Is big always better? 
Not in the pursuit of happiness, says JAGVIR GOYAL
A large house is unsuitable for nuclear families. Get realistic, be practical and if need be, rework your house dreams

EVERYBODY dreams of building a house of their own. For most Indians, it is the ultimate dream. A city is zeroed in upon, a layout is in the mind and an imposing elevation with curves and slopes is chosen. And then comes the moment when it’s time for the dream to take off. Two things are required: Time and money. Resources are gathered, home loan availed, provident fund withdrawn and required money stashed away in a saving account. To get free time, a salaried man avails his accumulated leave, a businessman makes alternative arrangements while a retiree has all the time at hand. The two requirements fulfilled, the dream begins to take shape — first on the drawing sheet then on ground.

The dream

A BIG house with a big lobby where a small birthday party or religious gathering could be held, a large drawing room to impress the guests, at least four bedrooms — one master, one for each of the two children and one for the guests, but most people settle for three. The lady of the house no more wants the kitchen to be secluded and in a corner: It has to be open, artistic and big. Attached baths with every bedroom are essential, one or two equipped with bathtubs or shower cabins. Not only this, the second floor too is essential to serve as the wage earner in old age.

The reality

RAJ Walia was enjoying a good government accommodation when he realised he had just two years of service left. Like just about everyone, he too had always dreamt of owning a big house. He bought a plot and drew double-storey plans. Construction began and barring the usual hiccups, all went off well. In 14 months, his “big” house was ready. Naturally, Walia shifted.

Walias’ son and daughter were settled in Delhi and Bangalore. About three months later, a sudden loneliness began to engulf them. They felt like prisoners in their big house. Mrs Walia could not find company — she missed the community and the gossip, which were outlets to release pent-up feelings. Soon, it began to reflect on her face. Walia stuck to his routine of card games. Mrs Walia would keep waiting all alone. A sound on the upper floor would frighten her. She withered.

The house was large but guests were rare. It had to be kept clean and maintained at increasing expenses. After Walia’s retirement, these began to pinch more. Walias thought of hiring a permanent servant. However, a newspaper report about a servant who poisoned his masters scuttled the plan.

One day, Mrs Walia, while having evening tea with her husband, poured her heart out. Walia was shocked to hear her tales of loneliness and anguish. The decision to build such a big house was a wrong one, he realised. A large house was suited only for a joint family, he felt.

The advice

THERE are many amongst us like the Walias, who spend all their earnings on a big house and live a lonely and scared life. It is so difficult to sell a house built fondly and it is even more difficult to continue living there. The story holds some very important advice for those who are yet to build a house for themselves. Do keep in mind a few points:

Maintenance: With every passing day, house maintenance is becoming costlier and tedious. In cities, it is difficult to find a good plumber, carpenter, electrician or sewer-man. They are available but busy or charge very high. A large house means more maintenance problems, more cleaning chores and more painting expense every few years. So, choose a smaller house finished with fuss-free exteriors and take extra care of plumbing, sanitary and electrical works during construction.

Community: Choose your neighbourhood with care. Good neighbours are vital for a good, depression-free life. A secluded house is like a prison. A society house is much better than a sector house. There is a common community hall, a club and common area to have an evening stroll where people meet, have a talk and develop relations. Big-small house complex is absent. And in case of emergency, neighbourhood help is at hand.

Safety : Incidents of killing of old couples living in large houses are on the rise. Otherwise, you come back from a night marriage party and find your house ransacked. In group housing societies, your safety is an additional benefit. The gateman armed with an intercom is a suitable deterrent. Choosing window grills, strong tower bolts and locks rather than fancy ones and a few safety gadgets further helps.

Economic freedom: A big house eats up all your savings, puts you under debt, increases your maintenance expenses and curtails economic freedom. Other option is to choose a smaller house or flat, be loan-free, have a good bank balance and go about travelling and exploring the world. Somehow, man’s freedom is linked with economic freedom these days. So, choose to be economically free than having the pseudo-satisfaction of owning a big house.

