As Chennai’s skyline reaches for the clouds, Prince Frederick takes a look at life up there
Under the cloak of a name with Greek roots, any form of fear sounds cool. It seems to offer a justification for the fear, no matter how irrational. So, this is how I prefer to describe a recent experience, where I come to grips with not just one fear, but a battalion of them: I, an acrophobic (fearful of heights), am given the novel and challenging assignment of describing the mind of someone living very high up on a tall building, which leads to cainotophobia (fear of novelty and new challenges) and ultimately, catagelophobia (fear of being ridiculed).
On the 28th floor of Birchwood, one of the towers in Hiranandani Upscale at Egattur on OMR, I am gripped by catagelophobia as I tell Sowmya Sanjeev, the lady of the house, and her distant neighbours, the Kurups who live on the second floor, about how difficult it is for me to stand on the balcony of a tall building. Placing myself at a spot where I can enjoy a view without having to get too close to the railing, I explain to them that high open spaces, such as the summit of Mount Everest, don’t scare me one bit and it is only enclosed spaces high up that give me the heebie-jeebies.
The brave defence was needless. Because Sowmya says, “I would stand at the same spot a year ago when we moved into this flat. I loved the view, but was scared of standing near the railing. Inch by inch, I moved to where I am now.”
As the photographer clicks away, she is the picture of ease, leaning on the railing of the east-facing balcony and looking at the vast expanse of land below her, hemmed in by the sea. Together, the Buckingham Canal and a channel of backwaters weave an exquisite pattern, creating spits of water-locked green land.
Distance certainly lends enchantment to the view. At least, vertical distance does: a lily pond in the vicinity, which I watched from the balcony of Janardhana Kurup’s second-floor apartment only half an hour ago, is now pleasanter on the eyes.
Accustomed to having an arresting view of Chennai from the west-facing windows of their bedroom, Samiksha (7) and Samyuktha (4), the Sanjeevs’ two daughters, are said to be surprised whenever they see garbage on the streets. The Sanjeevs have moved in from the United States, where they lived in Connecticut.
For Murugan Nellayappan, living on the 26th floor of Seawood, another tower in the cluster, has influenced not just his perception of a city, but of life as a whole. He describes his mind: “I feel on top of the world. It helps me withdraw from the world and see things in their perspective. It has enhanced my thinking.”
Murugan, HR consultant, enjoys penning his thoughts, even if it is only to have the written sheets locked up in a cabinet.
His language borders on the poetic as he explains how the view, the wind, howling in a whacky manner, and the lack of vehicular noise make the mind expansive. “Whether you become a full-time writer or not, you become more creative and start appreciating Nature more than when you live closer to the ground.”
Having developed an eye for birds that fly at the level at which her floor is located, Sowmya could not agree with him more.
Even before moving to Egattur, Murugan has lived on a high floor. “I occupied a duplex apartment on the 15th and 16th floors at Arihant Majestic Towers in Koyambedu.” In the mid-2000s, Arihant Majestic Towers defined ‘high living’ for the people of Chennai.
“I want to go as high as possible. Here in Upscale, I took a 26th floor flat because I could not get one on the 28th or the 27th,” says the HR consultant.
For people like Murugan, immune to the fear of living too far from the earth, this is the best of times. Just visit Wikipedia for a list of the tallest buildings in Chennai, and you’ll know why.
Ouranya Bay in Padur by True Value Homes is reported to have 30-floor towers. Among tall residential buildings under construction are two towers in Upscale, one reportedly being built up to 45 floors and the other up to 36 floors; and Abov by Akshaya Homes in Padur with 38 floors. Among proposed/approved high rises in Chennai is the one by ADD Albatross, which will reportedly have a 50-floor tower.
However, for every Murugan, there will be a Janardhana Kurup who prefers to stay nearer earth. While admitting to being struck speechless by the view the higher floors afford, Kurup says, “For me, living on a higher floor is like living on an aeroplane.” He thinks living high up can cut you off from reality.
Murugan believes to the contrary, maintaining that those on the lower floors are missing out on a whole new world. He thinks those on the higher floors get to inhabit two worlds.
“The advantage of high-rise living is that you can withdraw to your solitude at those heights, and when you want to be with people, get down to the common areas and meet the neighbours. So, you get the best of both worlds,” is Murugan’s logic. He believes that in these days of “high-speed lifts and uninterrupted power backup”, the advantages of the higher floors dwarf the disadvantages.
On how to enjoy the view from the top from time to time, despite living on a lower floor, Kurup says, “You just have to make friends with those who live high up there, as I have.”
Source: The Hindu