifting 11 solitaires worth Rs. 1.5 lakh each to the close family members of the bridegroom.

This is, of course, chicken feed if you look at Vijay Mallya. Any talk of extravagance is incomplete without mentioning the liquor baron, who has made bombastically opulent lifestyle a personal style statement.

Mallya’s Delhi house is just a reflection of his personality. Done in a rich gold Moroccan theme, it displays paintings of Pablo Picasso and Raja Ravi Varma. He has houses across the world and likes to do them in different themes.

On his son’s 16th birthday, he launched Kingfisher Airlines. The list of  his possessions runs long. Not only does he own a scotch whiskey brewery, a Formula One racing team and an airline, he also owns the Sword of  Tipu Sultan and some of Mahatma Gandhi’s personal belongings. He picked up the Royal Challengers Bangalore cricket team at an auction paying $111.6 million. He also placed the winning bid of £175,000 for the sword of Tipu Sultan at an auction in London and brought it back to India.

In March 2009, he picked up some of Mahatma Gandhi’s belongings for $1.8 million in a New York auction after the Indian government could not stop it from going under the hammer. He is also an avid car collector with 20 beauties in his possession besides a personal yacht.

When we discuss rich Indians how can we forget Lakshmi Narayan Mittal, chairman and chief executive officer of ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel company. Mittal is the richest man in Europe and the fifth richest in the world with a personal wealth of $28.7 billion. He bought his 18-19 Kensington Palace Gardens residence from Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone in 2004 for £57 million ($128 million), making it the world’s most expensive house at that time. The house is decorated with marble taken from the same quarry that is said to have supplied the Taj Mahal.

The extravagant show of wealth has been referred to as the Taj Mittal. It has 12 bedrooms, an indoor pool, Turkish baths and parking for 20 cars.
However, we suspect a certain Ambani would probably find it a bit claustrophobic!

Mittal has bought two more prime properties in the same locality for his son Aditya and daughter Vanisha, so altogether he owns three prime properties collectively worth £500 million on the “Billionaire’s Row” at Kensington Palace Gardens.

We’ll leave the rich guys with their towering houses; their diamond studded cell phones, their private yachts, their designer clothes, their hand-stitched leather shoes and their costly cars. And, as they use watches buried so deep inside piles of diamonds, we will just jealously hope that they take so long to check time that they miss their flights! But that wouldn’t really matter, would it? Because, there’s probably a private jet plane waiting in their personal aerodrome…

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