| The New York Tower in Ahmedabad. Picture by Binu Alex
Ahmedabad, July 3: Every time Parul Mehta meets a new client in the US, her office address in Ahmedabad causes amusement.
“So there is a Wall Street in Ahmedabad'’’ she is always asked.
The chief operating officer of Motif India Infotech Pvt Ltd has to explain it’s not a street. Wall Street is the name of the building from where she runs her call centre with husband Kaushal Mehta.
Parul, a computer engineer who worked in California before she and Kaushal returned to Ahmedabad to set up Gujarat’s first BPO outfit in August 2000, is embarrassed at fellow Gujaratis’ fascination with all things American, especially names.
But to Pranesh Fultharia, a leading city developer, it makes good business sense to exploit the craze and “name our commercial complex as New York Tower, New York Plaza, New York Trade Centre or New York Corner”.
“This is because every Gujarati loves the US, its cities ' everything American. America sells,” he says. “Besides ‘New York’ is an upmarket brand name; it’s also easy to remember.”
Fultharia first visited America in 1998, four years after he built the New York Trade Centre on Sarkhej-Gandhinagar highway, which is today dotted with swanky shopping malls and multiplexes and has become a hub of business and trade.
When Tej Patel named his building Wall Street, sometime in 1996, it was because the Ahmedabad stock exchange was supposed to be relocated there. That didn’t happen but the building became a landmark.
About 15 lakh Gujaratis ' equal to the population of Vadodara city ' live in America. And America is where every Gujarati wants to go at some point of their life, says Parul.
Today, every inch of the upmarket Satellite area bears the stamp of that fascination, in its Atlanta Tower, Silicon Valley, White House, Orchid Park, Cosmos Castle ' even in its NRI Tower.
No wonder, Gujarat is often jokingly called the 51st state of America.
Ironically, Fultharia, one of those responsible for brazenly this American influence, happens to be wedded to the ideology of the Sangh parivar, which claims to protect Indian culture.
“The US is a reference point for us Gujaratis,” says sociologist Guarang Jani. “Our inherent character is that we are superficial, overtly flashy and we accept everything in the name of modernity and America.”