City Life – Villages of Gurgugram, Gurgaon Village
Village in the city.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
You see those buildings? Those were the khet, carpeted with gehu, once upon a recent time. The housing block there was a baagh of ber, the very berries that Shabri offered to Bhagwan Ram. The man remarked one afternoon, pointing out these places. Turning around, he asked sarcastically: “Do you know roti ka atta comes from gehu, and rice comes from dhan?”
This wise citizen actually lives in a village. His village falls within Gurugram, the Millennium City of high-rises. And the village he is showing off with such a strong sense of ownership is Gurgaon (not to be confused with Gurugram, albeit this village originally gave its name to the whole district). Whatever, both Gurgaon and Gurugram mean the same. And both have ‘village’ appended to their name: gaon and gram. Many similar villages lie within Gurugram—240. While Delhi has 369, Faridabad has 144, and Ghaziabad has 72 villages.
Despite its cosmopolitan trappings, it is easy to stumble into Gurugram’s gram way of life. One evening, the empty expanse outside St. Peter’s Church in Palam Vihar gradually grew dustier. A shepherd was herding a row of buffaloes back to his village. Another evening, a shepherd was sitting amid hundreds of sheep beside MF Husain Marg, against a backdrop of multistories. The scene was unbelievable—see photo.
In the months ahead, dear reader, prepare yourself to visit the many grams of Gurugram. But the grand tour’s ground zero has to be this village that gave its name to the district. Here still exists a slow pace of living, at least in some pockets. A landowner idling in a chai stall confessed of spending hours playing taash with friends. “My baap-dada left me a great amount of land. I built flats and live off by renting them out.” Not all in the stall were as lucky. One customer was a chicken supplier.
That afternoon, the lanes in the village lay mostly silent, dappled in sunshine and shadows. Occasional men showed up in elaborate turbans, and women walked along in gunghat that veiled their face from head to chin. A long red car was parked by an old wooden door.
In the tea stall, a villager commented that some households no longer make their own desi ghee, buying it from the groceries instead. The idlers quickly reached a consensus: times are changing.