‘Everyone has a jet’ : Scenes from the new New Delhi
July 24, 2009 1:33 PM   Subscribe

There is nothing superficial about brands in contemporary Delhi. This is a place where one’s social significance is assumed to be nil unless there are tangible signs to the contrary, so the need for such signs is authentic and fierce.

Douchebaggery rating: 10.0/10.0= PERFECT DOUCHEBAGGERY!
posted by hal_c_on at 1:39 PM on July 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

Truth collides with fiction. Sounds like a story straight out of The White Tiger.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 1:56 PM on July 24, 2009

‘You have to have at least, like, a BMW or a Mercedes to join ... "

I laugh!
posted by Relay at 2:03 PM on July 24, 2009

I wonder how the down home billionaire Warren Buffett would fit in with these guys. ;) He bought his home in 1958 for $31K and still lives in it. I think he does have a Cadillac though.
posted by caddis at 2:06 PM on July 24, 2009

Was $31k a lot back then? I always hear about the $2k houses Back In The Day.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:22 PM on July 24, 2009

As someone who was born and spent 21 years in New Delhi, I can tell you that this article is extremely accurate. And it captures the essence of what it is to be in New Delhi. Thanks very much for this!
posted by prufrock at 2:23 PM on July 24, 2009

$31,000 in 1958 is about $220,000 in 2008 dollars.
posted by anifinder at 2:25 PM on July 24, 2009

Cool, I have a 1987 BMW 325i back at home! That means I'm in, right?
posted by hellojed at 2:27 PM on July 24, 2009

hellojed: Cool, I have a 1987 BMW 325i back at home! That means I'm in, right?

You are in, my friend! You are so in. Just let us know when we can weld this giant chainsaw wang wangsaw to the front grill to demonstrate authentic fierceness! Haw!
posted by Kikkoman at 2:46 PM on July 24, 2009

This is a place where one’s social significance is assumed to be nil unless there are tangible signs to the contrary,

I understand how this happens, and I totally get how this could become perpetuated, but hell, I dress like a slob most of the time and drive a crappy car, I'd be an absolute outsider.

So... maybe I shouldn't go there.

Pity about that, actually. I've heard it's a really fun city.
posted by quin at 2:49 PM on July 24, 2009

Great article. Capitalism will eat itself, and us all.
posted by lalochezia at 2:54 PM on July 24, 2009

This is a place where one’s social significance is assumed to be nil unless there are tangible signs to the contrary,

In the states, that marks the difference between old money and new money. New money is flashy and fun, albeit obnoxious.

Old money dresses in slightly frayed jackets and has dog blankets in the back seat of the beat up chevrolet.

Does India have anything like the second example?
posted by IndigoJones at 3:00 PM on July 24, 2009


Yes, "Anglicanized" professional class the author interviews over the first couple pages, who loathe the new money.

Interestingly, it appears that this Indian old money lacks powerful enough norms or prestige to cause the new money to seek its approval, so it has essentially been left behind... it doesn't seem to have exclusive country clubs filled with old families or whatever that the new money has to bow and scrape to be admitted to.
posted by Spacelegoman at 3:21 PM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Austentatious displays of wealth in India? Why is that surprising? Have you ever seen pictures of the Taj Majal?
posted by wendell at 3:24 PM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Real-estate mafias grabbed country houses in Haryana and employed senior policemen to silence the owners by filing false criminal charges against them. In Uttar Pradesh, they forced farmers and tribal communities to sell them their land under threat of violence, employed the local police to clear the residents off, and sold it on at a large profit.
It's Free Market Heaven!

Indigo Jones, there are hints of that toward the end:
You see, there are two kinds of rich. There are people who’ve had money for a long time and they don’t give a fuck who you are. They’ll be nice to you anyway. Like I’m nice to people. You may get bored being around them, because all they talk about is how they’ve just got back from Cannes or St-Tropez, but they won’t kick you out.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:24 PM on July 24, 2009

My 1976 BMW 2002 would definitely be right at home with this crowd.
posted by saladin at 3:32 PM on July 24, 2009

Back in Brazil I knew a lot of upper middle class people (make a lot of money, but still have to work for it) that would commute in beaters (talking about 1980 Ford Pinto here) to avoid being kidnapped. That was right before the bullet-proofing fad.

It's also sad that bimmers get associated with flashy douchebaggery, because, status aside, they are awesome cars to drive.
posted by qvantamon at 3:43 PM on July 24, 2009

Oh, funny fact - I've heard from Indian coworkers that in the Indian branch they get way more applications to Program/Project Manager than Engineering (compared to the US), because having "manager" in your title gives you a higher status, and, for example, could land you a better marriage.
posted by qvantamon at 4:07 PM on July 24, 2009

very interesting article, thx for posting. as a konkani w/ relatives in goa it was interesting to read that goa is where the old rich are moving!
posted by jcruelty at 7:32 PM on July 24, 2009

A combination of everyone only carrying mutual mistrust of each other;
A lack of basic civic sense, which is never taught;
Failure of lawmakers to make good laws and the executive to follow them let alone enforce them (cops are amongst the worst drivers in this city, because they believe laws are for civilians);
continuing post-colonial hangups about sahibs and servants;
A cultural willingness to grovel before even the smallest of authority;
...and just STAGGERING sums of new money both black and white, being employed in a rebellion against the forced penury, powerlessness and global disconnection of 40+ years of socialism.

I was born here in Delhi, have been coming and going for years, and the one constant is that Delhiites just don't seem to like each other very much. The only way to live any kind of comfortable life here is to live in some sort of Cinderella fantasy land that is as physically and socially disconnected from the rest of the city as possible. With all the new money, Delhi is of course now swamped with these castles and their staff, trappings and retail-happy princelings.
posted by vanar sena at 8:20 PM on July 24, 2009

It's also sad that bimmers get associated with flashy douchebaggery, because, status aside, they are awesome cars to drive.

Indeed. BMW needs to buy a Skoda of their own. A subsidiary that builds cars that are just as good as the parent company's, just not as flashy. That way, those who want a status symbol can buy a BMW and those who want just a good car can buy a Wartburg or whatever.
posted by Authorized User at 9:03 PM on July 24, 2009

well, there's always the Mini Cooper, it was designed by BMW, but built in the UK. I have one, a 2002 S, it's fun to drive, has some nice gizmos, and didn't break my wallet (I always buy used).
posted by Blackanvil at 6:52 PM on July 25, 2009

A great article. That interview with MC was staggering, he really took a left turn with:
"‘The UP police intercepted communications about a plan to kidnap me, and they told my father. People want money and they think of the easiest way, which is to take it from someone who has it. They can’t do anything constructive themselves so they think short term. We need more professionalism in India. More corporate governance. Then we’ll show the entire world.’"
"‘Why should Wal-Mart come in here? I don’t mind Gucci and Louis Vuitton – they do nothing to disturb the social fabric. But keep Wal-Mart out of here. We were under slavery for seven hundred fucking years. We’ve only been free for sixty. Give us another thirty and we will buy Wal-Mart. I tell you, I was at a party the other day and I had my arms round two white people and I suddenly pushed them away and said, Why are you here? We don’t need you guys any more.’"
posted by joecacti at 10:20 AM on July 27, 2009

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