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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019

Living in gated communities is like living in islands

For entrepreneur Ayesha Desai, Gurugram came like a breath of fresh air after she moved to the city from the United States.

gurgaon Updated: Nov 28, 2018 15:24 IST
Ayesha Desai
Ayesha Desai
For Ayesha Desai, the sense of camaraderie that gated communities offers is unique. However, she is acutely aware of the fact that the safety net of these communities vanishes as one steps outside in the real world.
For Ayesha Desai, the sense of camaraderie that gated communities offers is unique. However, she is acutely aware of the fact that the safety net of these communities vanishes as one steps outside in the real world.(HT Photo )

I had always associated Gurugram with three things — heat, dust and buildings with glass facade. It was not a city I thought I would be residing in. I have mostly lived in Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, and Belgaum and then moved to the United States of America. When I finally decided to move to Gurugram, I was pretty jittery, to put it mildly. My nervousness was compounded by the fact that I was an outsider — a Maharashtrian married to a true-blue Punjabi boy. But six years later (and wiser), this city has actually grown on me, and I am honestly happy to call it home.

The city also holds a special place in my heart, as it is here, in the dusty Gurugram, that I started a company with my sister. From working as a trained medical and psychiatric social worker to an entrepreneur, this city has been a huge part of my incredible and very adventurous journey. Being around so many motivated and hardworking parents, who seem to know how to stretch 24 hours to unbelievable lengths to find that perfect work-life balance, inspired me and my sister to start my own company.

Today, Gurugram for me represents a huge melting pot. It is a cauldron that is bubbling with an eclectic mix of cultures, businesses, cuisines, you name it. After living in the US for over nine years (the DIY life of timetables and schedules), Gurugram has been like a breath of fresh air (albeit not literally). The sense of community and camaraderie one feels here is unparalleled. For me and my family, living in a gated community has been extremely fulfilling and safe. And that is one of the major advantages of this city.

These gated communities are like small utopian islands sprinkled over an otherwise desolate landscape. Apart from providing a strong sense of belonging, these communities offer tremendous support. For example, in my neighbourhood, we have residents who volunteer to help our elderly and not-so-elderly neighbours with medical and other emergencies, day and night. A couple of months ago, a group of neighbours spent two days looking for a boy with special needs, who had disappeared from our EWS (economically weaker sections) building. He was eventually found, and safely returned to his distraught family within two days.

Another striking feature about Gurugram is the sheer number of its training facilities for sports. Since both my husband and I are huge sports enthusiasts, we are thrilled to be living so close to so many sports academies and training facilities. All along the Gurgaon-Faridabad Highway and the Ghata road, you can see signs for tennis, football, skating, horse-riding, cricket and golf-training facilities. Huge open spaces surrounded by fields or farms make them the ideal outdoor training venues.

Although Gurugram is infamous for its extremely low rating on the safety and security scale, I have been fortunate enough not to have experienced this side of this city. Soon after moving to the city in 2013, I joined a running group. One Tuesday morning, I found myself waking up at 4.00 am to meet a group of complete strangers and run on the Gurgaon-Faridabad Highway in the dark. Before I knew, I was hooked.

Now my Saturday mornings include long, exhausting runs that end with breakfast and chai at Leisure Valley Park. These vibrant, running-obsessed, crazy (they talked me into running the half marathon, and even managed to train me in 3 months) bunch of people from all over the country have made Gurugram their home and have found common grounds of interests – running, physical fitness and much more. For me, that is exactly what this city is — a wonderful mix of people from all over brought together for a common purpose: to work, grow and innovate. So what if we are breathing the toxic air?

I am, however, acutely aware of the fact that I live in a secure cocoon. It is a little bubble of tranquility, where my children are safe and where I can afford high-end air purifiers present in all rooms of my home. It is a place, where I can sit having a drink with friends either at the local ‘theka’ (a liquor shop) or at any of the bars and breweries Gurugram is so famous for. It is a place where all my neighbours actually segregate and compost their waste. But sadly, this is definitely not the reality for the tens and thousands of women living in the city. Gurugram has a long way to go. It is easy to look at the world with rose-tinted glasses. But we need to accept the reality that hits us the moment we get step out of our islands.

Ayesha Desai is an entrepreneur and has worked in areas of education, women empowerment, and health care. She is a resident of Garden Estate.

First Published: Nov 28, 2018 15:17 IST