Gurgaon, I was told, is completely devoid of public transport system. The government is probably proud of it as well. Being from Navi Mumbai (Kharghar), I can well imagine this. My initial days at Kharghar, when I did not have a car, involved plenty of walking, wooing and cajoling auto-rickshaws to go my way and showing that famous horizontal thumb gesture indiscriminately to any passing vehicle. Gurgaon promised to transport me back in time to those days!!
As a first step, I asked for the nearest market place and was told that there exists a “well established” market called the “Hudda Market” about a km away. I walked down to this market and found it to be a dingy little place with a bunch of shops set up in a distinctly claustrophobic manner. It has only one proper eating joint inside and five medicine shops around it which seemed to cast some suspicion on the quality of food being dished out by this place. Other than this, this market also has an abnormally high number of Unisex saloons which also makes you doubt about their true purpose of existence. This market also has the only liquor shop of this area (which was surprisingly well stocked; the guy had Carlberg / Budweiser/ Tuborg/ Foster beers along with the usual Indian fare) very strategically located at the extremely corner of the market – immediately beside a small kabab-wala. A subsequent visit in the evening revealed that the kabab-wala sets up plastic chairs & tables in the small stretch beside the booze shop and serves kabab and booze over there. The kabab-wala has a decent choice of offerings with those typical glass-single-window-thela and multi-coloured kababs (I could find red, orange, yellow, brown, green colours) hanging on sheeks – ready to be served at a moment’s notice. One also has the comfort of sitting in open air, very close to the boundary wall of the market so that any sudden visit of the authorities in khaki can be handled by quickly jumping over the boundary wall and running cross country across the dark grounds surrounding the market. There would, of course, be a certain amount of danger of breaking your leg or getting bitten by the innumerable dogs that seem to infest the surroundings of this market but one must accept it as a part of the charm and excitement of visiting this place.
Though the official opening time is ten, it is only by eleven when you can see some activity in the shops. The shop keeper would come by that time, yawning away to glory and if you dare to question him about the reason for this delay, you would be given a long lecture which will start with “aise bhi kya jaldi hain..” and then move on to sentiments like how we do not have time to stand and stare any more. To be fair, these shops stay open till about 10:30 or 11:00 pm (the booze shop and his kabab partner till 1:00 am in the night) and one has to give some leeway on account of this.
Another interesting this about this market is the complete diversification the shop keepers seem to have achieved. There is a milk booth which also doubles up as a Xerox shop, an internet café (the only one in this area) which also functions as ladies tailor, a duplicate VCD shop which also sells stationeries and one of those unisex saloons also sell mobile handsets. The most unique one will have to be the shop which sells ladies undergarments and towels (and which happens to be the only shop selling both the items in this market). I had a rather embarrassing moment when I had to enter this shop to buy a towel (I had forgotten to pack one) and had to wade through a sea of women of different sizes and shapes who gave me very dirty looks.
Just when I was about to give up on this market, I discovered that there is a better version of this market available just behind this market. This was more of the present generation market – which has three supermarkets including the Aditya Birla group “More”, the “Grahneez” (a popular local supermarket chain) and “Mandi” – an exclusive fruits and vegetable market. These are the new generation air-conditioned shops with bar-coded materials on well lit displays and English speaking staffs – shops to which we have now got used to. I also discovered that there is a shop which sells an amazing range of frozen foods including Japanese foods, pork and beef cold cuts and diet ice -creams. And this new market also has a Pizza Hut and several small food joints – all of whom are ready to deliver at home.
One could easily notice that Gurgaon is like a small island amongst the traditional Haryana lifestyle; an island with wide roads, plush cars, educated executives and call-centre crowd maintaining an air of exclusivity within it. It is an upwardly mobile place with a somewhat cosmopolitan culture and expensive lifestyle. I expect that this probably would have created a rift with the local people, as I had seen in Kharghar. It is too early to comment – one needs to observe more.
Till then, let me feel at home – now that I have discovered that I have a Pizza Hut less than 1 km away!