If Ghaziabad were edible, it would probably taste like mixed pickle. A drive through its streets gives one a fair idea of the city's variety.
Its history, however, is as old as it is forgotten. Founded in 1740 by Ghazi-ud-din and called Ghaziuddin Nagar, the name was too long to fit a railway ticket and thus Ghaziabad was born.
The city came into prominence during the first war of Independence in 1857. In later years it earned the reputation of being one of the biggest industrial towns in UP. Then it made its way to the list of 10 most dynamic cities of the world in an international current affairs magazine.
But the dynamism has only touched select areas, leaving others in the dark and dusty alleys of rural neglect. Ghaziabad's west-side story has been a roaring success. The eastern half is a sloppy tale of developmental imbalance. You will find high-rise apartments, multiplexes, shopping malls and wide roads within a few kilometres of its western border that touches the national capital. Roads become narrower and buildings become shorter as one moves further down in Ghaziabad.
The city continues to be a curious mix of urbane, semi-urban and rural populace. Issues and aspirations in the five assembly segments - Ghaziabad, Muradnagar, Modinagar, Hapur and Garh - are different and range from basic amenities to connectivity, from industrialisation to land acquisition.
The lifestyle and aspirations of people living in plush apartments and bungalows in Indirapuram, Kaushambi, Surya Nagar, Rajendra Nagar and neighbouring areas is different from the people living in the smaller towns of Modinagar, Muradnagar and Hapur or from the people living in the villages of Garh.
The urban population wants its political candidate to highlight local issues like potable water, power crisis and rising crime without losing sight of national concerns like the economic downturn and terrorism.
While primary education has made inroads into most towns and villages, students have to travel several kilometre everyday for higher education. The industries in main Ghaziabad town, Muradnagar and Modinagar are closing down, forcing people to travel long distances to work.
In towns like Modinagar, Muradnagar, Dasna, Hapur, Pilakhua and Dadri, hundreds of people on their way to work catch the train to Delhi at six in the morning. For them, colleges for technical and higher education and job prospects are big issues.
One industry that has witnessed massive rise in the past few years in Ghaziabad is real estate. Concrete jungles have erupted out of vacant plots. Even villages are now being bought and converted into residential colonies. Massive land acquisition, both by the government as well as private real estate developers, has seen protests from farmers.