Monday, June 2, 2008

Home Sweet Gurgaon

After work I typically board a cab that wedges its way into inching traffic. The bumpers of cars come surprisingly close, and deft motorcyclists somehow manage their way at speed through increasingly smaller gaps. With a ready hand at the horn, each driver is aggressively poised over his steering wheel. The free hand will gesticulate and frustration will become audible in the form of the word "yaar" (man).

Past the windows, men and women stand atop crumbled curbsides, longingly looking into the street. Bicyclists manage their way along the roadside edge, and vendors dole out dusty glasses of water for 50 paise (1 penny). Under a corner telephone wire, a local liquor shop stands surrounded by dozens of cycle rickshaw owners, each idly sprawled betwixt the metal bars of their livelihood in an uncomfortable collaboration of fabric and aluminum, legs and bike frame. Men in suits and women in saris travel to and from their BPO offices, some in AC cabs, others on dilapidated cycle rickshaws. It's a dusty anachronism on both the road and the road side. Brilliant edifices of glass are erected on a monthly basis, but surrounding them are piles of bricks, heaps of corrugated metal, spikes, tents that serve as the homes of those who labored 24-hours per day. The potholed road is littered with standing water, putrid in smell and green in color despite the fact that rain was weeks away. Tattered billboards with calls to action advertise products inaccessible to the majority of inhabitants.

Along the street side a family of three boys cooks corn atop a flame that spits out black smoke. It paints their faces darker, and only makes their smiles brighter. A woman draped in wrinkled skin holds her arms to me, and a bouffant-styled Bollywood look-alike fixes his Royal Einfield. Two boys feed sugar cane into a grinder that's powered by a sputtering generator which coughs deep black puffs into the air. Small children sit nearby. The sun dips on a dusty, crane crossed horizon, its brilliance dulled by pollution but its heat undiminished. Another day in Gurgaon.

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