Social acceptance: Identical housing design affects human psychology. All those living in a builder’s township in any one category of houses consider themselves at par, irrespective of official capacities. This is an important factor. Mutual relations develop and a community is built.

Choosing a group housing flat is, therefore, much better than having an independent palatial house unless you have a joint family. It offers a solution to maintenance problems, instantly gives you an extended family to sit and chat and saves a lot from the fortune you were going to spend on a big house. So go ahead, revise your home dreams. Happy building!

The author is deputy chief engineer, civil, PSEB. He can be reached at



Another first for Gurgaon:A 450-acre township 
Raju William

SYNONYMOUS with residential colonies till now, Gurgaon is set to break away from the trend. Soon, it will get its first-ever integrated township spread over 450 acres.

To be developed by Ramprastha, the township would boast of all modern amenities and infrastructure like schools, hospital, hotel, shopping mall, multiplexes, club, post office and even a temple. The residential part will include premium villas, penthouses, plotted row housing, group housing, apartment, low-rise building and clubs including gymnasium, swimming pool, tennis court and badminton court. 

CEO Ravi Lakhanpal claimed that the Ramprastha City would have an edge over any other real estate projects since it is located right opposite the Reliance SEZ near the Dwarka expressway and metro station and is just 15 minutes drive away from the Delhi airport and five minutes from the railway station. Other highlights besides its ideal location include vastu structuring, eco-friendly layout, adequate electricity with backup system and earthquake resistant structures. “With this pioneering real estate project, we expect to change the image of Gurgaon,” added Lakhanpal.  

Founded in 1970, Ramprastha has a presence in Delhi and Ghaziabad and recently forayed into Gurgaon. 



It’s now or next year! 
Monsoon is the best time to raid the local nursery to pick from fresh arrivals, writes Satish Narula

AVID gardeners are mostly aware of weekly, monthly or yearly operations, but amateurs, please pay attention: This is the only time of time of the year you must visit a nursery to buy plants. It is not that you do not find plants at other times, but during monsoon, almost all nurseries get fresh supplies. My observation is that every year, you may find one or the other ‘new introduction’ and if you want to be one-up, go ahead and try your luck!

The most common indoor flora may include Dieffenbachia, Dracaena, Monstera, Asparagus, Palms, a few Ficus species plants and so on. And, if you are content with these, you sure have no interest left in gardening. But that can never be, because once a gardener always one. Then what to look for and how?

The indoor plants you see around have undertaken a long journey from deep forests. Man’s quest has prompted him to find more and more new species. The collection of flora available is so rich that you can do up your garden with species of just one kind of plant! Let us talk about a few:

Asparagus is known to different people for different reasons — for a diet freak, its soft emerging terminals are used for making soup. Ayurvedic experts swear by its medicinal qualities while the elite homemaker feels proud in serving pan-fried asparagus using its roots. For a gardener, it is an ornamental plant suitable for growing in pots or training on light structures. The needle like lustrous deep green leaves are valued the most especially when the plant bears small gram sized deep red glossy seed balls. For all the above purposes, there are different kinds. Ask for something different and you will get Asparagus meyerii recognised by its ‘fox tail’ appearance. It is also known as Fox Tail asparagus. The ‘tails’ multiply at the base and seem to be emerging in large numbers from the same point in the pot. They are further multiplied by division of roots.

Ask for dracaena and cordylines and you will get more than a 100 different kinds, with colours ranging from green to various variegations of yellow, pink, red, cream and sprays of black, red and pink. Similarly, in the case of Monstera, ask for white variegation. You will find half to full sparkling white leaf in contrast with deep green. The plant keeps you guessing whether the next emerging leaf would be partial, half or fully white!

Philodendrons are one of the most successful indoor plants. You may find a vast range — more than a 100 species. Some of them have deep maroon foliage, very shining and ornamental. In contrast you may get deep golden yellow foliage. You know aspidistra, look for the variegated species. Shefflera is another common indoor plant but do you know there is one with lobed leaves and white variegation?

