Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Photo courtesy Wordpress

Recently a movie with the same title by Marijke Meerman was screened at the camp. It got me thinking, So what is all this fuss about Gurgaon?

It is a glitzy new addition to an overflowing city where “glitzy” until now meant the wide roads and colonial bungalows of Lutyen’s Delhi. So why do we have such a love-hate relationship with it? (Loved mostly by the residents of apartments with fancy anglicized names, and hated by righteous architects.) For one thing, when built, Gurgaon had a never seen before glamour. Never seen before by the farmers of the “original” village of Gurgaon, not by the frequent fliers of Delhi who had already lived and experienced the “actual thing” on their visits to US, Singapore etc., and therefore felt and immediate kinship to it. And so the NRI’s, the multinationals companies, filled up the new city, while the locals stared in awe. Little islands of comforts cropped up, in the middle of a rural settlement.

Isn’t the story of how it all began the premise of all that is wrong with the place? A haven which is nothing but a reminder of what the residents left behind? A larger than life, overly expensive memento of the “western” way of life, translated better way of life

Everything else aside, how can a city built entirely on an aspiration to ape what exists a thousand miles away, live and survive on its own without an identity. . If we are all coming from diverse histories, why are we all heading towards a common future? Why can’t we aspire to create diverse futures?

Even if for a moment we put aside the most common concern voiced by the people, the constant humming of the generators in a city with no electricity, the shortage of water outside the islands of comfort, the complete absence of public transport, is it still the nightmare it is projected to be? After all, more than half of Delhi suffers from these planning concerns. Are the deplorable civic amenities all that are wrong with the city?

Maybe what is even more disparaging is the striking and absolute contrast we see in way of life, inside and outside the islands. While the islanders complain about power shortage and the hum of the generators, which keep the A/C’s working for them non-stop, the peripheral populace struggles to get their fans working a few hours a day. While water in taps is taken for granted at all times inside, the outsiders barely get enough to drink. The problem is that there is no in-between to level out the playing field. Both extremes stare at each in the face, and each breeds contempt for the other. The rich want to push away the poor, and demand exclusivity even in public spaces. And the poor in turn detest the rich even more.

This ground reality, is going to shape Gurgaon into a future that we cannot predict. But a hunch says, it will not be a healthy one.


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