I arrived in Gurugram in 2008 as a rather unwilling resident. Despite having grown up in Delhi, I had spent most of my adult years in Bangalore and Mumbai and liked the vibe of those cities. When it came to Gurugram, I could not quite figure out its character. However in the last few years, I have come to understand the city better, as it has come to be my home.
Speaking of homes, the first thing about living in Gurugram is the joy of the gated community. We are all very busy people and hardly get the time to see one another. But the Facebook group of the society, the Diwali Melas and our desire to work out in groups have helped us to get to know one another better over time. It is especially nice to have safe parks inside the colony, where kids can play and socialise. As one of my eight year old boys puts it, “I made a new friend today! I’ll ask him his name tomorrow.”
The city has a distinctly professional vibe. Corporate hubs like the one I work in fuel the Starbucks obsession in corporate executives like us. There are energetic, shared work spaces and hubs for the bright-eyed, young entrepreneurs and their more world-weary mentors. Then there are groups like Gurgaon Moms, which help ‘mompreneurs’ to flourish. A couple of years ago, my yoga teacher commented on the competitive spirit and desire to aggressively ‘sell’ one’s wares here. I had to think about it, and then shrug and say, “We are indeed like this only.”
Another advantage I found in Gurgaon was that getting admission in a good school was not a process fraught with tension. There are plenty of options. My three kids go to one of those experiential learning schools that do not use textbooks in the early years, and I am thankful each day that they look forward to it. I studied in Delhi in the 80s and the 90s, and spent many a morning pretending to be ill in a bid to skip school. Unfortunately, mom never bought it.
As a family, we are very much into music. As such, it has been helpful to find a variety of music schools in Gurugram. After trying out a variety of different options, we are now enrolled at the One World College of Music, where my kids and I take between us vocal, piano, guitar, drums, lyric-writing and musicality lessons. I used to feel that Bangalore had a musical vibe, but Gurugram too is getting there. Café Nowhere is a place where one can watch the live performances of the bands the city has to offer.
My career as an author has also blossomed here. I have written eight books ( I think), including two books for kids. A lot of inspiration has come from the people around me and many of the situations described in the book are set in the city. I have done a number of sessions for enthusiastic reading groups in the city. I do, however, mourn the lack of libraries here. Thankfully, there is the innovative online service provider Iloveread, which delivers physical books to the doorstep.
There is one big downside of living in Gurugram. In case you missed the news for the past few years, it is not the best place to be in if you happen to enjoy clean air. The winter especially is the time of year where my husband and I seriously contemplate shifting to a different city. For now, we make do by stocking up on air purifiers for each room and investing in masks for the kids which they often loose. This is why we have decided to participate in the protests to protect the Aravali Biodiversity Park, also referred to as the ‘city’s lungs’. A naturalist I met during a walk there informed me that Gurugram is the home to a range of biodiversity, including a variety of wetlands. So Gurugram is not just the concrete jungle it appears to be.
Finally lest I forget, for my husband, who is not so much into music or the arts, the move to Gurugram has resulted in a life-changing experience. He has managed to rent land in Tauru, buy seven cows and open a small dairy farming operation, supplying milk mostly to our amused and impressed neighbours. A wild experiment of about a year, it has prompted him to take up farming as a strange but permanent weekend hobby.
It seems as if in this strange amalgamation of people and cultures, professionalism and opportunism, concrete and nature that is this city of Gurugram, anything can happen. And so, I look forward to our future adventures here.
Garden Estate resident Yashodhara Lal has written books such as ‘How I Became a Farmer’s Wife’ and ‘There’s Something About You’. She is also a corporate professional, a fitness instructor and a mother of three.