Cultural contrasts in Gurgaon: Are we too quick to judge this city?

Yet another article, in the Business Standard this time, highlights the cultural contrasts between the original inhabitants of Gurgaon and its original inhabitants. “The two sets of people do not share public spaces — so vital for a city to become a melting pot of cultures. For example, the city’s sought-after clubs are out of bounds for the villagers because they do not fit the profile,” write journalist Veena Sandhu. Access to private schools is equally difficult for rural children, despite their immense material prosperity. It is a strange situation, by any standards.

I happen to frequent several days a week a space where these two worlds do meet. My gym. Owned by a local, most instructors in the gym belong to Gurgaon’s urban villages. The customers are a mixed bag of ‘us’ and ‘them’. The interaction has helped me look at the young men with a different lens. Often labeled as aggressive and uncouth, the citizens of modern, glitzy Gurgaon would like to dismiss the city’s rural young, avoid them. I, however, see their immense dedication to their bodies, their single minded focus and determination when they work out. I have not once (in several months) seen them ogle at a woman, flirt with one or even come anywhere close without permission. Initially, my attitude was as neutral as possible, perhaps even avoiding eye contact totally. Then slowly, I felt myself relax. Initially a smile would get a stiff response, almost a scared one lest I judge him. Now the regulars will smile back or even have a conversation in the lift. My trainer never introduces me to any of these friends of his by name; that comfort level has not been reached yet. But our distrust is as much the cause for this as the actual cultural divide.

I see spaces like this (and its good to take these spaces even more public than a membership-based gym) as a great opportunity to initiate interaction and sports can be a starting point to evolve a new culture for this city, which is young and in a delicate formative stage. I feel that we are so quick to judge, almost as if someone passing a diktat to allow intermingling will miraculously overnight resolve these issues. And then a woman gets molested, and everything clams shut again, the abyss deepened, trust destroyed.

We need to give this city time to evolve and find its balance. Yes, efforts must be made to initiate those dialogues, and equal opportunity is a good starting point especially in areas like education. Personally too, it is important that we get out of our shells and really open our eyes to the realities, to the ‘human’ side of the people around us.

About ramblinginthecity

I am an architect and urban planner, a writer and an aspiring artist. I love expressing myself and feel strongly that cities should have spaces for everyone--rich, poor, young, old, healthy and sick, happy or depressed--we all need to work towards making our cities liveable and lovable communities.

Posted on February 7, 2013, in Urban Planning & Policy and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Gym trainers are ‘service providers’ in a sense, don’t you think? With their jobs affected if they cross the line. Just like cab drivers, for instance, another set of ‘them’ that we interact with. Meeting as equals needs level playing fields like sports–as you mentioned.

  2. I was thinking of the same thing – an interaction between a patron and a service provider is not a relationship of equals. Also, I have experienced that even when you occupy the same space with different ‘classes’ of people, feudalism is so ingrained in us, especially the ones ‘below’, that the interaction, is still not equal. This is unlike say the government sports facility that I frequent where my daughter learns karate and a myriad other games in state sponsored programs where equality is integral amongst not just the kids, but their parents as well. I do not think this can actually play out in private realms, underpinning the need for governments to take responsibility towards creating spaces where all groups of citizenry can interact with each other on platforms of equality.

  3. I do agree with Mukta’s point and have often voiced this to th eLWG group , as in that we walk amongst the other older, native Gurgaonites, around their homes, hearths, temples, fields and jungles. I do strongly feel the common, open access public events have to be held far more and far more frequently for a real interaction and acceptance to develop between different groups in a society or a city which is not an organic growth but a superimposed implant like new Gurgaon.
    My son goes to play basketball at Tau Devilal Stadium with the locals and he has rather good interactions, and quite admires the local guys. Th einteresting thing is he told me how he was so impressed by local men in kurta pajamas bringing there little girls to boxing practice, in their pig tails and slawars!

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