25 June 2006

New Indian property boom?

A revival for colonial style property in India is reported by the Peninsula, Qatar's English daily:

"Himalayan hill stations built by British colonial officers to shelter them from the fierce Indian summer and remind them of home are to be restored to their former glory by a new generation of middle-class Indians eager to savour a similar lifestyle. Government officials in Himachal Pradesh, home to some of the most evocative Raj summer towns, including Simla, Dalhousie and McLeod Ganj, have lifted a ban on outsiders owning homes. Property developers and members of Delhi’s increasingly affluent middle classes are queuing up to restore the faded grandeur of Himachal Pradesh’s many Victorian summer houses, and to build new bungalows based on original designs.

The rehabilitation of one of the most enduring symbols of colonial domination reflects the increasing confidence of India’s middle classes and a previously suppressed admiration for the style in which the British lived. Prices are rising fast. A three-bedroom bungalow in need of some restoration will fetch about £70,000, while a 10-bedroom house recently sold for £300,000.

Hill stations such as Simla and Darjeeling in the north-east were “discovered” in the mid-19th century by British officers who saw them as ideal family summer retreats from the heat and dust of the plains. Gothic churches with stained glass windows were built along with schools, racecourses, cricket grounds and private clubs for officers, tea planters and their wives. From 1864 to independence in 1947, Simla was India’s summer Capital. Admirers argue over whether the British were trying to recreate home counties England or Highland holiday towns. Many houses have features of both. What made them different were the verandas, where the colonials would recline on teak and cane chairs, sipping a gimlet (gin and lime) as they looked out over the snow-capped peaks of the high Himalayas."

Full article here.

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