Gurgaon is Haryana’s largest city and is located 30 kilometers south of Delhi. Over the past 25 years the city has grown to become an icon of ‘urban India’. Most businesses from mega-cities are relocating to Gurgaon to partake in this moment of possibilities. The process of building Gurgaon has been one that is hugely criticized on grounds of human rights, land rights, issues of access and equity, labor and so on; yet the city houses, employs and entertains the aspirations of many across classes. In strange ways the flexibility and lack of regulation allow for ways to mediate this messy logic of a transforming city. However, these observations are not limited to Gurgaon alone. India has been touting its moment of urbanization with seven new cities planned across the Mumbai-Delhi corridor, and several tier two (small cities with populations between 1-4 million) growing in area and population to house more urban aspirations.
Through my past work on the Commonwealth Games held in Delhi, I encountered this rather disturbing yet hilarious film on Gurgaon called “I am Gurgaon” by Marije Meerman, 2009. The film through personal interviews with various residents in Gurgaon displays the paradoxical reality of Urban India–one that seeks engagement and knowledge, ‘of how the other half lives’, but in simple, safe nuggets of manageable truths.
Here’s the link:
I started thinking about Gurgaon through a recent body of work called “Gurgaon Glossaries” that looks at the city and its messy logic to reveal a glossary of terms, tools, relations, networks and strategies that help build and ‘settle’ these cities; A rather distant, yet rooted engagement with the city to develop new ways of looking and understanding. The work steps back from the traditional framework of identifying problems and devising solutions but thinks of a parallel process of developing a new ‘lexicon’, if you will.
Link to an essay that summaries the work: Gurgaon Glossaries: Prasad Shetty, Rupali Gupte and Prasad Khandolkar
The second part of the project involves displaying the work at the Mumbai Art Room–a gallery space–in the form of writings, observations and photographs, and turning the art gallery into a discussion space inviting urban researchers and professionals from various fields to speak about their work and their methods of engagement in the city. I will be going in tonight, and will follow-up with a post that elaborates the second part of the project that is most important to me. The film and the glossary create interesting connections and a tension in how one positions herself as a practitioner thinking about and working in complex urban environments.
For now here’s a small description of the work: A Tabletop Examination Of Gurgaon