Kaiser the Puppy and the Rising Middle Class in India

Three days ago, we pulled up in front of an art deco gate and half-abandoned mansion on the property of a soon-to-be new RAXA Collective resort. By ‘we’ I mean the design team comprising of an architecture student (me, Chi-Chi), a landscape architecture student (Rania), a hotelie-turned-interior architecture student (Jonathon), and an engineering student (Siobhan). We were told to get a feel of the property.

Trusty Guard at Marari Beach

We, the interns, walked around the property with Amie and the trusty guard. The bamboo stick to protect against rumored snakes on the beach.

We found: ‘objects’ (modest fishermen’s homes); an endless, unobstructed beach with marbled sand and black waves; and our new favorite hangout spot, a nearby internet café.

Exploring the ObjectsRania Inspects a Decorative Statement Wall

Guard and us exploring the roofline

Exploring the roofline of an abandoned wealthy fisherman’s house with the guard.

Kaiser found: two Indian security guards; their next-door-neighbor friend; our cook Manu; and us.

Kaiser is a tiny mixed puppy who arrived on site only an hour before we did. As a dog-lover and all-around “everything happens for a reason” believer, I KNEW KAISER WAS A SIGN. A sign for what, I don’t really know, but he was a very cute and very small sign, so I immediately focused all my down-time obsessing and fussing over Kaiser.

Kaiser the Puppy

This is Kaiser.

I think Kaiser gave me more insight to Indian attitudes. It’s very difficult to converse with someone about abstract ideas without a common language, but if you throw a dog in the mix, it becomes a lot easier.

Is the dog deaf?” I wondered about the unresponsive, sickly pup.
No.
It is depressed. Mother in the forest. 7 brothers and sisters in the forest. Only Kaiser.

A lot of pests on his body,” they told me.
When bathing Kaiser?” I asked.
After, buying medicine. After, shampoo and polish.” They sent their neighbor friend specifically to buy medicine and ‘polish’ for Kaiser.

Are you sure it is not deaf?” I asked the second day. It really was the most unenergetic puppy I have ever seen/met in my life. According to the guards, he was very ill both mentally and physically. A depressed, flea-infested dog.
No. No English. Malayalam only. Babababa!” and with that, Kaiser came running towards him.

Kais' Bath

Giving Kais a warm bath. The rest of us had cold showers while “camping” in an abandoned mansion on site!

So here is my quick glossary of dog-related Malayalam words:

Babababababa” = comecomecomecomecome

Vavavavavavava” = gogogogogogo

Pati” = dog

Yevedey”  (sounds like “everyday”) = where

Kais' Anti-Flea and Tick Medication

Applying anti-flea and tick medication on Kais.

Rania explained to me that having a dog is actually very symbolic of the growing middle class in India. Since there is a large demographic of young middle class Indians, the market is shifting to cater to their needs and desires. One of the desires is pets. With pets comes pet medication, pet shampoo, pet ‘polish,’ parks to walk your pet, city planning to account for these parks (see Bangalore as an example says Rania), pet toys, pet food, etc.

The Perfect Blowout

The Perfect Blowout – Kaiser dries off next to the warm fire, sitting on Chef Manu’s personal mini dining table.

Actually, I recall my initial shock when I saw Pedigree dog food for sale at a corner pharmacy in a rural town that didn’t even have sidewalks yet. Branded dog food sold in a little shop in a little town in a country that is starting to run before it can walk.

Even Crist and Amie have mentioned several times when briefing our design team that the middle class was growing and that they were seeing more domestic than international travelers staying at RAXA Collective’s properties. This ratio has never happened before.

And with this new shift in demographics come new needs and desires, new problems and opportunities… and that’s when we designers step in and find solutions. Or in my case, find a puppy, wash, polish, and heal it back to good health.

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