City Hangout – Golf Course Road, Gurgaon
The new life.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It’s raining. The muddy lane outside the glassy South Point Mall quickly goes under water. The conscientious guards improvise a bridge of bricks for the high-heeled shoppers to hop their way towards the mall.
The downpour gradually fades and the evening traffic begins earnestly on the busy Golf Course Road.
This is the moment to stand on this mud-track outside the gleaming mall and watch the folks of the rush hour.
Gurgaon, just outside Delhi’s city limits, is a very old settlement with references to its origins going back to the ancient days of the Mahabharat. You won’t know that by gazing upon the new skyline, though the town’s recent past shows up in the markets around the railway station. A handful of old buildings still stand there, inhabited by people with living memories of the days when their part of the city was the only city, the rest being villages and fields.
Today those same villages and fields are a metropolis-in-progress inhabited by new citizens with roots in distant lands. Hoping to make a better life, these are people belonging to the upper rungs of material comfort as well as the lowest.
And nowhere else you get to see this wide band of diversity so explicitly than in the evening hours outside the aforementioned mall.
Check out the mall itself. Cafes are filled with the soft chatter of work meetings. Corridors teem with expats shushing down their kids in French and Japanese. But these rich, confident people carousing around in their nice dresses are only one part of modern Gurgaon.
In the evening, a part of the road going past the mall is taken over by scores of cyclists in saris and salwar-suits. Many of these women work as maids in the area’s apartment complexes and are now heading to nearby villages where they live in small flats with their families. The Delhi Walla tries stopping one young lady for a chat but she politely excuses herself saying that the children are waiting at home.
The troupes of women cyclists may not mean a feminist revolution but the phenomenon is visually arresting and gives a sense of the transforming times.
Ironically, the so-called Millennium City also consists of images that could as well belong to the India that existed centuries ago. You see groups after groups of construction labourers—women and men—-walking back to their camps, with their shovels and children.
Then there are young nattily-dressed professionals employed in the surrounding high-rises heading purposefully towards the Rapid Metro station, their ears plugged to the mobile phone.
Watching this mélange of working citizens reflects the true pulse of a dynamic metropolis and humanizes a city that is often censured as an impersonal assortment of office towers and shopping complexes.
Ode to the road