When I think about Gurgaon, very often, I draw a blank. It is hard to find a string of thought that connects its glass monoliths, its villages, the cattle roaming freely on its streets and vying for space not only with traffic but also with the large population of pigs with each other. Except, perhaps, for the thought that it is Gurgaon, and it’s like that.
For me, this has been the most defining thought for Gurgaon. And limited as it may be, it glorifies and decries the city all at once. For everything about Gurgaon – its dusty roads that turn into rivulets after a monsoon shower, its bevy of multinational brands – gleaming, both, in retail outlets and on either side of NH-8, its harshness, its breweries, its poverty and its crime, just is. Gurgaon, to me, is a living, breathing illustration of reality, and thus, it is only natural that it must encompass not only the good, the bad and the ugly, but also the dazzling and the grotesque.
Etymologically, and also in other ways, Gurgaon has little to do with sweetness, as I had first conjectured when I landed there. The “Gur” in Gurgaon comes from the word ‘guru’ and “gaon” comes from ‘gram’. For Gurgaon was the land that was presented to Guru Dronacharya, the royal teacher to the Kauravas and Pandavas.
As for myself, Gurgaon has offered me a lot of firsts – I think I took my first rapid Metro ride and bought apples off a donkey-cart for the first time in life on the same day. I also saw a line of pigs cross the road in a very disciplined manner in the same week. The first time I spotted the Qutub Minar on a metro ride, my first solo walk around Connaught Place, a memorable conversation with an old friend in the idyllic setting of dusk at the tomb of Firoz Shah Tughlaq – all these experiences though not part of Gurgaon, were brought to me by it.
There’s a lot to not like in the city, even for those who are not too fastidious, but there are good things as well. The proximity to the Capital. Easy accessibility to the Himalayas – which I am yet to explore. The city has made its efforts, in its own way, to be hospitable to the people from different cultures who have come to call it their home, but it has done so while retaining its quintessential North Indian-ness. And that’s another thought that it puts out – you either begin to like Gurgaon, or you leave.
Thinking of Gurgaon as a metaphor for reality helps in both – accepting it and learning from it.