Home Sweet Home – A Residential Lane Without a Name, Gurgaon
A nameless address.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Such a world of colors here. Red and orange saris are hanging down from the wash lines, while the little doors are painted in bright hues of green and blue.
This small narrow lane in Gurgaon’s Sector 31 is home to security guards, courier-delivery men and pavement-stall owners. It consists of 16 windowless rooms; each room housing a full-fledged family. Two public bathrooms serve the entire community.
The lane does not have a name. How do the residents receive their letters?
The young Ravi shrugs in mild amusement. “We have been here for decades… everybody knows about us, including the postmen and the courier wallas.”
Ravi’s father runs a vegetable stall; he himself sells aloo-tikki burgers on the cart.
The lane is tucked between two handsome tall buildings. One of them, a sprawling apartment complex, is so close that a person on the lane can easily scan each of the facing balconies in great detail.
“Our lane is older than these apartments,” informs Ravi straightforwardly.
How does it feel to live in a cramped housing while surrounded with much superior residences?
The burger-hawker gazes upon the building on the other side, an office complex, and says absent-mindedly, “How can we live in these places… it is impossible.”
Gesturing towards a lush creeper covering the wall outside one of the houses on the lane, Ravi says, “It is Girori, very helpful if you catch dengue… many people come over to get the leaves during the fever season.”
A small mirror is attached to the next door. A plastic toothbrush stand is nailed beside it with half a dozen toothbrushes inside.
Now, a boy in pants and a blue vest emerges from his house. He is Ravi’s school-going neighbor. Politely refusing to give his name, the teenager nevertheless frankly confesses, “You never forget that this is not your own house and that you are living on rent. You never forget you will have to leave the lane the day the landlord sells the plot to a developer. It can happen ten years later. It can happen next week.”
In other words, this neighborhood has probably no future in the Futuristic City.
But it does have a past.
In his 20s, Ravi has spent all his childhood years here. “We would play gulli-danda and kanche on this lane… sometimes Mummy would beat us outside in front of everybody… usually that would be a slap or two but when she would be really furious, she wouldn’t mind thrashing us with a danda.”
Delving deeper into his thoughts, Ravi says, “The evenings are something else here. The dinner smells spread all over the lane. Mutton smell is coming out from this door, rajma smell from the other… somebody is frying garlic, somebody is preparing tadka for the dal…”
If one day this lane too is taken over by a high-rise, then what will become of the collective memories it has helped build over the years? Ravi takes his own sweet time before answering, “That is no issue. Our priority will be to find a home.”
Home, but fleeting