House is not man’s home

MUMBAI, India – When the richest man in India completed his extravagant 27-story house here last year, it incited a public debate along the lines of “What’s he trying to prove?”  

Now, the chatter involves a different question: Why hasn’t he moved in?  

The owner, Mukesh Ambani, and his spokesman have declined to discuss the matter, leaving plenty of room for theories. One popular explanation is that despite the time and money lavished upon it, the building does not conform to the ancient Indian architectural doctrine known as vastu shastra. Certainly the home – which is called Antilia and according to Indian news reports has three helipads, six floors of parking and a series of floating gardens – looks lived in.
At night, the cantilevered tower is lit up bottom to top, inside and out. Members of the city’s moneyed class report having attended movie screenings in the theatre and eaten dinners in the grand ballroom, served by a staff trained by the luxury Oberoi hotel chain. Yet, friends of the family say that after the last canapes have been served and the guests have bidden goodbye, the Ambanis often decamp to Sea Wind. That is the more modest, 14-storey apartment tower at the south end of the city that Ambani, his wife, Nita, and three children share – on different floors – with his mother and his estranged younger brother, Anil, and Anil’s family.
When does Mukesh Ambani plan to move into Antilia?
“I have asked him the question twice,” said a friend who has attended several parties there. He asked not to be identified for fear of ruining his relationship with Ambani, whose net worth Forbes has estimated at $27 billion.
 

“He said, ‘Yes, we’ll go next month. Let it be done.’ They don’t talk about it.”  

Another close family friend confirmed that the Ambani family did not live at Antilia but said members did sleep there “sometimes.” This friend, who also asked not to be identified to avoid offending Ambani, had no explanation. Tushar Pania, a spokesman for Ambani’s company, Reliance Industries, dismissed questions about whether the family was living at Antilia as idle gossip. “It’s a private home. There is no reason to discuss it in public,” he said.
He said the family had moved in, but when asked whether the family still lived at Sea Wind, he revised: “They live in both places.” But why would someone build what is widely considered the world’s most expensive private residence and then use it as a pied-a-terre?
 

Some friends, business associates and Ambani watchers offer the vastu shastra explanation, which gained wider currency earlier this year when DNA, an English-language newspaper in Mumbai, published an article about it citing “sources in the know.”
Vastu, a philosophy that is particularly significant in Hindu temple architecture, emphasizes the importance of directional alignments that create spiritual harmony. Many Hindus believe that living in a building not built according to vastu principles brings bad luck.

Basannt R. Rasiwasia, a vastu expert whose clients include prominent businessmen and their families – although not Ambani – said Antilia appeared to run afoul of one of the key principles of vastu: The building’s eastern side does not have enough windows or other openings to let residents receive ample morning light.