Gurgaon: Gone Girl
I lived away from it for two years, and I’m moving again next week, but, for the last seven years, I guess I’ve been a Gurgaon girl. “Why?” is a question I often get when details of my residence are revealed, usually from the Delhi set, ensconced in their two-syllable capital colonies, Gee Kay, Def Col, VeeVee et al.
Truth be told, my parents couldn’t afford realty in Delhi when my dad retired from the Army. Gurgaon, as a suburb to the cap, a burgeoning metropolis, christened with an enticing moniker (“Millennium City” my ass), was also affordable. So, we moved.
My relationship with the city since has fluctuated. There are days I love it, when our compound’s resident peacock lands heavily on my sister’s balcony to eat the bajra we leave out for him, and the sparrows, the greater coucals, the doves, pigeons, hoopoes, babblers, flycatchers and robins who make their rounds morning and afternoon. When monsoon nimbus rolls across the Aravallis and the grey of the sky presses up against the green of the range.
There are also days I hate it, when I’m driving home at night and have to throw cars of clearly inebriated men, hanging out their windows, leering, catcalling, off my trail by way of sneaky, no-indicator turns and braking too often. When I find myself in mile-long traffic snarls outside the city’s most elite schools, because mummies, daddies, drivers and maids are parked anywhere and everywhere in their big cars, engines running, interiors chilled, waiting to whisk their poppets away before the dust and grit of the city can lay a finger on them.
Gurgaon has problems. However, to the shock and horror of many, blame can’t always be placed on the bogeymen of the Gujjar, Jat and Haryanvi ilk. Sure, you’re bound to have your city sensibilities offended by one of each (yes, they are not one and the same thing) at some point if you make your way over, but to think that G-town’s troubles are limited to it’s agrarian heritage, is to be gravely mistaken. Its problem is also its wealth. The many-figured MNC salaries that beget cars, chauffeurs and high-rise condos, and impenetrable bubbles that permit un-engaged maneuvering through the city’s limits. Gurgaon, like many other Indian cities, seems to have been created with a determined view to upturn Marx’s theory of base and superstructure. Therefore, it is glitzy in that it has super-sized shopping malls, swanky office complexes, and a hub for all things culinary. Yet, it is beset with sub-standard roads, unchecked construction, and haphazard urban development.
Undoubtedly, a coveted land bank, only increasing in value with every passing day, has rendered a large section of the native populace wealthy over-night. The money has brought access to the city’s venues of entertainment, but not necessarily associated etiquette. This clash of cosmopolitan and rural-wealth is only a garnish on the mish-mash that Gurgaon is today.
I voted this past week in the state’s Assembly elections; a first for me. However, I am not naïve enough to believe a cast of the ballot will bring immediate and sweeping changes to the cityscape and its people alike. Don’t get me wrong; I won’t be one to complain if it does. My real hope though is that a change in governance may jumpstart a much-needed revolution in an apathetic citizenry. The kind of transformation that will look upon a bribe-accepting public official equally at fault as one’s own chauffeur when he goes against traffic for “a little way”.
For how does one really measure the exact degree of rightful wrong? Gurgaon, in all its dust and dazzle, is as much the product of absentee administration as it is of an uninvolved community. Perhaps dismantling or at least re-assessing our ideas of probity may in turn lead to ostensibly unrelated change. In the interim we’ll continue to hear stories about horrid Haryanvis and their uncouth ways, and almost nothing about the couture-clad city folk who have bore-wells in their backyards and complain about the city’s water troubles.