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Can home really be home when you live at one of the world's most exclusive addresses? A young entrepreneur who calls the world's tallest building home tells us what it's really like to be a resident of the Burj Khalifa.
Leaving behind the glitz and glam of the Burj Khalifa Residence's distinctly perfumed lobby, Dr Shiraz Gidwani, CEO and Chief Brand Officer of the Dubai-based global conglomerate Iktara World, whisked me off to his sanctuary on the 51st floor. Two intimidating elevator rides later, it's easy to see how one could be carried away by all the trappings of the plush surroundings.
However, the warmth that exudes the minute you enter Gidwani's expansive two-bedroom apartment tells a different story. The role of a gracious host is one that most Indians take seriously and it's a sentiment that translates into every aspect of Gidwani's home, despite being admittedly a private person who reserves his space for close friends and family.
Ornate lotus-shaped tea lights on the floor are tastefully placed around a wooden stand that cradles a larger floating flower candle, with some rose petals strewn around.
''I believe in giving guests a very warm welcome,'' says Gidwani. ''When you go to any Indian home, you're greeted with a tilak and I've tried to recreate that in my own way.''
The oriental touches are unmistakable and if there was any doubt about it, there is the dramatic painting of a red Buddha that takes pride of place in the passageway to the living room. While one would imagine space to be at a premium in the Burj Khalifa, Gidwani's apartment is generously spread out and this is no coincidence. After much deliberation, he picked the 51st floor apartment as it offered comer-to-comer windows for panoramic views of the ocean and the glittering Dubai skyline.
He is also quick to point out that his luck with picking the right unit can be attributed to his real estate agent, Shashi Mashruwala from Banke International, who patiently arranged viewings for him, even at night on special request.
Zeroing in on the perfect apartment proved to be easier said than done, especially since Gidwani's mother practises feng shui. However, after looking at about 40 units, he settled on the penthouse and his mother worked around a minor feng shui glitch by fixing a couple of mirrors in an appropriate place.
If a quintessential bachelor's pad is what you expect, Gidwani's home is the antithesis. While the stereotypical leather furniture associated with a man's design aesthetic makes its presence felt, Gidwani points out that he has a generous number of candles, photo frames and knick-knacks to break up the harshness.
''Because I'm a nomad, I've seen and experienced the best of the world. This is not your typical modern minimalist home. I believe in incorporating elements of warmth.''
Art for art's sake is definitely a philosophy that Gidwani seems to subscribe to and it is refreshing for him to narrate how all the pieces in his home have a special meaning.
And while he counts a personalised MF Hussain sketch that was drawn for him a few months before the legendary artist's death as part of his collection, it is a piece gifted to him by his mother that makes his eyes light up.
''Mum's gift is very symbolic.'' he says. ''The painting is of a little boy who has planted a seed. There is a storm brewing in the background, but he's grown a wall around it to protect the sapling. Mum seemed to feel as though the little boy was me and the seed represented all my dreams.
''I can't remember the name of the artist. We're not the kind of people who look for an artist purely because we are driven by a name. We pick art that we can connect with.''
Family seems to rank high on Gidwani's priorities and this is highlighted when he leads us into the guest bedroom that is converted into a music room when his younger brother comes to visit. The room has a nice, lived-in feel about it and is likely to have any music enthusiast squealing in delight upon knowing that the framed guitar on the wall was the same instrument used by the Eagles on their last tour and has been signed by all the band members.
As if realising that all the big names flying about were a bit much to handle, Gidwani points out a vibrant, multi-hued painting of a soulful musician playing the guitar, which he says he picked up at Dragon Mart. He is unapologetic about the fact that it came with a price tag of Dh150 and chuckles when he says his designer flipped upon learning he spent more money on the frame than the artwork.
You can feel real privacy, however, the minute you are led into his bedroom. In the corridor leading to it, there is a wall that displays pictures of a younger Gidwani with Dr Shashi Tharoor, his mentor and first boss when he worked at the United Nations, where Tharoor was a former Under-Secretary General.
He reiterates the sanctity of solitude, saying: ''I wouldn't want these pictures displayed in my living room for everyone to see. Everything has to have its value.''
As a jet-setting entrepreneur who spends most of his time across the world, it's easy to understand Gidwani when he confides, ''I could spend a whole day in bed, because I travel about 25 days in a month.''
This is probably the very fact that has made him go the extra mile with various personal flourishes from the handmade velvet wallpaper from Harrods that covers the walls to the unassuming cushion on his bed from the Taj Faluknuma Palace in Hyderabad, his favourite hotel. Propped against his study chair is a comfortable pillow from his alma mater, Harvard.
Gidwani's spiritual side is reflected in a majestic 24-carat gold leaf acrylic painting of a wheel that hangs above his bed. He explains the painting is close to his heart, as it is synonymous with the Aryan race, which also happens to be his younger brother's name.
Incidentally, the property is the first home that Gidwani bought for himself. And while the Burj Khalifa is just an aspirational address for most, Gidwani convinces us otherwise: ''For many people the Burj Khalifa is an icon, but for me it's just home.
''This is not a show home where coffee table books have been perfectly lined and shoes have been neatly arranged. I'm more than happy to be myself here.''
A 2,200-sq-ft apartment in the Burj Khalifa would cost around Dh4,250 per square foot
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Source: Jehan Nizar, Subeditor, Property Weekly