I’ve been a Gurgaon resident for close to 17 years. The first 7 years were spent in an apartment that we’d booked way back in our youth with dreams for a ‘clean and green life South of Delhi’ – our apartment builder’s catch phrase to attract young Delhites to this suburban city. The struggle of dealing with the builder’s monopolistic ways and living our lives in a city without public transport or common amenities is all too much to condense in a single post. Suffice it to say that we tried to find happiness in this city despite the odds.
At some point, we even summed up courage to look beyond our tiny 7th floor apartment and, after a year-long battle with property dealers/sellers and bank loan agencies, found ourselves in a low-rise residential complex built by another builder*—whose promise was to give its customers a township with no high-rise buildings and greenery all around. The complex had been in existence for over 2 years but had no tarred road outside or even one tea shop around it. Much as back-breaking it used to be to drive up to its non-existent entrance, once we got inside the complex, its wide and tree-lined roads, large landscaped parks and symmetrical houses helped heal our heads, hearts and backs. The next 7 years were blissful. We had a very cold house in winters and a furnace in summer, but we just had to walk up and down our lane on a cool morning, see birds up close, smell the flowers, take in the sight of our own tiny patch of green—even though balding in places–and we would feel insulated from the city’s troubles. We didn’t have any neighbours to speak of in our 5-house orderly lane. It offered plenty of area to walk and some more to refine our parking skills. Our nursery-going son easily overcame his fear of riding bicycles without training wheels, and we had little fear of him being run over by speeding vehicles. After facing temperamental lifts in the apartment complex as a toddler, he enjoyed the freedom of getting out on a flat road from the house door. He made new friends who started becoming his good friends over the next 7 years.
Those 7 years, we also saw 2 of the 5 houses being used by their owners for a couple of months in a year. That would lead to some disquiet in the atmosphere but before these unaccustomed sounds would start assailing our senses, it’d be time for the short-term occupants to return to their long-term abodes. The air would be calm again. We felt blessed to have found this unnoticed corner in Gurgaon.
Except that the area has been catching the attention of many home seekers in the last few years. So many, that the builder had already constructed a 2-floor housing complex adjacent to it—the spot that was meant to have a lake as per its initial sales pitch. Another set of builders has made vertical ‘society flats,’ not too far from the complex; and glass-exterior commercial buildings are springing up all around the complex–without the required parking space on their own premises. The drainage and sewerage of the area are poorly planned so small or medium sized ponds of muck are a common sight outside the complex and elsewhere in Gurgaon.
Inside our complex, new property owners have found the symmetry of houses too commonplace and size of houses too small for their use. They’ve started raising their houses vertically and painting them in distinctly different colours to give theirs a different personality from their neighbour’s. Organized public transport is still a distant dream, so new occupants have been coming with multiple vehicles—some with more in numbers than members in their families.
Our peaceful lane of 5 houses now bears this look after it’s neatened up. Two houses next to ours have been razed to the ground over the last 2 months to become one usable house. Another one in the lane is believed to be following suit. While our son–now preparing at home for his Xth board exam–is trying to make sense of what he’s reading amidst loud hammering, I worry about the vibrating common wall giving way or a film of dust settling on the still-drying clothes and everywhere else.
I work from home but inside the house has been noisier these 2 months than outside. During the day, I seal myself in my car with my gadgets and books, and try to find peace amidst the cacophony of labourers, tractors and hammering. The WiFi works there so I manage to filter the outside confusion for short spells.
Now waiting to see how it pans out through the year and whether my Paradise Lost** will ever be regained…
* Gurgaon, as most people know it, is full of small islands of habitats that are developed by private developers. These complexes may be picture-perfect on the inside, they continue to have poor infrastructure around them for years to come. Civic bodies have appeared unconcerned about how Gurgaonites should find their way home out of their glass-panelled offices or mushrooming Malls. Such a high degree of apathy isn’t just frustrating, it’s baffling to see in a democratic country where political leaders and policymakers are supposedly elected by its populace.