The Man from Madras Musings learns that those who built huge high-rises all along the sea coast, starting from San Thome and ending practically at the shore temple, are now a worried lot. Those who built on parallel stretches some distance inland are also sick as mud. Apparently most of the flats are empty causing these real estate punters who constructed them to suffer sleepless nights.

Opinion is divided as to why this should be so. After all, these places were promoted as Valhallas, Meccas, Edens and heavens on earth. So why is the public not flocking to the booking offices with open cheque books and pens on the ready? MMM is told that this is because of the economic recession which is causing the flat-buying populace to stick to its money like glue. Blame it on the Government, said a real estate baron to MMM.

There are, however, other stories doing the rounds. Those who have already unscrewed their pens and handed over their cheques feel that they did not get what they paid for. The Bs, Hs and Ks are there and so are the committed square feet of areas. But what of the other things that are needed to make these places close to heaven even though they may be high enough to be there already? Take for instance electricity. These structures being mostly in the mofussil, where power cuts are usually for most of the day, elevators don’t work and the residents are left feeling like the Grand Old Duke of York’s men who, if you recollect, marched up the hill and down again. And then there is water. Or the lack of it. The much needed liquid, which is now sold in sachets, bottles and barrels (and no, MMM is not writing of what you think it to be), is sadly not available on tap. The promoters had promised grade A water supply but there are days when even grade D is not available. Deep borewells have been dug, some at such depth that even lava from the earth’s core may come up but sadly no water. Enough to make the residents feel used.

That is not all, say these sick-as-mud and waterless pitiable specimens. In order to experience heaven, there have to be wide open spaces with rolling parklands, open skies and free flowing wind. All this and more was promised in the brochure and looked real enough while visiting the site before the buildings were put up. But the builders, like Noah, decided that two of every kind of flat and building was better than one and so put up twice the number of structures on the promised land. The result? Rolling parklands have been taken over by robust concrete. Open skies can be seen only using a periscope and wind is available only when the neighbour opens a window or two.

And then there is the aspect of maintenance. Nobody took these into calculation while signing but these do add up to quite a bit. How else to keep swimming pools, club houses and gymnasiums in the state to which they are accustomed. But several of those residents who don’t use these facilities (perhaps not being able to come down from their heavenly abodes due to lack of elevators or perhaps considering the hauling up of water as enough exercise) are asking as to why they need to pay up. The ground floor resident most often refuses to pay the elevator maintenance. The top floor owner thinks the terrace is his as a free add-on. Chennai has never been known for community spirit, or has it?

As in most things in our city, MMM came to the conclusion that there were clearly faults on both sides. But all this has made these promised heavens more hells on earth. It is no wonder that those who are canny are choosing to stay away from these blighted, sorry, these gated communities.