Writers’ muse: The dark, mysterious, fascinating, funny tales from Gurgaon
An increasing number of writers are finding Gurgaon a fertile ground for fiction. Their stories expose the dark underbelly of the throbbing millennium city.gurgaon Updated: Sep 24, 2017 09:58 IST
Joygopal Podder loves to walk the streets of Gurgaon, trawl its glitzy malls and glass and steel towers, and travel in its Rapid Metro everyday. It is quite surprising because he is not a tourist but has been living there for almost three decades. Podder is a crime thriller writer and Gurgaon is his muse.
Gurgaon never ceases to fascinate Poddar, India’s fastest published crime thriller writer who has written 18 books in the past seven years, 10 of them set in the city.
“It would not have been possible in any other city; Gurgaon is an amazing theatre of human drama. There is a story at every corner, thanks to its mind-blowing transformation from a mofussil town into a glitzy urban centre,” he says.
Not just Podder, of late, an increasing number of writers are finding Gurgaon a fertile ground for fiction. Take for example Manish Dubey, a policy analyst, who last year published ‘A Murder in Gurgaon’, a sordid tale of adultery, blackmail and revenge; actor Diksha Basu, whose latest novel ‘The Windfall’, is a comedy of manners involving an east Delhi’s family’s shift to Gugaon after it comes into wealth; Siddharth Tripathi, whose ‘Blowfish’, is the story of two young professionals in Gurgaon caught in a midlife crisis.
Podder and Dubey have created what can be called Gurgaon Noir –stories that expose the dark underbelly of the throbbing millennium city.
“Gurgaon has risen at a bewildering pace... From a mere bus stand and backwater in the 1990s, it has become a corporate hub, home to 250 of the Fortune 500 companies. It has a huge population of migrants from all parts of the country, and their manic aspirational push drives the city,” says Dubey. “And there are many who are willing to take a shortcut to realise their aspirations. This surge of aspiration also makes people angry and frustrated; no wonder then there is a violent undercurrent running through the city.”
Dubey’s book A Murder in Gurgaon is a story of an adulterous woman whose husband, a high-flying corporate guy, has no time for her. The woman, he points out, is essentially lonely and looking for an emotional anchor, the reason why she gets into an affair with a man who starts blackmailing her and is later found dead.
“Gurgaon seems to be throbbing with so much energy, but at the same time there are many lonely people in the city hunting for an emotional anchor,” says Dubey. “A lot of people here do not have a sense of belonging, they are always trying to fit in, looking for approval, trying to find their social space.”
Siddharth Tripathi, the author of Blowfish, says his book essentially brings out how the core of Gurgaon is capitalist. “It is a city where your success is measured in terms of which brands you wear, which car you drive , which apartment or condominium you live in, how fast you are rising the corporate ladder,” he says. “It can change your value system.”
The city, Tripathi adds, is very uni-dimensional—a place that can be difficult for those who have an alternative idea of success. “It is not a place where you can say you want to be a writer and hope to win kudos; it has a very diverse population but not everyone who live here can relate to it,” says Tripathi, who is from Varanasi and has been living in Gurgaon for the past nine years. Gurgaon, he says, is also a city which has been exploited by too many vested interests: “ It is all about how much one can derive out of a piece of land close to the Capital.”
Dubey’s latest book -- A Murderous Family-- is a psycho-sociological study of modern Indian urban life. It captures five days in the life of Ranjana Agarwal’s family which shifted from Delhi to Gurgaon seeking a new life. The woman has intellectual pretensions and feels Gurgaon has more cultured and sophisticated people. But the plans to start a new life do not quite work out the way she had expected. The family is constantly trying to fit in and there is a lot of peer pressure. Her husband Kamal fails to warm up to Gurgaon and the cool parents’ group from their son’s new school. “You see Gurgaon is changing fast, and not everyone can keep pace with it. It can be deeply agonizing,” says Dubey.
In Podder’s crime thrillers such The Millennium City, Cancer, The Anniversary Killer and Beware of the Night, most action happens in the city ‘s malls, metro, its gleaming highrises. “Gurgaon is a pretty unique in that it has skyscrapers, forests, hills and agricultural fields that provide interesting locales for my stories. It also has a unique social chemistry-- the very poor live next to neighbourhoods of the filthy rich,” says Podder.
There are, Podder says, also two classes of wealthy people in Gurgaon living in close proximity —the highly educated professionals and farmers who sold agricultural land and became millionaires overnight. Both lead the same flashy lifestyles, but they come from vastly different socio-cultural backgrounds. “ There is constant tussle
between the old and new Gurgaon, the modern and the traditional, the rich and the poor, the urban and the rural. The fact that it is so close to the country’s capital only makes it a more interesting place to pen political conspiracies. A writer can never run out of inspiration here,” says Podder.
Dubey agrees: “Despite its transformation into a mega corporate hub, parts of Gurgaon still has mofussil feel and values, and that create tensions. If you look closely, there is a culture of misogyny here.”
Prasoon, a management professional whose latest book The Imperfect is set in Gurgaon and Lucknow, compares Gurgaon with Mumbai. “Both the cities have a great skyline, a vaulting ambition for money; both the cities assimilate people from all socio-economic backgrounds. And like Mumbai, Gurgaon is a city of dreams for many youngsters seeking to make it big in life, and like Mumbai it is a city full of stories, a maximum city,” says Prasoon.
Excerpts from some of the books:
A Murder in Gurgaon by Manish Dubey
Clarity came with dawn. To find his son’s killer , he would have to be strong. Strong enough to confront his son’s ugly side. Strong enough to not let guilt cloud his mind. There was no easier, nay other, way. Atonement could, would have to come later.
The rickety state transport bus rolled into Gurgaon. He disembarked at the foggy IFFCO Chowk ready to investigate his son’s murder.
The Anniversary Killer by Joygopal Podder
Jagat Singhal exited City Centre Mall, ascended the escalator to MG Road Metro Station, walked quickly to the other side of Gurgaon’s famous ‘Mall Road’ and entered MGF Metropolitan Mall. He kept his head down, trying not to bump into anybody in his hurry to get to his destination. He worried about seeing someone he knew. Why was Jagat Singhal walking into hardware and sports goods and toy and games shops in Gurgaon’s malls? Why was he searching for a hammer of a certain size and, of all things, a bicycle chain? Why was he doing such unusual shopping at lunch time on a business day?
Blowfish by Siddharth Tripathi
My office was just a 10-minute drive from where I lived. Gurgaon was all about convenience. Everything was close by: multiplexes, offices, liquor stores and that goon in a black Scorpio who’ll kill you without thinking twice.
I noticed a mule perched on the road divider near Paras Hospital. It stood still, chewing cud happily with its eyes half-shut, oblivious of the chaotic world around him—a stoic rebel amongst the honking cars and garish billboards.
The Imperfect by Prasoon
After my return to Gurgaon, I narrated the same made- up story to Sam and Joy as well as to anybody who asked me about my injury. I was actually worried about two things --- people getting suspicious if my story had variations , or worse, Ruhana taking me to court of justice. I even stopped reading the newspapers because there were reports of rape and molestation almost everyday. It was total anarchy and NCR had suddenly become the rape capital of India, I being one of the free-roaming assailants.