Friday, July 27, 2007

Gyaan from Gurgaon

I've been in Gurgaon (Gudganva to the locals) for the last three weeks. It's been a VERY interesting experience so far... On the basis of my limited travels in and around this fine city (damn, I don't think the sarcasm came through as strongly as I intended it to), here are the top five things I learned/realized in all this time here...

MTR's ready meals ROCK! All one has to do is pop them in the microwave for a couple of minutes and out comes fresh tomato rice, pulao, alu mutter and a whole assortment of other Indian dishes. Manna from heaven from a bunch of bachelors with a combined culinary experience that does not extend beyond Maggi. (Coming soon: The Noodle Bar blogpost.) Speaking of which, here's a friendly tip from one who knows: having Maggi more than four nights a week can cause unpleasant sensations in one's stomach. I know people say consultants are always full of gas, but you really wouldn't want to prove them right in a literal sense.

This place is chock-full of lousy drivers. To the brim. I do not exaggerate. It is not uncommon to see a large truck zooming down a busy road in the wrong direction, a car choosing to travel half a kilometre in reverse just to avoid taking a U-turn, cycle rickshaws that Apparate out of nowhere (yes, I read Harry Potter 7 earlier this week), suicidal motorcyclists playing tag with Death, tempos carrying 400% their expected capacity careening past red traffic lights, traffic policemen waving their arms about ineffectually as a four road junction rapidly becomes a 15-directional traffic jam... on one day, it took us 40 minutes to travel home from work, a distance of about 1200 metres. The sad part is that it's not enough to be a good driver oneself. The maddeningly lousy road and traffic sense of everyone else forces one to conform, or get a severe knock or two. And yeah, just to add to the fun, I'm going to be buying a car in a month. Good thing I didn't tell the folks providing my life insurance about this.

Career options
It appears that most of the employment in Gurgaon is generated by just two roles - security guards and house brokers. Let me explain. Fuelled by skyrocketing growth in the services sector over the last few years, Gurgaon is a city that looks really stunning by night. Twinkling lights, enormously tall buildings and shiny glass in every direction, it's like Canary Wharf spread over about 50000 acres (I don't really know the area, I'm just throwing a figure so it'll sound impressive. Did it?). I've been told it contributes 35% of Haryana's income tax collection. The ever growing influx of multinational firms and their increasingly well-off employees has created quite a housing boom, and complexes of anywhere between three to ten 20-storey buildings comprising residential complexes is the norm, as are commercial complexes that satisfy two primary criteria - a. Glass everywhere and b. Never a normal cuboidal shape (there have to be weird angles, curves, shapes and towers jutting out, for some apparent reason).
More people implies more houses and offices. More houses and offices implies a greater need for protection/security given that the law and order situation here isn't anything to write home about (or rather, is something to write home about if your near and dear ones like reading macabre tales of robberies, road rage, murders and other assorted crimes). Hence, the need for security guards. Every major building has a posse of at least 4-5 of them, so if you're ever out of a job or fancy an alternate lifestyle for a while, you know what to do.
As I said earlier, more people implies more houses being built. And also more people searching for these houses. And also, given how much tax we're paying and how expensive living in this place is, more people searching for houses whose rent won't, ironically, drive them to the streets. Enter the broker. Usually an enterprising local chap armed with his trusty old bike and a vast network of fellow brokers, he is your guide through the frightening, wearying, frustrating jungle of house-hunting. For a commission, he'll take you to a bewildering array of flats that match your spatial and budgetary requirements, introduce you to (usually very well-heeled) landlords and help in negotiations. An extremely invaluable resource in the mad mad world of Gurgaon real estate.

Big Bazaar ROCKS. If only because it sells stock that's close to expiry at dirt cheap rates. And has fundoo offers along the lines of "Buy 4, Get 2 Free" on a range of products from hangers to juices to diapers (no, that does not mean I buy diapers. I was merely illustrating a point). Again, this is a godsend for someone who isn't making as much money as he thought he would be (@$#%& taxation, etc) and is looking to save as much as he can in a place where the local populace seems to be oozing wealth from every pore and the cost of living mirrors this fact. And, almost all shopping is done at malls. Huge, glossy, popping-out-at-you-everywhere-you-go, neon-and-hip-young-things-filled malls. There are very few local kirana store type areas around here, and none within easy reach of where I'm staying now... as a colleague put it, "Even to buy a toothbrush, one has to go to a mall!"

In this day and age of mass consumerism and general optimism about the state of the economy, it is apparently acceptable - in fact, quite the norm - to pay Rs. 175 or more for a movie ticket. I believe the average price is around Rs. 225. I haven't actually checked them out myself for fear that my wallet will scream in shock, jumped out of my pocket and down my throat and attempt to throttle me for having exposed it to so fearsome a situation, thereby causing me to die a painful death. Reliable sources tell me the accompanying popcorn costs upwards of Rs 100. My conscience does not allow me to wallow in such luxury, and I look forward to going back to campus and downloading all the movies I want to watch. With a Rs. 20 Maggi + Lime Juice combo to keep me company.

Well, that's it for now. More insights and experiences coming soon!


praveen said...

Congo for buying a car dude....and btw i was also in noida for some period of time ...which is similar place to gurgon...butfeatures with respect to traffic is very light when compared to gurgon..Movie tickets rocks...we saw a movie in a mall(forgot the name...its near atta market) for nearly 450 rs....and a good yummy butter popcorn cost 75 ...all the way both gurgon and noida rocks a lot than chennai....hope the fun continues!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Paresh Y Murudkar said...

U missed mentioning the pleasant weather at this place! :D

AC said...

@Praveen: Naah, I disagree... I still prefer Chennai to Gurgaon :)

@Daaru: Oh yeah! I forgot the searing heat, blistering winds and stinging dust storms :)

sir jorge said...

great post, great blog,

Divya Das said...

Looks are taking it on real slow... u will adopt those little luxuries soon enough, though it may be heavy on the pocket... Life never lets u remain a cave man for long! :)

AC said...

@ sir jorge: Thank you :)

@ DD: Yeah, I know :( Someday I too will be sucked into that super-materialistic, comfortable-with-luxury, spend-like-there's-no-tomorrow world... but I intend to fight it as long as I can!

Lizzy said...

Lovely post :) btw apart from the traffic I dont think its all that bad a place ;)

AC said...

Hmmm... I guess it takes some getting used to :)and thanks!