For such types of plants, you may have to pay a little more than the usual ones. Do not hesitate: After all you know you will impress your visitors with your unusual collection!

(This column appears fortnightly)



Luxury to get a new address in Ludhiana

The MBD Group has formally signed up with Radisson International for its Ludhiana venture slated to come up later in 2008.

MBD Neopolis, Ludhiana, is the first ever mixed use development having a shopping mall, multiplex and five star hotel all under one roof. Owned and managed by the MBD Group, it brags of the best retail and entertainment mix in the city. It will have 110 rooms with wi-fi connectivity and the best of international amenities, having a breathtaking view of either the beautifully landscaped gardens or the glistening swimming pool. It will also bring to the city its first night club, fine-dining restaurants, a salon and spa, bridge room and world-class banqueting and conference facilities for over 2,000 people.

“Driven by the group’s philosophy of quality, trust and professionalism, it is our endeavor to bring the best of international standards and trends in hospitality, retail and entertainment, so that Neopolis becomes the most preferred destination amongst the elite and affluent of Punjab,” says Sonica Malhotra, group executive director.

The group with hospitality and mixed-use developments in Noida, Ludhiana and Jalandhar, has similar plans in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Goa.

Oh, what a steel!

Ever wished for a tile derived from combining ceramic and steel? Well, do check out the Hilighter Steel range. Introduced by H & R Johnson, elegant steel designs are embossed on tiles to give a designer and rich look. Currently available in four designs, it can be used with other wall tiles to create a modern look.

The range offers endless possibilities for the creative at heart. Being highly resistant to oxidation and staining, this collection works best for bathrooms and kitchens. It is available in size 320 x 600mm. Prices start at Rs 400 per sq ft. The series is sure to inspire creative minds. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and bask in the glory of steel. — TNS



Echoes of the economic slump are being heard loud & clear in the real estate segment
Realtors seek greener pastures
S.C. Dhall

IN what may be termed as a tell-tale sign of the slump in the domestic property market, real estate developers are switching gears and eyeing overseas markets.

Leading the pack is DLF, the country’s largest real estate developer. According to its chairperson K.P. Singh, the property developer may build houses in Singapore and Malaysia, which have a large Indian population. Down but definitely not out, he said that in the meantime DLF would use cost-effective resources and work at higher levels of efficiency to beat the slump.

In the company’s annual general report of 2007-08, Singh said: “The financial year 2008-09 will be a challenging year for the company. The global liquidity and credit crises and inflationary pressures within the domestic economy would impact the business scenario.”

The company’s comments on the sector come at a time when most of the property developers are reeling under a cash crunch because of a drastic fall in property sales, a hike in lending rates, a crash in property stocks and curbs on lending to developers. The company would have to perform at higher levels of efficiency by garnering more cost-effective resources and working harder to sustain and enhance growth rates and increase the business.

Grappling with a slump in the property market, realty players are trying to diversify into new growth areas like power, hotels, hospital, roads, airport, entertainment and telecom. Companies like DLF, Unitech, Omaxe, Parsvanath, Mantri Realty have either initiated or announced their plans on new ventures. These companies are moving to areas where tax exemptions are available. With residential and office segments witnessing slower off-take, real estate companies are finding it necessary to foray into other activities.

After the announcement of DDA scheme of over 5,000 apartments, private developers in the national capital are in for tougher times as investors are betting on their chances of higher returns from cheaper DDA flats. 



Few takers for luxury housing

Portal, which has been keenly observing site activity across cities in the country, observed that in Chandigarh, the demand for properties above Rs 75 lakh grew least from March to July 2008.

As compared to a 47 per cent increase in demand for properties in the Rs 20–75 lakh segment, the demand for housing in luxury segment (above Rs 75 lakh) has risen by only 18 per cent. The trend clearly indicates that people are looking for affordable housing and the downturn has further inclined them towards properties in the mid-priced segment.

