Gurgaon. Dust rises from construction site and loam. All my songs have been sung for Delhi. I’ve never lived in Gurgaon. If you’ve been in Delhi all your life, you’re almost whispery about it. That you have moved out to the flashy universe that is lit with neon signs. Where per square kilometre, there are more people with an American accent than in America.
My mother calls the traffic intersection close to home as the Mahabharat intersection. As your yellow light begins to flash, the opposite in anticipation of green threatens to ride over you. It’s a charge composed of cycle rickshaws, big flashy cars, scooters and an occassional Harley Davidson. Sometimes a few cows join the traffic.
Ask anyone in Delhi what they think about Gurgaon, and the relatively small area of recent developments flash in their mind. There are too many nouveau riche in Gurgaon for Delhi’s comfort. But there’s more to Gurgaon than the DLF developments. In ten minutes you can zip to Old Gurgaon that is strewn with old town references and villages.
I remember someone telling me that world over, sparrow population is on the decline. Not so in Gurgaon. I’ve spotted sparrows. Those tiny, heartbeat sized birds that are wary of human beings but seem to love the edges of buildings. They eat mostly seeds and cannot seem to survive in the morphed cities. While I have no fondness for slow traffic, at one point in time – the grain laden carts would gently leave behind trails of seeds and grain for birds to peck on.
You don’t find too many sparrows in Delhi these days. Delhi, with its many stories of decline. With layer upon layer of city pulled to a grand height. In that same vein – strangers from Delhi in other city, coopt Gurgaon as their own. Another city to be added to Delhi’s list of dead and alive ones. You ask them about development and they talk of the Metro and Gurgaon. You nudge them and remind that Gurgaon is in Haryana – Jatland. They tell you Delhi is as big as it wants to be, and that borders have never meant anything to it.
But when you are in Delhi – you are reminded that Gurgaon is afterall – a satellite.
The sparrows however have taken to Gurgaon. When we moved here, the birds hadn’t found us. A year later, I see more than ever before. Perhaps this city dotted with villages, finds enough in its heart to feed seeds to them. It is accidental – this finding of hearts. Gurgaon would rather wish away the evidence of its agrarian reality. But the birds are happy for now. Delhi has found another city which it will claim when it is convenient. Gurgaon is the child of Delhi’s ambitions, but its naked materialism is too crass to be amusing.
In the morning today – I saw swifts, sparrows, mynas, ring doves, stray parakeets and a solitary hoopoe. If the birds like this place, I see no reason for me not to. Birds are the first real inhabitants of urban spaces. I love all cities. But I love them all differently. In each city, a different breathing pattern evolves. (Though given all this dust – it is a breathless pattern that seems more apt.) Next time somebody does Gurgaon-bashing, I am going to let this little birdy do all the talking. Note the look of are you sure you know what you’re talking about. And in case, you want to know more about birds in Haryana – this is a very good site to visit.