After the past week’s hectic write-ups on Istanbul, I seem to be running out of steam now. It’s one of those days you realize life isn’t a dream run and all sorts of irritating nitty gritty problems are constantly in your way. A project that has run aground, a phone call that didn’t go through, errands yet to be run, etc.
The most irritating of all has been the run in with the management office in our apartment complex regarding a window frame we want to replace in the front elevation of my mother’s new apartment in Gurgaon’s Vipul Greens. I have very strong reasons for wanting to replace this large frame. Safety is a big concern for a ground floor home and the current frames are poor in quality. Dust proofing our homes is a dire necessity in Gurgaon, since our summers involve withstanding dust storms with terrifying wind speeds. Noise reduction is needed on a ground floor apartment, especially since it is near the generator set for the complex.
I have taken care to ensure I match the design and color of the existing frame as far as possible. However, a change in material from aluminum to UPVC necessarily entails a change in the shade of brown and a different thickness of frame.
The facility management office has given us hell over this issue. We’ve written applications, met someone higher up at the builder’s corporate office, done all the processes that make sense. But its a stand off now, involving immeasurable judgements about right and wring, appropriateness and deviation.
Meanwhile, many other apartment owners have gone ahead and changed frames all over their homes, using UPVC in white and even blue tinted reflective glass. Am I to assume they were harassed in the same way and eventually permitted to do this? Or did they just go ahead and get really aggressive? Is there bribery involved here? I don’t know, but I cannot figure out why a builder would have a negative attitude towards a home owner who is actually improving her own home at her own cost, without significantly messing the look of the building in any way.
I also wonder how long the current frames will last. The bolting and latching mechanisms are so poor, they are failing across the complex. The facility management office charges residents Rs 300-350 to replace a single latch! I call that looting, considering they put up these ridiculously inadequate doors themselves. So when these poor quality frames live out their lives, how will they stop residents from replacing them with whatever they like?
The larger question to me, though, is this idea of restriction. As long as no one is violating rules related to safety (covering fire escape areas, cantilevering a room out), why should apartment owners not be permitted customization? Customizing a home is intrinsic to human nature. It denotes a feeling of ownership and builds a stronger community, in my opinion, and is strongly linked with identity and pride. People use grills in different designs and that is considered fine in most places. Similarly, people use interesting garden furniture, hang wind chimes, etc. Door frames are a minor extension of this urge to improve and personalize our space. Within a broad and clear framework of rules, all these modifications should be permitted. When did we evolve this strange aesthetic idea that uniformity is pretty? And why has real estate targeted to high-income groups made such an enormous virtue of this concept? Uniform, cookie cutter boredom is desirable, while customization is for the riffraff living in the slums (or the DDA flats, which is what this guy here at the office spewed out to us so insultingly, while citing his reasons for not letting us make this change!). In Nirvana Country, close to where I live, many expensive villas are being broken down and reconstructed. A high-end villa development not a decade old is seeing significant redevelopment. Because people want to live their own special way, not the way someone else decides they must!