Monday, April 28, 2008


I really must dedicate a post to Gurgaon. Specifically, to ranting about Gurgaon.

I live in Delhi - South Delhi, to be precise. Every day, I travel one hour or so to reach my office in Gurgaon. I go with a friend of mine. Every morning, we have two ways of getting to office - the National Highway 8, or the Mehrauli-Gurgaon road. Pretty much every day, we take the swanky new NH-8, even though it is longer and has a toll booth. You see, the Delhi Metro is being extended to Gurgaon along the Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road. As a consequence of which, the traffic has been cut down to two lanes in each direction. And given the density of traffic at rush hour each morning, two lanes are definitely not enough.

My first week in Gurgaon, I couldn't stop bitching about the place. It is the only city I have been to so far in my life that has no public transportation system!! Getting to Gurgaon is easy enough even if you don't have your own car - you can either take one of the DTC buses that ply regularly between Delhi and Gurgaon, or you can take a cab. But once you get there, what do you do? The entire city has about 60-70 autos - none of which are ever to be found, of course. If you want to go anywhere, you take either a riksha or a tempo. If the journey is too long and you don't have your own transportation, then you better hire a cab. The roads of the city seem completely haphazard. They are dangerous, too. They lack signboards, they lack pavements. They are just rolls of solid tar laid out between buildings.

Everywhere you look, there is construction happening; big ugly buildings coming up on all sides. Every day, my friend takes the right turn from NH-8 at the boat building (anybody who has been to Gurgaon will know which building I am talking about) and my heart sinks instantly. After the mostly smooth travel on the highway (navigating between, admittedly, murderous taxi drivers in Sumo's and Innova's and Qualises) we enter a road with no pavement, unfenced parking lots on either side and (worst of all) monstrous high-rises lining the road. These buildings are covered in glass; they reflect everything around them and show nothing of their insides. Little signboards on their vast exteriors announce mysterious company names. They look down upon us as we get stuck in the usual morning mess of honking vehicles.

I love Delhi. I love its greenery, I love the roundabouts, I love the personality of the city.

And Gurgaon is the exact opposite of everything Delhi is. It is hard to describe what is so hateful about it. Dust swirls around in the tremendous heat of the afternoon sun. The road-side trees, when they are to be found, are lonely and yellow; they give no shade. Everywhere you look, you find man-made things - pollution-spewing vehicles, anonymous buildings, the half-done Metro. Nobody loves this city enough to take care of it.

Gurgaon has no middle class. Either you have the rich people living in tall shaky buildings, with their long cars and their arrogance; or you have the poor people struggling to cling on in the rich people's wake - as their housemaids or riksha-wallahs or neighbourhood vegetable-vendors.

When you travel around, you get the sense of a city without a heart. A city that grew up without going through childhood or adolescence. A city that didn't get the chance to explore itself and decide what it wanted to be. A city that sold itself to glass-fronted office buildings and multiplex malls and twenty-story flats. A city without a culture, a city without an identity.
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