Saturday, 17 December 2011

Apna gaon- Gurgaon

Gurgaon is a hep and happening place. Cruising on the toll road one can see the brightly lit multistoried landmarks which makes this Haryana town look like Manhattan. The plush Hotels which line the highway include the giants like Leela Kempinski (Indo European tie up) and Crowne Plaza. All international names would want a presence in this gaon (village), Gurgaon, thanks to the IT hub it has become.

The well signposted toll road gives way to a traffic maze at most times, which leads into the concrete jungle, dotted with numerous residential complexes, shopping malls (big and small), offices, huge hospitals (wonder how many people are sick at any one time), overhead Metro tracks and metro stations, hotels and schools.

I had been in touch with some of my college friends, thanks only to Mark Zuckerberg's invention- the Facebook. It was therefore easy to get in touch with each other and organize a meeting in the posh Ambience Mall. It reminded me of the Seef Mall in Bahrain but needless to say such a meeting of all brands international and national along with the indigenous, in such luxurious surroundings made me remember where I had come from- a sleepy seaside village (town seems a overstatement) in rural East England where the biggest establishment is probably the hospital I work in.

We ate at Frescoe's- an Italian joint with youngsters belting out live music in form of popular numbers from our college years. I happened to comment that these young people seem to be singing songs from "our time", only to be rebuked by the youngest at heart in the group- "what do you mean our time, THIS is our time!"
I had to agree. Being with college mates who you have had both escapades and petty fall outs with twenty something years strangely uplifting, therapeutic and wonderful.

I was only having French fries as they call them in India (its chips in England), due to religious reasons, but the food looked very authentic and delicious. The poor waiter cum manager was threatened by at least three of us to ensure my food had no extra ingredients in case it invites the wrath of the Gods. "Are you married?" one asked, "You want a good wife, don't you?" threatened another. Poor guy came back to tell me that the usual potato wedges are preseasoned with masala, hence he will organize a plate of pure French Fries-ideal fast food (Vrat khana). I told the young man I will pray he gets a good wife.

I met some very unusual people too. A farmer, who studied till high school, who dresses in white shirt and trousers, who sold half his agricultural land when the development started and built a home each for his two sons in Gurgaon and now lives in a three story guest house cum home where people can rent single accommodation with breakfast and dinner for monthly lump sum or on a daily basis. Money is not a problem any more for this farmer and his family as their fortunes turned when IT companies put their anchors down in Gurgaon.

Another person I met was a retired Professor of the degree College in Gurgaon. He told me that his illiterate farmer parents had given him an education.  Uncleji's sons are now abroad, Manchester and Birmingham. He helps his daughter in law in the boutique he has helped establish in neighbouring Hong Kong Mall. Shopping there reminded me of the time when I had come to England for the first time. I would calculate the price of a cup of coffee by converting it into rupees and then wonder whether it was worth it. I seem to be doing the reverse now in India. Everything seems to cost above a thousand rupees which in my mental calculation goes much above ten pounds and then I think- maybe...maybe not after all. A hundred rupee note is like a pound coin, even though a pound doesn't even fetch a hundred rupees.

Newspapers seem to have a lot of news on schools and children's achievements. One of the key achievements being top SAT scores, the entry ticket to top Ivy League Universities in the US. US education even if it is at post graduate level like an MBA allows people to be employed by multinationals with huge salaries in dollars and some are now resettling back in India while earning a fat dollar pay packet.

All this feels good, but the problems of India remain, corruption being top of the list. The threat of Anna Hazare's campaign looms large over the Government who is trying to shut people up by threatening to clamp down on media and social networking sites! But Change- is inevitable whether the Govt likes it or not!