Times of India, Gurgaon | 26/05/13 Column
I was traveling that evening on the Gurgaon-bound Metro from AIIMS and was faced with one of the most appalling attitudes of WE – the citizens. I watched the antics of a 2 yr old, first with amusement and then with horror as his mother prodded on - encouraging what one would term as “nuisance value” in a public space in a civilized society. While the kid may be a cause for future worry, it was the parents – a typical representative of the upwardly mobile apathetic citizenry of the Gurgaon that has come to be, which are the cause for immediate concern. Is this the Millennium City somebody dreamt of?
“An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic. Self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently to enable them to exercise oversight. It is therefore imperative that the nation see to it that a suitable education is provided for all its citizens. It should be noted, that when Jefferson speaks of "science," he refers to knowledge or learning in general.”
And it is Knowledge Economy that drives the emerging Financial Capital - Gurgaon. “Gurgaon today has the highest number of professionals per square inch in the country,” points out Ar. Atal Kapoor. It’s a low order for a city that boasts of 20+ international schools, 30+ international institutions and 30% and more of the city’s population employed as workforce in the IT sector which constitutes a large part of the MNCs in the City (nearly 300 of the Fortune 500 companies have corporate presence in Gurgaon). Wasn’t knowledge and international exposure supposed to lead to greater enlightenment and better citizenry?
“Glocal spaces, understood as strategic, have tremendous potential as a base for new and transformative politics and identities.” And yet, it is a city where the voter turn-out for the last assembly elections in 2009 was just 54.25% (lowest in Haryana). Let’s talk about how politics is played lower down in the power-structure of the existent society. Do we really know how larger democratic decisions are made in the lesser-informed rungs of our society?
In a recent conversation with my maid, I came to know that she had decided to vote for the “kamal chaap” one night after a disagreement with her mother-in-law who had decided to go for the “panja chaap”, both not knowing which political party or manifesto either brand signified. And this section, thanks to the apathy of their more upwardly mobile counterparts comprises the majority of the “active” vote-bank!
The City is a “public good”. And yet, Gurgaon is a city where boundaries in the physical and social realm are not just commonly seen and accepted, but also celebrated. Apparently, the ratio of 40% large scale private land-holding in existing Gurgaon is being reversed to what appears to more than 60% in New Gurgaon. And as if that was not enough, bubbles of social exclusion through IT and digital gadgetry manifests itself even in what traditional urbanists term as public transport. Do we truly have any “democratic spaces” where enlightened citizenry can have a chance to grow and be nurtured?
While the regular “lane-blocking” by our citizens in response to the unimaginative footpath design at the CNG petrol pump near my house may be a cause for despair; the breaking out of people in large numbers under the influence of the benevolent weather-gods to enjoy what one may even term as a “segmented” public space at Galleria on the weekend is a reason for hope…
A City where the number of permitted heavy-duty, 24x7 generators far outnumbers the meager 212 streetlight power connections (160 fittings are in working condition) which light up during the evenings if and where there is power: To me, Gurgaon is a City in the making - a City that is perhaps sleeping! Every individual has the power to make a difference. "Light and liberty go together" (Thomas Jefferson, 1795).
Let there be light – in the hearts and souls of the citizenry…and on the streets!
: “An urban EXPLORER”
see THE GENESIS OF DISCONTENT...