Aditya Verma, business head,, adds, “With the increase in demand for overall properties, the heat of the economic slowdown can be clearly felt in high-end property segments. Chandigarh is an important market for us, and the trend is similar to what’s happening across the country. Economic slump has pushed a person to become cautious. As and when the cloud over the economy lifts, we will see change.” — TNS



Tax tips
S.C. Vasudeva

Q. I am a senior citizen aged 76 and a retired pensioner filing my I-T returns regularly. I sold 50 per cent portion of my 6¼-marla built house in Chandigarh for Rs 21 lakh as per registry on January 7, 2008. I purchased the same house in 1971 for Rs 40,000, as per registry. In lieu of the sale of the said house, I purchased an 8-marla plot at Jalandhar for Rs 6.6 lakh. But I have not started construction yet, though I have paid about Rs 80,000 for transfer of plot, site plan, non-construction fee in advance etc. The balance amount is in a separate saving bank account exclusively. I am not aware of price index. In view of the said position, kindly advise whether I am to pay my income tax since I am yet to file my return for the financial year 2007-08.

— Joginder Singh

A. You have stated that the house was purchased in 1971 for Rs 40,000. For the purposes of computing the capital gain on the sale of said house, fair market value as on April 1, 1981 will have to be determined. The fair market value as on January 1, 1981 can be estimated by an approved valuer. After the same is ascertained, the said value shall have to be indexed by adopting index for the financial year 2007-08. The notified index for the said year is 551. Presuming that the fair market value as on April 1, 1981 is Rs 2 lakh, the indexed cost would work out as under:

2,00,000 x (551/100) = 11,02,000

The sale price being Rs 21 lakh, capital gain would be Rs 9.98 lakh. The capital gains tax thereon would be chargeable @ 20% plus education cess of 3%.

Q. In reply to a query that appeared on August 4, you had pointed out that a NRI cannot acquire agricultural land in India. Recently, after my parent’s death, I inherited a very large acreage of agricultural land in India. Can I hold on to it? Further, I may like to dispose off the same in the near future. Will such land be exigible to capital gains tax in India?

— R. S. Kainth

A. The Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999 restricts buying of agricultural land in India by an NRI, but not holding land that has been inherited. So, no problem. Taxability of capital gain earned on sale of agricultural land would depend upon its location. If it is situated within the municipal area or within certain kilometers of municipal limits as notified by the Government of India, capital gains tax would become leviable. The tax would be long-term and taxable @ 20% of the capital gains plus education cess @ 3% thereon. If the capital gain arising on sale of land is over Rs 10 lakh, surcharge @ 10% on tax would be also leviable.

Family Matters

Q. We are six brothers and have got ancestral agricultural land from our father and uncle (real brother of father). We three are married and have children while the other three are unmarried. Our father and uncle also purchased some portion of land in our names. Now, the three unmarried brothers have willed their portion to the children of two brothers, leaving out my children. The whole land is still common. Now my questions are:

* Can the ancestral property be willed? If it is willed can it be challenged and land be divided to the heir as per Hindu Succession Act?

* The portion of land purchased in the name of sons by father and uncle be treated as ancestral property or self-acquired when the sons had no individual source of income but the land was purchased by agriculture income.

— Resham Singh

A. The answer to your queries is as under:

The Hindu Succession Act, 1956, refers to a joint Hindu family property and provides for the rules of succession in connection therewith. Presuming that the ancestral property referred to in your query is a joint Hindu family property, the same cannot be a subject matter of will by any co-parcener of the family. He can however, make a will in respect of his share in such a property. According to Explanation to Section 6 of the aforesaid Act, the interest of a co-parcener shall be deemed to be share in the property that would have been allotted to him if a partition of the property had taken place immediately before his death. Accordingly, in my view, it should be possible to challenge the action of your brothers if the will has not been made in respect of their own share in the joint family property.

In case the land has been purchased in the name of sons with the funds of the joint Hindu family, the same should have the character of a joint Hindu family property only. 

This column appears weekly. The writer can be contacted at