By Shruti Shreya:
As you pay your 21 rupees at the toll booth and are allowed tocross the boom-barrier without any hassles, you are greeted with the glitzy shiny one-kilometer long Ambience Mall that flashes in your face the acknowledgement: You have arrived at the “Millennium City” Gurgaon. And even though geographically you haven’t really, thus begins your long drive on the express-way along the shiny glassy buildings, that Gurgaon is so famous for, filled with people wearing headsets and sitting at desks asking faceless people how they can help them.
And as you pass along these glass buildings that are almost acting as “green-houses of outsource”, you are compelled to take the exit onto M.G Road, a road completely dedicated to something that Gurgaon is now synonymous with [apart from the call-centres], Malls! Yes, yet another mall. And not just another mall, but a whole bunch of them, almost like a row-housing of commercial products and movie theaters.
And while you drive past with your eyes fixed on the big labels and/or on the myriad of cars snaking through that narrow road [depending on your gender], cursing the traffic jams and/or deciding on which mall to make your pit-stop at [again, depending on your gender], countless number of people are getting off the metro trains, on to the metro station right above you. But unlike you, these people are not here to shop, eat or watch a movie. Their dusty feet and hands will tell you the tale of the long day of manual labor they have endured while their pockets will jingle with their daily wage. They will take the very stairs that lead towards to malls you are heading to but will dare not look at them. After all, what is the point of looking at something not meant for them? And while the little kid clutching onto his mother’s sari will longingly look at the flashy billboards of Nokia Lumia and wonder, perhaps even ask, why they cannot go into the colorful building, his mother will smile and tell him that these are places that their employer can go to.
Gurgaon may be the “Millenium city” but there are two worlds living in it, both breathing the same air but divided by a gulf called money and shockingly separated, sometimes, by just a mere street. The city which was so accurately planned by the Haryana Urban Development Authority [HUDA] to be the suburban city for the middle and upper middle classes that could afford to live in apartments within gated colonies complete with round-the-clock water supply, 24-hours power back-up, manicured lawns, 3-tier security system and other in-house amenities and send their kids to private schools, the government failed to account for the less fortunate class of people putting up in slums with only 4-6 hours of electricity, barely 2-4 hours of water supply and no security or facilities what so ever.
Having lived in India for long we are now anaesthetized to such grave disparities and might also brush this aside by claiming that such differences are nothing new for India and that we live in a country that has more poor than the rich, but these differences become even starker in Gurgaon. And even though it would be juvenile and bordering on fantastical to hope or even expect from our government to eradicate poverty in the near future, living in a place where just across the street people are dying in this 45 degree heat while we sit in our air-conditioned rooms and read/write this article is just plain cruel. At the risk of sounding hypocritical, there are simple things the citizens of Gurgaon could do to help relieve the huge gap maybe just a little, if not more.
Instead of wasting money on a new dress every weekend at the mall, if we all invested that amount in getting a tube-well installed at the nearest slum area or even put into action a water harvesting system to reduce water wastage, could really help solve a huge water problem for the people depending on the public water-supply. Similarly, sharing electricity connection, even for a few hours, could provide respite to the poor in this melting heat. And although the government is really supposed to provide all of this, small measures taken and acts of kindness done by the better-half of the city could help make Gurgaon a real Millennium city!