At first glance, it looked like the menu card of a five-star restaurant. Thick, rich and ornate card paper had been used to produce the brochure that Harish Patel held in his hand. The printing ink was obviously the best available. But what really registered was the appealing visual and caption on the cover. ‘OWN A HOME IN PARADISE’ invited the caption in scrolling, royal blue letters, and the photograph below it really did bring to mind visions of Heaven.
Never had HP seen a more attractive picture. The building that it showcased was absolutely breathtaking, with clean lines and sweeping arches. The compound before it was spotlessly neat, with fresh concrete and tar interspersed perfectly by picturesque trees. Sparkling cars were parked in an orderly fashion in the spacious parking lot. A swimming pool with crystal clear water was visible in the background.
Harish Patel, an intrepid never-say-die entrepreneur from Surat who had recently made Pune his home, felt his heart ache with longing. He currently lived in a shabby rental flat in a rather down-market part of the city, but HP had always sensed something very human within himself… he longed for his own home. A place to put down his roots and maybe even launch his own extension of the already immense Patel clan.
He had found this brochure stuck under his doorstep this morning, and supposed that a roaming marketing executive had put it there. He looked more closely at it, wondering why only nubile foreign women were to be seen relaxing at the poolside. Was this a real estate brochure or a foreign travel prospectus? But the caption clearly said that this was a deluxe residential complex at Wanowrie called Jadootona Heights, built by Bhrashtachar Bandhu Promoters & Developers. Still totally captivated by the beauty of the visual, he opened the brochure and checked out the specifications and amenities.
The list was very impressive, fully promising him the luxury of a Presidential Suite at the Taj Intercontinental for the price of a two bedroom flat. HP looked around the cramped confines of his rental flat. No, he decided, I need more than this. I deserve a REAL home, just like this brochure says. However, he thought better of visiting the office of the developers in question. Instead, he turned the brochure over and checked out the name of the advertising agency that had conceived and printed this masterpiece of visual appeal. The agency’s name was Bolbachan Boulevard, located at Nal Stop. He decided to pay them a visit.
Half an hour later, he walked into their fifth-floor office. ‘BOLBACHAN BOULEVARD’ said the sign on the door. Under it was the cryptic message – ‘EXPERT PROMISES SINCE 1976’. An attractive receptionist with streaked red hair and green fingernails smiled up at him from behind a glass-and-chrome reception desk. This did not mean anything to HP – ever since he had arrived in Pune, he had learned that attractive receptionists are standard equipment in most business offices.
“Yes, sir? Can I help you?” she asked. Her fake American accent reminded HP of a call center girl he had met a few months ago, but she seemed friendly and helpful.
“Maybe…I hope so,” replied HP, holding out the brochure of Jadootona Heights. “This brochure was prepared by your agency, right?” The girl threw a cursory glance at it and nodded. “This and hundreds of others like it,” she said.
HP had come here with the idea of asking some honest questions about the project, but something told him that this was a wrong place for honest answers – instead, his native cunning took over. He remembered something his father had told him in Surat long ago – “Son, in this world, don’t expect to get at the truth by honest means”. So he decided on a different approach.
“Well, I must say it is a very professional job. The company who contracted you for it must be quite happy with it.” The receptionist smiled through painted lips.
“Oh, yes, sir. Bhrashtachar Bandhu Developers are long-standing clients of ours. In fact, we have an extensive list of prominent clients from the real estate line – may I give you a copy?”
“Oh, that won’t be necessary,” replied HP. “I’ll take your word for it. The fact is, I’m planning to launch of small residential project of my own by next year, and would like to have it advertised in the best possible way. This brochure is very impressive, and I decided to approach your agency to make one for my project.”
The receptionist nodded confidently. “You have come to the right place, sir. Did you say it will be a small project? No problem… we are very good at making small things look big. Will it be an ultra-luxurious undertaking?”
HP shook his head sadly. “No, I’m afraid not. I’m on a very small budget. But I’m sure that you can do something about that?”
“No problem at all, sir,” she assured. “We have expert copywriters who can make a Dharavi slum tenement sound like Buckingham Palace. They are very good at their work, and have fancy-sounding names for the most common things. ‘Flat’ becomes ‘Apartment’. ‘Watchman’ becomes ‘Professional Security Personnel’. ‘Open Space’ becomes ‘Amphitheater’. ‘Mud Path’ becomes ‘Jogging Track’. ‘Clubhouse’ becomes ‘Entertainment and Recreation Complex’. ‘Shower stall’ becomes ‘Personal Hygiene Unit’. You will not be disappointed, sir.”
Despite his growing horror, HP was impressed. You could say what you wanted about the agency’s ethics, but Bolbachan Boulevard was certainly professional. He decided to clear one remaining doubt. “I was also hoping for some effective photographs. Frankly, my project is not at a very good location, and…”
“Sir…,” interrupted the receptionist with a confident smile, “…with us at your service, you don’t NEED a good location. If your project does not show up well on a photograph, we have graphic artists who can come up with drawings that will fix that.”
“But I can’t afford to pay for beautiful foreign models….”
“Models? Who needs models, sir?” she asked. “We can get all the bikini-wearing foreigners we need from the Internet. As I told you, sir, you can leave it to us.”
Harish Patel thanked the helpful girl, assured her that he would be in contact, and walked out into the sunshine. He thanked God for inspiring him to make this visit instead of impulsively putting his money down on a flat at Jadootona Heights. His rental flat had seemed like a cramped and unappealing place to call home.
Now, HP knew that ‘ambience’ is just another name from a copywriter’s pen.