Before we begin, I feel it’s fair you should know that I have spent 50% of my financially independent life in this city so it does hold a special place in my heart. For the other 50%, I have lived in Delhi (Gurgaon’s more famous neighbour), Bangalore ( A city that has been trying to lay claim to India’s most progressive city for a while)and Hyderabad (Biryani, need I say more?). I would also like to claim that I am a well-travelled global professional who has visited most of the major cities of the world from Asia, America and Europe. South America is still too expensive for me and I am yet to include Africa into my travel plans.
What comes to your mind when you think of pretty cities? Medieval European cities such as Prague or Amsterdam? New age cities like San Francisco or Seol? Or Power centres such as London or New-york. You may even think of idling cities such as Banaras or Bhopal or bustling cities such a Delhi or Mumbai. But I can vouch Gurgaon would have never crossed your mind. So what is it about these cities that makes them beautiful in a way and what is that Gurgaon is lacking for it to be counted among beautiful cities?
Cities are in a way living things, they have a heart, a nervous system and foremost a personality. Where Delhi is brash, Mumbai is tenacious, Where Prague is a romantic, Amsterdam is a reveller. What is Gurgaon? A Large theka, A cyber park or a Concrete jungle or a huge machine? I hardly find any of those things pretty.
The heart of a city is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of that city. Connaught place or Chandni Chowk for Delhi, Marine drive or Juhu Choupati for Mumbai, Lakes and trees or the brigade road for Bangalore. Whereas Gurgaon makes you think of a corporate park or a long stretch of golf course road. Mind you thinking of Golf course road does give me some hope for this city.
In my view for a city to be beautiful, it must have the following
- Walkability for pedestrians: Nothing adds charm to city like its friendliness for long walks at all hours of the day. It makes people experience the city more closely and creates a foundation for a lot of small businesses and culture to thrive.
- Some thought and aesthetic into the Facade of buildings: This is a common voe across India, the facades of most of our offices, shops and apartment complexes are so uninspired that it feels like no thoughts were spared for them. While the house may look beautiful and varied from the inside, they all look the same with their plain brick walls from the outside.
- An ecosystem of support for small shops and businesses: this is an offshoot from point 1. When you don’t have walkability in your cities and most people live inside apartment complexes and shop from the apartment ran grocery store right outside of their lift lobby. It’s no surprise that you don’t have a coffee shop a short walk from where you live. Small shops need consistent traffic near them to survive, till the time they imprint their names upon their society.
- Art and Culture: What is Art and culture with reference to a city? How do you build and promote one? Haven’t their been countless movies romanticizing Newyork, Paris or Mumbai. A city must nurture those who come to it, by giving them avenues to develop. These generally come in the shape of Festivals and public scpaces developed to foster collaboration and a free flow of thoughts and ideas. These are your cafes and events, parks and markets, street performances and food stalls. You never know what will inspire someone, you need to provide enough stimuli that at least a few people are inspired as they walk around the city.
- Cleanliness: Grossly underrated, supremely important. If you doubt me talk to someone who recently visited Paris, despite its fabulous architecture, cuisine, art and fashion scene. The first thing most people talk about these days when they visit Paris is how filthy the city has become. For those of us in India, filth in our cities is not something unheard of.
- A sense of locality, A quirk: A city needs to preserve its local heritage, be it culture, history or landscape. These things lend a city its unique charm. Be it small hills, a river, Old forest and architecture, a heritage of farming, a speciality food, a distinctive art form, anything really. Think of Jaipur with its Havelis, Pondicherry with its French architecture, Amsterdam with its canals or bicycles, Kolkata with its laidback lifestyle. Gurgaon, the only thing that I can think of is hitting a range of pubs or a theka every 100 meters. Which would have been great if we were like Munich with its 1000s of charming breweries?
- Order in chaos: While on hand we want more walkability cute little streets and a lot of street shops. Its important that the city is easy to access, for everyone. This is not achieved by just making big roads. You need public transport, preferably more than 1 kind. Be it metro, buses, trams, shared autos or a mix of all these. People should be able to move fast and move anywhere when they need to.
Well, this is pretty much what I feel, needs to be done to make Gurgaon a beautiful 21st-century city. A city that on one hand is a hub of economic and technological activities. But also a city that makes people who come here there own, makes them never want to leave. A city that people want to come to not just for jobs but just have a look at it. A city that is in itself, A Marvel.
(Do you feel the same about Gurgaon? Or not? Share your views! Its only when we do that, we can improve our city!)