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LBS Marg at Kurla, Mumbai. December 2019.

Coronavirus and Language in Mumbai

Let us virtually defy the lockdown and allow our imagination to journey north on LBS Marg (seen above in the Kurla segment). As we approach Mulund (the edge of the world for south Mumbaikers), a slew of new residential developments will accost us. In the second half of the last financial year, more than 5,000 apartments were completed and made available for sale. To use colloquial lingo, the flats were “launched.” (I highly doubt they have gone anywhere, so don’t panic)

5,000 of any thing in the market means one thing: advertisement, advertisement, advertisement. Many of the residential units are now being marketed based on old-world, pre-Coronavirus principles. Take, for example, this article title from “Construction Week Online” published on 18 March 2020:

Increased connectivity, social infrastructure, to drive housing market in Mumbai’s central suburbs

In the matter of a few months, “increased connectivity” has morphed from a salient feature, into a death threat. “Social infrastructure” has become a hot potato — maybe good if you let it cool and eat it (unless, like me, you are on keto), but maybe bad if you allow it to burn your hands.

And, no joke, the first line of the article reads as follows:

The changing landscape of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region has ensured the rise of prime residential hotspots…”

Hotspots” have morphed from a vague appeal to wealthy egos, into policed prisons, internment camps for the positive among us. According to the Hindustan Times, a hotspot is a zone where residents are not allowed out of their houses, and essential goods are hand-delivered. To zoom in a bit on the terminology, a hotspot (there are 200 in Mumbai as of 10 April 2020) is located within a containment zone (there are 381 in Mumbai as of 10 April 2020).

All of this points to a new reality: Coronavirus is changing language. It is and will continue to bend and break the meaning of words, and the values applied to them. Advertising will change, it has to change, because nobody will buy an apartment in a “residential hotspot with increased connectivity.” Like the air traffic situation over India at the moment, it just won’t fly.

In the months and years to come we will be forced to pick and choose our words (and friends) more carefully, and to value them more. Honestly, I can’t contain my excitment, but the police and Chief Minister say I have to, so I better.

Written by

Robert Stephens

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