Monday, May 12, 2008

Scenes and the City - Gurgaon diary

The first thing you feel is the dust. Heat and dust. Smell it, feel it, taste it... dryness. Open fields. The scent of the plains.
It's 9 pm and I'm on my balcony, breathing it in. Gurgaon gives this sense of wide, open spaces, open sky. Huge dark spaces beyond the halogen glare, streaks of light on the highways. The heat is like a hammer in the daytime, a swaddling blanket at night. This city lives on air-conditioning and cars.
Faraway thump of a party in progress. Slim young women in salwars and sneakers doing the daily constitutional at 40 mph around the sprawling society, and some not so young, some not so slim.
Talking of the women - they're taller, fairer, and definitely pretty, but also... a little scarier. I prefer the Bombay girls - somehow they look approachable. Friendlier, maybe, but that's just cultural bias talking, I guess.
And the cars. Bigger, flashier, and definitely scarier. Average speed, at this time, doesn't drop under 80, and every significant road is a six-lane highway. Signals, turns, pedestrians and other cars be damned. Classic kodak moment - flicking my eyes from the dashboard (100 kmph) over the driver's shoulder, out on the road, and there's a Santro cruising past, the driver giving me the most nirvana-encased look of utter, peaceful boredom. When you overtake, you don't look around, behind, ahead.
Just Do It.
Step inside and the AC takes you into it's fist and squeezes - but it's a short gasp, then your skin cools and you're happy again. Not like Bombay, where the sweat would have given you the shaking chills; there is no sweat here.
Switch on the TV, and there's a Komal Chautala lookalike, in uniform, selling inverters. She makes a reappearance on every break. I see why the next day - almost every 20 minutes, the lights flicker, and I feel more than hear a subterranean thump of the industrial inverter kicking in. There's a rising whine, lights return, accompanied by a faraway thrumming. Rinse and repeat.
Everyone has their own water arrangements. My friend has six sintex tanks on the roof. During the day, the water is close to boiling point - so what if you want to have a bath? O ji, no problem. Open the freezer, take out one of two pre-frozen bottles of water, drop it in, and ten minutes later you have a nice, cool bucket.
Necessity is the mother of the most innovative invention.
The construction levels that are happening are crazy. Giant mountains of steel and glass leaping out of the earth overnight, and the air and roads are choking on their afterbirth, piles of rubble, dirt, and floating dust. If the city had a tachometer, the needle would be well into the red.
At night, you can feel a vibration, a hum, so deep-seated it's sensed almost at a spiritual level - an explosive, uncontrollable, pushed-to-the-max howl of growth. The future's going to be quite eventful.

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