I sometimes get the impression that one of the few factors working to promote urban conservation in India is the glacial functioning of the country's courts. Property disputes can sometimes take a generation to get sorted once there's formal recourse to the law. I don't know the ins-and-outs of the dispute hinted at on the signboard above - but I get the impression that a row over property has had the effect of preserving the property that's being fought over.
This is not Chennai but Bangalore - the other principal city of South India, where I spent the weekend. It's perhaps the most happening city in South Asia - and Richmond Road is about as good an address as you can get in Bangalore. Yet no. 86 is an old, now slightly dilapidated, bungalow which seems strikingly out of place amid the swish high-rise blocks all around.
The style harks back to another era - the 1930s perhaps but it could be earlier. It's not particularly grand or pretty - but very few city centre examples of this humble style of vernacular architecture survive.
I am by no means the first to be attracted to this curious remnant of Bangalore's past. As long ago as 1978 a study of Baungalore's surviving bungalows selected this building as among those deserving of attention and record.
The survey was done by Dr Harimohan Pillai and I have taken the images below from the site of Archi-eStudio:
More than forty years later, what even then was an unlikely survival is still standing - and from the exterior at least, remarkably unchanged.
Syed Iqbal, whose name features above the door of the property, stood for election a couple of years ago - and in the assets declaration he was obliged to submit, the value of 86 Richmond Road was put at (wait for it!) a little more than 460 million rupees (that's about £5 million). That same declaration lists Mr Iqbal's principal occupation as real estate - and he's also an actor. He doesn't live here, however - or at least it wasn't his residential address at the time he was an election candidate.
And S.M. Muneer - the man who put up the 'no trespassers' board? Well, a certain Syed Mohammed Muneer was listed a couple of years ago as a full-time director of Alpine Housing Development Corporation Ltd, based in Bangalore.
Oh. and 86 Richmond Road was listed in 2018 as the HQ of Air Pushpak, which charters private jets on behalf of its clients. 'Air Pushpak charter guarantees your privacy, and we will work closely with your security provider on all aspects of your charter'.
Anyone know any more?
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