I remember when we were kids, and Gurgaon was a far cry from what it is now, we would pile up in the car and often head over for a drive outside Delhi, via Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road, relieved to leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind. Admiring the vast expanse of farm land along the way, secretly counting the dhabas and petrol stations on the highway to see who got the most, we would continue along until the mountains came into view.
Then, on the the way back, we would stop for ice-cream at Jumbo Point, sit on the top of the car, and wait. Wait for the sound of an approaching airplane and, as soon as it became audible, attentively follow its path until it descended lower and lower, and finally crossed the airport wall right above our heads with a deafening roar.
As far as we knew back then, going to Gurgaon meant the thrill of driving fast on wide, empty roads and see an airplane land or take-off over our heads. But when I look back now, I also remember how the landscape of Gurgaon evolved slowly and steadily. By the time I started working a few years later, and began driving myself to Gurgaon, the village and its people were already unrecognizable. I made sure I was always armed with a city map, for it was not yet the time of smart phones and Google Maps, and one couldn’t afford to be stranded in this strange land.
Modern-day Gurgaon was Guru Dronacharya’s village, a gift from the Pandavas and Kauravas for training them in military arts. While the legends of the mythical village are woven around the warrior mystic, the Millennium City, as it stands today, owes its rapid growth to globalization, outsourcing and the BPO boom.
From swanky malls and skyscrapers to pot-hole-ridden roads where gleaming Mercs vie for space with rickety rickshaws, from voluptuous North Indian aunties and brawny local men to rotund Bengali mashimas, from designer stores and Starbucks coffee to roadside vans peddling chole bhature, Drona’s village is riddled with contradictions, both hilarious and poignant, irreverent and bittersweet. Debeshi Gooptu’s Gurgaon Diaries is a humorous peek at the workings of this modern-day village and how the Millennium City is a paradox in itself.
The author begins with a lovely introduction chronicling the history of Gurgaon from as far back as the Mahabharata. She describes how she first saw it upon moving here nearly two decades ago, having left the city of her birthplace, Kolkata (I believe it had still not been renamed from Calcutta back then), behind. Land, roads, infrastructure, people, and the language – it was all the hallmark of North India’s very own village bordering the grand capital.
Then came the boom in property and while builders and real estate agents seemed to take over the landscape to raise the skyline, there was an influx of people from all over the country who came in hordes for better opportunities. The village was taking over.
Unfortunately, this village wasn’t prepared to handle the rapid development and urbanization. Infrastructure was severely lacking. Gurgaon was unable to keep up. Soon enough, the success story developed large cracks, much like its potholed roads come monsoon season.
Nonetheless, the city has continued to grow and Gooptu has captured the nuances of her experience through the years in a short story / essay format.
The book is divided into three sections – Life, Work, and Play. True to their name, the stories in each category describe her various adventures of living in Gurgaon. Some are humourous, while others evoke anger, and then there are those that completely appall you.
The wonderful thing about the book is how, within the backdrop of development, it is a study in Gurgaon’s Sociology. Changes in values, culture, morals, ethics – life in Gurgaon and the people here are shown as the mishmash they are. As the author still learns to come to terms with this development of an entirely different kind, you – whether you are a resident, or visitor – can’t help but marvel at it.
I may be a born and bred Delhiite, yet, having been closely associated with Gurgaon in more ways than one, I still find myself amazed reading these stories. And while I continue to have an old, foldable map in the dashboard of my car (probably quite outdated now), I still trust it to help me find my way home if I do get lost in the burgeoning city. Though, I must confess, I am strongly considering supplementing the map with this book. For all you know, it might teach me a trick or two in handling tricky situations, or trickier Gurgaoniites.
Title: Gurgaon Diaries
Author: Debeshi Gooptu
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 Stars
Available on Amazon.
About the Author: Debeshi Gooptu is a business journalist turned digital content strategist and entrepreneur. With more than twenty years of experience in print and television (Business Standard, Business Today, Plus Channel) and higher education (British Council, Canadian High Commission, Intel Asia Electronics), she runs an online research consultancy for overseas education organization and works as a digital content strategy head for Digiqom, a digital media agency. Debeshi is also the India editor for Innovation Enterprise, a Singapore-headquartered publication tracking trends in technology and innovation in Asia-Pacific.
She frequently blogs for The Huffington Post and runs ‘The Gurgaon Diaries’, a successful blog. In 2015, she self-published an e-book (with the same name) comprising a few of her stories from the blog, on Kindle Select. The book did extremely well with readers across the world requesting for more writing in this genre.
Her latest book – Gurgaon Diaries: Life, Work and Play in Drona’s Village (also based on her long-running blog of the same name) – was published by Rupa Publications in January this year.
Her book, Dragon Aunty Returns, and a collection of short stories has been published by Juggernaut Books in January last year.
In her spare time, Debeshi plays the piano, sings in the bathroom, and desperately tries to emulate Nigella in the kitchen.
She lives in Gurgaon, Haryana and continues to blog while also being active on Twitter.
Picture Source: aquamarineflavours.wordpress.com