I have lived in Gurgaon for the last seven years. During this time, I have been trying my best to achieve the exalted levels of satisfaction and pride that I am convinced is the proper state of mind for a denizen of this Millennium City. It hasn't been easy – the truth is that there are some bits and pieces that don't quite fit the global template. I'm not sure if these are remnants of some prehistoric culture that existed in these parts before the DLF era, or if they're just the straggly unfinished edges of a work-in-progress that will be taken care of in due course by the people in charge. Or maybe they're the bits that went wrong and are too far gone to be repaired – in which case they will just have to be trimmed ruthlessly when the picture is framed for a global audience.
Whatever they are, I'm happy to report that I'm getting the hang of dealing with them. For instance, when I'm driving, I keep my gaze firmly nailed to the middle distance. The reflections of sunlight off the blue glass walls of the office buildings, the malls that are lighted up even in the daytime, the billboards with their soft-focus scenes of life in Nirvana County and Aralia Heights -- these help to take one's mind off the bumps and potholes in the road, the broken pavements, the uncleared garbage, the broken beer bottles, the unhappy-looking trees festooned with dead plastic bags, the silent old people begging at the traffic lights, the skeletal cows and mangy dogs.... I'm sure that if I can just keep practising not looking at them, they will retreat to their proper locations at the edges of my consciousness.
Things have been a little harder these last few weeks, though. I haven't yet been able to develop the correct attitude to the reports of violence against women that pop up every now and then on the news-scape. I know I should not be brooding about them – they are mere pimples, minor infections of the urban epithelium that merit no more than a swipe of concealer for a couple of days. Treat them with the contempt they deserve and they will slink away. It seems to work for so many people in My Gurgaon – no reason why it shouldn't work for me.
I'm applying this approach to our latest rape – sorry, make that “alleged rape”. The victim was not really the kind of girl we would like to see in My Gurgaon, was she; she wasn't even really a Gurgaon girl, lived in Badarpur of all places. She worked in the Last Chance Pub in the Sahara Mall, and the men who she claims first abducted and then raped her had been drinking in the same bar. A liar too, it seems – she said she worked in the pub, but the owners say she was just a freelance escort for hire – the police are checking the CCTV footage from the pub to find out what she was doing there. Anyway, there she was outside the Sahara, calling a cab at 2.30 am. She says she was raped in a mansion in DLF but she couldn't identify the house for the police. Strange, isn't it – those DLF mansions are absolutely unforgettable. So she got a medical test and it confirmed rape, but that's neither here nor there -- these government hospitals will confirm anything for a fee. They should have taken her to Medanta Medicity if they were serious about it.
And even if her story is true and she did get raped, we know who did it, don't we – some rustic Haryanvi yobs. Probably the same guys who got beaten up by bouncers last year and groped those girls on New Year's Eve. And have you noticed how all this happens around the Sahara Mall? Must have something to do with having Chakkarpur village right behind it. Some of those oldsters even claim they were diddled out of their land by people like us. Driving their tractors on the expressway and refusing to pay the toll. And their sons – they think they're too good to smoke a hukka and drink tharra like their dads, want to go out and get high on vodka in pubs, for heaven's sakes. These boys don't seem to understand that they have not been given the right of entry into Global Gurgaon – they keep trying to sneak into places like these pubs. Only in the lower-end malls, mind you – they wouldn't dare try it with better places where My Gurgaon hangs out. Thank goodness those places have guards from proper security companies. The guards at the Sahara are just village boys themselves. No wonder they can't keep out the gatecrashers!
Anyway, this particular story is already off the front pages of the newspapers, knocked out by Mamata Banerjee and the railway budget. Just a little snippet today, somewhere at the back, about a protest some kids staged at the mall last night. Probably egged on by one of these feminist NGOs – I hear they're paid by the US to undermine our GDP, although I'm not sure exactly how this works. They were shouting something about the police commissioner asking working women to stay off the streets after 8 pm. He couldn't possibly have said that, could he? Bar girls aren't working women are they? He couldn't have meant me, could he? I'm a working woman too, but I'm okay – I have my own car and I don't do nightshifts and I don't call for cabs outside the Sahara Mall at 2.30 am. In fact, I have never been inside the Sahara Mall, thanks very much.
I just need to keep on ignoring the stuff at the edges and it will go away. I have to keep telling myself it will go away. It has to. It's My Gurgaon -- not the ugly bits, of course. I mean the rest. The real Gurgaon, the global one.
(Kalyani Menon-Sen is a writer and feminist activist based in Gurgaon, Delhi)