Indians buy land on the moon, and the reasons are eerily familiar
Dehradun hotel manager Rajat Rajan, 39, sold land on the moon during the pandemic, for a few thousand rupees apiece. “It might sound like a strange idea today, but if Emperor Akbar had been told that planes would take over our skies, he too would have swept it away like garbage,” he said. at Wknd.
Of course, it’s not quite the same. His plots are akin to selling real plane tickets during Akbar’s reign. Neither Rajan nor his customers can currently own any part of the Earth satellite. (Under existing international law, the moon and many other celestial bodies can only be used for scientific research and exploration).
For Rajan, the lunar plots are a stir. The pandemic slowed down business at his hotel last year, and in July he launched Chand Pey Zameen (Earth on the Moon), following in the footsteps of American entrepreneur Dennis Hope, whom he wrote in a newspaper he years ago.
Hope has been in the news several times over the years, having sold at last demand over 611 million acres of lunar real estate since 1980. He founded and runs the Lunar Embassy Company.
Technically, Hope pointed out, the treaty does not prohibit individuals from claiming property on the Moon (it prohibits governments from doing so). Based on his loophole, he and others like him manage to steer clear of the law.
What’s really strange isn’t that men found a way to sell land on the moon, it’s that they found people willing to buy it. Rajan and Hope both have customers lining up for what is clearly a trick. Rajan calls it “selling an idea”. It helps, he says, that the rates are reasonable. For ₹2,499, you get a certificate stating that you own an acre in the sky, with a map containing the coordinates of the location of the parcel, and a clause confirming that the deed is “transferable to the heirs”.
PIE IN THE SKY
Rahul Rana, 33, a real estate developer from Meerut, “bought” 10 acres from Rajan two months ago. “It was mainly the uniqueness of the idea,” he says. It was quite affordable, he adds, “and I’m always looking for something new to invest in.”
Rana adds that any possession of property is, for him, fictitious. “I believe we are all souls that roam the universe. We do not own any property here or on the moon.
What Rana has acquired in exchange for his money is social capital – the right to brag, a topic of conversation, something unique that no one else around him has. These are the motives behind purchasing most status symbols, from designer handbags to sports cars or overpriced club memberships.
“A lot of investing is social and therefore consists of things that people want to talk about,” says financial advisor Vishal Dhawan, founder and CEO of Plan Ahead Wealth Advisors. Logic dictates that all investments are safe, predictable and therefore relatively boring, he adds. “But very often investors want it to be the exact opposite – exciting and new.” Cryptocurrency, a llama, a timeshare charter plane, or the right to ‘name’ an asteroid, “these are investments that make for a great conversation,” Dhawan says.
A LITTLE ELSE THING
Consulting psychiatrist Dr Sonal Anand thinks it goes further – why a plot on the moon and not a llama? “The ideas of occupying space on the moon are a reflection of our quest to see what lies beyond, which is itself a reflection of our quest for a deeper meaning within ourselves” , explains Anand. A plot on the moon can therefore either be a token of hope for a future where plots on the moon will make sense (what Dhawan calls the “what if” investment) or a profitable psychological escape for the person facing the change. climate, disease and a future of growing scarcity here at home. “By creating a tangible connection to a different future, this type of purchase responds to the need for a certain degree of preparation for a different future,” explains Anand.
Another reason is that it makes a great gift. It’s unique, we’ll talk about it (maybe not always in a complementary way). It shows that you care enough about doing something different. It is, in other words, a way of manifesting in the physical world the most ineffable of things: love.
“These are gifts that you can only feel, not touch or see,” said Mahesh Rao, computer engineer at Gurugram. He named a star in honor of his wife Sheetal on their fourth wedding anniversary last year. He understands that the star isn’t really called Sheetal. He might not even be a real star. He was told that he would have to “travel to Chile to really see it”.
“But at that time, it was special,” Rao says. “I got it for ₹2,200. The company promises to send you a certificate with the name, a booklet and a star map, and it delivers. His wife loves to observe the stars. At that time, when the booklet arrived, she was happy. “It was like the perfect gift,” Rao said.