New mansions come to Chettinad

This is what the area around a small pond in my parents' village used to look like:

And this is what it looks like now:

The five-story building that is coming up is being built by a nouveau-riche family who have built their fortune in the new India.  They do not live in the village of course -- they only visit. The arid villages of South India have never been the place to get rich. Even the original mansion that flanked the pond (and that has been recently repainted) was built out of fortunes created during the British empire (the trading network flanked as far away as Burma, Ceylon and Malaya). And if you go into the old mansions, you'll see Burmese teak, Ceylonese elephants and statues of the goddess Lakshmi flanked by British soldiers -- the traders knew who kept the peace that kept their networks humming.

As Burma, Ceylon, Malaya, Vietnam, etc. became independent, they threw the foreign Indian merchants out and the go-go era of mansion building in my parents' village ended. I used to think that the village was now forever stuck in the slow lane.

Seems not.

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