I don’t know about you, but for me travel is as good as the company I keep on the road. The weekend trip to Dhanachuli stands out in this regard. The fresh mountain air, the breathtaking views, the lovingly crafted properties we visited and stayed in, the delectable food…all these experiences were greatly enhanced and in fact, indelibly etched in my mind by the stimulating conversations we had.
Moreover, I rediscovered the absolute high of meeting new people and finding common ground in a very short period of time; the thrill of being in the company of creative minds that work differently from yours and yet feed into a similar sensibility; the calmness of not being judged and not judging those around you.
For this and more, my thanks go out to Te Aroha and Sumant Batra in particular, whose brainchild this Blogger’s Meet was. To warm up to the exciting series of posts I have planned about the fantastic weekend, I’m including these portraits I clicked of all my new friends. As fellow travelers, their names will crop up often in my ramblings about Dhanachuli and as I said before, they are as much part of the story as the frames taken by my camera’s eye and the words forming in my head!
And Aaditya of course. All my pictures of him are blurred and my strongest memory of him is of squinting keenly through the camera, in love with the idea of capturing a frame. The sharpest observation powers I have seen in a while… as far as company goes, AA was certainly the icing on the cake 🙂
Oh wait! I did find, a very apt, pic of him!
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.