In no particular order…
- To me, the suburbs have come to be defined by lack of option (and I’ve been here all of three days so I really shouldn’t be commenting just yet!). Lack of option about moving there, lack of housing options – yes I know you can get from 1 bhk penthouses to sprawling mansions – but there are 14 others just like yours. Nothing unique about it (Another brick in the wall now plays in the back of my head like the soundtrack to my life) except maybe the different colour curtains peeking through your windows. It means taking Amul Milk instead of Mother Dairy because that is what your local guy supplies. It means buying Vim instead of Odopic because that would mean trekking to the next market.
- It means bowing to monopoly. The cook servicing my building isn’t the best and is quite a nasty creature, but I can’t get another from the neighbouring building, whose cooking I might prefer, who knows how to make idlis, because they wont cut in on each other’s turf. The third time it happened I was tempted to push her over my 13th floor balcony and watch her go floating down screaming. To say nothing of pricing. The last one told me she won’t wash up the cooker and wok she’d used because it wasn’t the building policy. I told her that building policy could kiss my ass. This is my house, I am paying, so things are done my way – so she could like it or lump it. She agreed. I think a little firmness is required. They are used to yuppies who don’t have time or the courage to argue with them.
- There is a uniform. Within 12 hours of hiring the cook she mistook me for a maid. I was down at the swimming pool with the kids and she entered the lift with me. I smiled at her, and continued to instruct my maid in Bengali on lift usage for days when I am not around. The cook began to get rather chatty with me and I replied politely. It was only after I walked into the house and began to talk to my mother in English that she asked me – are you the person I met yesterday, the one that hired me? Hmm… my simple work wear cotton salwar kameez obviously didn’t pass muster. Or else I shouldn’t have been at the pool, minding my own kids. When I met her the day before I had been in my home uniform of little faded cotton Sarojini Nagar sundress – which was probably more madam-like than my expensive pure cotton patiala set! From now on, it has to be shorts or capris if I plan to be recognised as mother and not maid!
- Men in elbow length ladies gloves. Yes, I get that the harsh sun burns your skin but it still looks bloody weird! I can still handle it on the bikers. But on the man sitting inside an AC car, I can only imagine that its vanity!
- The foliage. Somehow, nobody seems to be planting anything other than frangipani and palms. I know they are fast growing and hardy, but almost all buildings have only those and nothing else. No mango, leechi, guava, jackfruit, neem, nothing! It is truly fast food culture. Plant something that will grow fast and cover up the dry red countryside.
- Distance. I am going nuts having to plan my day. I am not a planner by nature and its not like me to work my day out well in advance. I know I will have to do it now, but it goes against my haphazard, easy going temperament. I am actually down to making lists these days and then staring at them in horror and wanting to burn them.
- The last one is something I can’t define. There is something very self indulgent about the way I live now. Within a gated community, with 100% power backup and water too (trust me, I don’t miss the lack of them!). But it seems as though my life has shrunk to fit into 10 acres or so and will stay that way. Walk within the compound, befriend those in the building, swim right there, play a game of basketball within the boundary walls, call the local store to deliver your goods, take a lift to go down (well, with my knees I shouldn’t be complaining!) and more. It’s almost as though I’ve got the world to stop and just focus on making things convenient for me. It’s taken the struggle out of my daily life and being the contrary person I am, I am complaining! It just somehow reminds me of those fake snow and ocean amusement parks where for a while you leave the real world out. No doubt my two hour commute each way, is enough to make up for any other lack of struggle but I feel stupid looking around the complex and getting excited over the presence of a doctor. It reminds me of living in a real organic city and having doctors, grocery stores and dry cleaners all living cheek by jowl with you. Not this orderly way of rows and rows of residences and a neat little pocket of 5 shops.
- I now get nostalgic each time I hear someone mention the word Delhi. Because really, I don’t live there anymore. Yesterday I went to drop the keys off with the old landlord and I noticed the repairs have already begun. And the first thing to go were my Warli figures; wiped out, along with all other traces of us having spent five years there. A man was filling sacks with the mud and plants from my tub and dumping them on the road. Blank walls stared back at me. This wasn’t really home. Home was the place where my babies were squealing in a swimming pool, threatening to jump off the 13th floor and running up and down the stairs of the duplex. I shut the door on the corridor and slowly came down the stairs one last time. Funnily, my knees don’t ache anymore.
- Oh – and I had to add a new tag to my list. Gurgaon.