Fifteen minutes. That's all it takes Kamayani Singh, 29, to get to work in Cyber City. A sea-change from the over one hour she would spend in the car when she used to work in Connaught place in central Delhi.
Singh, who lives in DLF Phase-V, no longer has to wake up at the crack of dawn to catch a game or two of tennis before getting to work at 9am.
Gurgaon has been home to her family since 2005. "My parents bought a house here," said the history graduate from St. Stephen's College. As good as any a reason to move from Delhi, one would think. But at the time, she was far from happy.
"Gurgaon didn't have any Metro connectivity. I didn't feel safe--not so much due to lack of police but just because the place was isolated," she said.
Today, she is part of the army of young professionals working for multinational companies based in Haryana's financial capital.
An army which lives in high-rise gated communities, and for whom a pool, a club, or a sports centre, are all within walking distance. Letter from the editor
Residents in Gurgaon are definitely a pampered lot. In fact, 87% of respondents, according to a Hindustan Times survey, said that restaurants and pubs have improved immensely in the last 10 years.
An even higher 90% said hotels had become better, while 84% said the same about hospitals in the city.
"That's the thing about Gurgaon -- you can find everything nearby," added Singh. From the mocha to the Maruti service station or the mall, accessibility attracts young and old alike to this city of dreams.
Gurgaon has much to boast about. Its schools, for one. 61% people said they would choose schools in Gurgaon over those in Delhi, a city which, arguably, has the best schools in the country.
But just as teams in the IPL, Gurgaon wins some and loses some. According to the survey, conducted in partnership with research agency C fore, 62% say that Gurgaon -- touted as a world-class city of the future -- is 5-10 years away from being in the same league as a Dubai or a Shanghai.
No rewards for guessing why. Safety and infrastructure are red flagged by the vast majority.
78% said they do not feel safe going out at night in Gurgaon, while complaints on cleanliness, conditions of roads and electricity supply were common. 61% are so fed up that they would like electricity distribution in the city to be privatised.
Eshani Mathur, 22, lives in a gated community in DLF Phase-IV. One can't imagine why she would ever leave a five-kilometre radius from her home.
After all, the colony has a grocery store, chemist, clinic, senior citizens' common room and salon; tennis, badminton and basketball courts; and the community club across the street makes up for what's missing -- a pool, restaurant, squash courts, gym etc. The mall is a few hundred metres in the same direction.
But ask her about stepping out after dark, and she has stories to tell. "I have to constantly update my parents if I'm out for a late movie with friends," said Mathur.
Driving back alone is a strict no-no. Witnessing fights at bars, being followed while driving back home, and cars stopping next to her while walking on the street threatening to "pick me up" are some of the many examples she rattled off when asked about safety in Gurgaon.
Singh agrees. "I can go for kilometres in Gurgaon and not come across one PCR van," she said. In this respect, Gurgaon is but one of hundreds of cities across the country.
Naysayers (or Delhiites) always sight such cases when dismissing Gurgaon as the unsafe step-sister of the capital. But Singh offers a ray of light.
"I meet nice, like-minded people here very often - people with similar interests, be it yoga or dance. Most live here because of work, and like to go out. As a result, new breweries and restaurants are coming up almost daily," she said.
Three out of four survey respondents said they would rather go out here after work than trek to Delhi.
A lot of people move to Gurgaon because it's still cheap, according to Mathur. She may be right when comparing the sky high real estate prices in Delhi to those here, but 87% residents in the survey said that overall inflation has been the same or worse in Gurgaon compared to north of the Toll plaza. The price one must pay to live the Gurgaon-lifestyle.
Improvements in local transport, such as the soon-to-be-launched Rapid Metro, hopefully signal the start of a better tomorrow for residents of this 'satellite' town.
Despite all this talk of safety, crazy traffic, lack of parking at Galleria or the never-ending construction, "frankly, it's not that different from Delhi," said Singh. It's just, home.