Villages surrounded by fancy apartments and malls. Two worlds that are close and yet too far. Welcome to the National Capital Region, where starkly different cultures co-exist amid simmering tensions.
At the Pacific Mall on the Delhi-Ghaziabad border, a young couple backs free intermingling of boys and girls, while at Makanpur village, just 2km away, an old man says: “We would rather die or kill a daughter who destroys the village’s name by having an affair before marriage.”
Valentine’s Day is a time when this tension is palpable. Villagers are upfront about their disapproval, while couples at nearby malls support it.
A 3km-drive from Anand Vihar bus terminus takes one to Makanpur — a typical village, with narrow brick lanes abutted by plain brick houses.
But high-rise buildings border it on each side. The physical boundary is blurred — the village abruptly ends in the city. Seven malls exist within its 3km-radius.
But the cultural boundary is clear. No V-Day though all have heard of it. Hardly any girls are seen on the roads. Young men roam around, but February 14 is no different day. “There’s no craze of V-Day here,” says Aamir Khan (19).
On the recent Noida incident where a girl sitting in a car with her boyfriend was gangraped, they say the fault lies with both. “What was the need to go to a secluded place with a boy,” asks Arif Khan (20).
Just 2km away, V-Day celebrations are in full swing at Pacific Mall. The place is dotted with heart-shaped balloons and restaurants have special V-Day offers. Black, the discotheque, already has 200 couple bookings for the night says manager KN Umesh.
No couple is willing to come on camera: their freedom is still aspirational, it seems. But they all defend V-Day, calling it a matter of free choice.
Only one couple has heard about Makanpur. But they all insist that the V-Day controversy is political and has nothing to do with the urban-rural divide. “All these protests are bull***t,” says Gautam and Neha.