It would have been sheer cussedness to not be entranced by the Golf Estate sample unit. A scale model of the entire layout showed clumps of white-lit buildings, rising like glowing stalagmites from the midst of a 75-acre expanse of land. The grounds included a nine-hole golf course and 20 swimming pools—which, even to somebody who liked swimming pools, sounded excessive. The kitchens were stocked with Miele equipment (“the same people who did Barack Obama’s kitchen in the White House”, Rawat had said during our very first phone conversation), and the drawers had spoons and ladles in them. A plump copy of The Silver Spoon cookbook sat propped open on a stand, as if I had interrupted somebody in the act of making a soufflé. The bedrooms—three, all gorgeous—had books stacked on the bedside tables, titles so wildly out of the mainstream that they felt like genuine personal choices: Tom Bedlam by George Hagen and Wanting by Richard Flanagan, both of which, I would discover in an eerie coincidence, were described by New York Times reviewers as “Dickensian”.
Downstairs, in a cappuccino bar where Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Free Bird’ was being piped through ceiling speakers, Rawat poured me coffee, and I was introduced to Harsh and Anubhav, who have been working with M3M for the past year. Wearing shiny new suits, they both seemed to treat Rawat with a gentle disdain. Through the far window, Harsh pointed out that construction work on Golf Estate had begun six months earlier, but I could only see two desultorily built floors of a single block. Golf Estate still needed five-and-three-quarter towers, not to mention the clubhouse, the reversible golf course, the ice-skating rink and the other promised amenities, all to be built in the remaining two-and-a-half years. I couldn’t imagine how that would happen.
“There’s going to be an aqua gym here, and there’s a reflexology walk in the Merlin,” Anubhav said.
“Everything they see in Hollywood movies, they put in here,” Rawat said with a laugh. “Sometimes without knowing what they are!”
Anubhav and Harsh frowned. This was loose talk, they seemed to feel. Then Anubhav informed me that Merlin was named not after the Arthurian magician but after the Merlion, Singapore’s half-piscine, half-leonine mascot. “Because it will be Singapore-style living.”
They talked about the Merlion with such familiarity that I asked: “Have you gone to Singapore?”
“No,” Harsh admitted, and I felt wretched for having asked the question, as if I’d cheated in a game the rules of which I knew only too well. “Maybe we’ll ask M3M to take us there, as a reward, once this project is done.”
I lingered under the air-conditioning vent before stepping back into sun, waiting also for Rawat to finish a quiet conversation with Harsh before joining me. On the music system, there was a final crash of drums, then a few seconds of silence—and then the opening bars of ‘Free Bird’ again, the song on loop all day, an unchanging soundtrack in a landscape awaiting breathless change.