I love Gurgaon: Tomorrow’s city keeping its promise today
Why I love Gurgaon: It presents the possibilities of a better life for all, gives wings to the aspirations of the middle class, and indulges the fantasies of the affluent.I Love Gurgaon Updated: Jun 02, 2017 01:01 IST
Has a lover ever asked you to name the one thing – and one thing only – which you love the most about them?
If you have been posed the question and inveigled into attempting an answer, you would know how tough it can be .
For in the end, there’s always a niggling feeling that you haven’t quite expressed yourself well enough, haven’t quite done justice to what the person means to you.
There’s a more or less a similar risk in picking the one thing – and one thing only – about a city that one has spent over a decade in. Especially if it’s a decade that has seen the city landscape and rhythms transform, and you, at some subconscious moment during that peculiar decade, decide to think of it and embrace it as home. Warts and all.
How do I figure out the one thing I love most about Gurgaon?
The open, green spaces that first greeted us in a DLF Phase I corner have given way to cars and construction detritus. The cosy home we lovingly constructed in Sushant Lok had to be disposed of in favour of condominium living after struggles with water, electricity and security. (In case you are wondering, we haven’t regretted the decision).
Thinking of the things that I miss when I am away or those that hold us back from locating to another city doesn’t help either. For one, the list is long: family, friends, the bed at home, the comfort of knowing one’s way around, the many good people – the neighbourhood grocer, Barista and chemist, among others – who smilingly smoothen things, the wonderful school my children go to.
And secondly, some of these would, mercifully, remain themselves anywhere in the world and others would have to be discovered in a new city out of, well, necessity.
My answer, then, draws from everyday sights and sounds. Of the early morning cyclists and walkers with small tiffin boxes returning from an exhausting night shift or making their way to bone-crushing work. Of families availing of shopping, banking, swimming and gym facilities within their gated communities, their young oblivious to the fact that such things were inaccessible to their parents, even those from relatively comfortable backgrounds, not too long ago.
Of the remarkably un-forbidding police station in DLF Phase 5 and the new flyovers and underpasses soothing driver anxieties.
Of the hordes of youngsters that descend late night on roadside parantha joints, their chirpiness in denial of the pressures of cubicle existence. Of the enthusiastic marauding and price negotiations that unfold in the affordable fashion hub at Arjun Marg.
Of the mix of tentativeness and confidence with which drivers and domestic workers approach employers.
Underlying these disparate images is an underlying theme – and the thing I can say I love most about Gurgaon: that it is a city that presents the possibilities of a better life.
A city where the poor can hope that what they gain will be more than offset by what they tolerate, where the middle class sees prospects of realising a certain lifestyle and where the only thing stopping the rich from indulging their wildest, priciest fantasies is their imagination.
Yes, Gurgaon today is less clean and more environmentally challenged than before and its lens on gender and equity issues desperately needs a reset. But, it is also a city where a mix of economic momentum, citizen aspiration and corporate sector push have opened spaces for assertions by women and the traditionally less privileged socio-economic classes, driven significant improvements in infrastructure, and spawned a likeable energy in public spaces.
On balance, the city is more livable than it has been and its trajectory fosters hope that it will emerge even better in time. Of course, the change process won’t be smooth. Stakeholder interests will collide and the dangers of phantom or even real walls separating haves and have-nots are real, but that holds true for any change process in any city.
Plus, here’s something that should comfort us regarding the future: some cities attract people and investments because of what they were, others because of what they are, and yet others because of what they promise to become.
Gurgaon, currently, rests in the last category.
(Manish Dubey currently works as an independent policy analyst and lives in Gurgaon with his wife, two children and mother-in-law.)