Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Gurgaon 101

The city’s reputation precedes its name, one that induces double takes among families of Indian women. Perhaps the media got carried away in branding a city, maybe it didn’t but from where I come, the mere mention of even a short-term relocation to the NCR’s concrete residence of dreams can induce panic attacks. And a short-term relocation it was. Having spent an entire summer in Haryana’s employment hub, I choose to pen down a thing or two for those dreading it.

The Rajdhani from Ahmedabad only stops for two minutes at Gurgaon. That’s 120 seconds for nearly a third of a train to alight, luggage et al in tow. For a city with a portfolio of striking corporate offices and a floating populace amounting to thousands a day, it is too short a stop in too unimpressive a station. But when you do enter the city, the effort that has gone into making a modern metropolis out of a town with thousands of years of history is evident. Gurgaon comes straight out of a city simulation game: someone deliberated a vast expanse of land into neat little sectors, earmarked main roads for extravagant offices and commercial centres, the lanes in their shadow for unorganized retail, and the remainder to house the labour that forms the backbone of the city.

There are clusters of offices all over the city and it is advisable to find yourself a place to reside not further than a metro ride away from your cluster. If unadapted to the extreme weather conditions of the region, you will thank any reduction in your commute once a heat wave or two drift along in June. Housing in the city centre—around DLF Cyber City—is comfortable and available across a spectrum of budgets. For short-mid term stays, consider making your abode in a studio apartment easily available near Metro stations. Do some research on the landlord – go in for recommendations from previous tenants/friends over online reviews and be warned that any kind of real estate deal in the city comes with shady undertones. And yes, a good number of women live alone in Gurgaon perfectly safe and happy.

The food. When you talk of food in Gurgaon, you talk of food in Delhi. Golgappas are instalments of delight. Chaat is extraordinary. Fresh juice is available in every street corner and milkshakes come with a complimentary dollop of ice cream. Saag tastes like saag, paneer like paneer and the meat dishes are midway between Punjabi and Lucknowi culinary styles. The locals prefer rich, butter-loaded meals with a spicy aftertaste and thus the chemistry was quite perfect with their idea of healthy food echoing mine. But when you eat out everyday, your options are mostly limited to aloo, gobi, paneer, rajma and chhole. Barring minor vegetable deprivation, the city made me feel like a well-fed happy panda.

Entertainment in Gudgawa is centred around eating out, clubbing, movies and shopping. Delhi is merely 20 minutes away and is an assorted box of interests. Endless options for day trips, weekend getaways and miscellaneous journeys are probably the best that came out of the GGN stint for me. Trips to Agra and Dharamsala happened and they were utterly delightful, the latter a dream realized for my plateau-tuned eyes. Plenty of scope for epic food journeys too. A drive to Murthal, the dhaba capital, must be on your agenda. Food and entertainment venues in the city also double up to beat the heat with extravagant malls offering unending air-conditioned walk spaces. Or you can just perch in your balcony and get things delivered: everything in the city is home delivered without a ‘minimum order’ stipulation. Once, an order of Maggi amounting to 20 INR was delivered to my doorstep on the fourth floor of a building without an elevator. I continue to marvel at this first world lifestyle, having resorted to ordering Cornitos on Amazon for similar kicks.

And now, I touch that sensitive topic of women safety. Gurgaon has places that are bustling at midnight—the area around Cyber City for instance. It also has places that are “crime traps” at 4 pm. There are people who welcome you into their lives with a smile and go out of their way to help you. Then there are the rude, the deceptive and the repulsive. In short, it is a microcosm of the country we live in. Objectifying women is certainly not a cultural norm in the region, despite what you may have heard. The distribution of dark forces around us is uniform and independent of geography...or so I would like to believe. And I end that sensitive topic of women safety.

If statistics of cases reported, experiences shared in your social circle or your mother’s kitty party grapevine deter you from a career move that passes through the city, maybe it is time for introspection of the biases you hold. We all define our comfort zones to be much narrower than what we are actually comfortable with. Gurgaon was my comfort-zone widening, endurance strengthening experience and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be yours. At this point, the essence of the write up has to be disclosed: Gurgaon is another city. You will learn to tick its way like you would elsewhere.

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Anonymous said...

This is a well-written piece!

Nikhil Sharda said...

Brilliant :)

Anonymous said...

Very interesting read! Looking forward to your Mumbai 101 :)

Akshatha Hegde said...

Thanks folks. :)