A slice of life in the Sonal family.
It is seven o’clock in the evening: time for Shilpa Sonal, a social worker and mother of three, to drop her elder son to a tuition class. Her mother-in-law, 75, is engrossed in writing her next novel; while her father-in-law, a sarod player, works on an ambitious project to preserve the age-old musical notes.
Three generations of the Sonal family live together in a house at Nirvana Country. Shilpa and her husband Ashish Sonal, moved from Ghaziabad to Belvedere Apartment some ten years ago; and in 2006, they shifted to a spacious villa at Nirvana Country.
“Settling down in this part of Gurgaon was not a piece of cake. When we moved to Nirvana, people used to call it ‘Virana’,” laughs Shilpa. “However, our quest for a spacious house brought us here. Our three children required a lot of space, in and around the house. Also, my parents-in-laws needed space of their own, since both are from a creative background. Moreover, we wanted accessibility to parks. We wanted safety above everything else. And we have got it all here. We couldn’t expect this anywhere in Delhi or Ghaziabad,” says Shilpa, who runs an NGO Bagia, that provides education to the underprivileged children.
For The Elderly
For Shilpa’s mother-in-law, Sumanlata Saxena, moving to Gurgaon came as a blessing – as she found many like-minded people here. “Being a writer, I was always looking for an intellectual peer group. In Ghaziabad, it was difficult,” says Sumanlata. She has been writing since her college days, and recently got her work published. She proudly shows her publication “Chand, Kachnar Ka Ped Aur Tum,” and gives credit to her peers and daughter-in-law for getting the book published.
Sumanlata, however, complains about the unavailability of Hindi books in the City’s book shops and libraries. “Firstly, there is no good public library in Gurgaon, especially in this part of the City. Secondly, I am surprised no book shop in the City keeps Hindi publications. How would my grandchildren learn Hindi literature? How would they develop interest in their national language? They have access to Hindi books only in schools,” says Sumanlata. Her grand-daughter Ishika, however, enjoys reading “Nandan”, and gives due credit to her grandmother for encouraging her to read Hindi books.
Ashish and Shilpa also acknowledge the efforts put in by Sumanlata and Chandra Mohan (Shilpa’s father-in-law) to inculcate the right moral values in their children. “The benefit of being in a joint family is that there is an emotional support system for the children. Unlike other kids, my children don’t spend hours in front of the TV and computers, because they have a lot of people in the family to talk to. Plus, having three children also helps in transfer of knowledge. There is a constant transfer from the elder to the younger,” says Ashish proudly. He took pre-mature retirement from the Indian army, and decided to do an MBA – to start his own business and live with his family. Presently, he runs a management consultancy, Orkash Services Pvt. Ltd., in Udyog Vihar.
Like Ashish’s mother, his father Chandra Mohan also seems to be in love with the City. He appreciates the way Gurgaonites adapt to other cultures. “I am a Sarod player. A couple of decades ago, being a Sarod player was looked down upon. But now with the commercialisation of music in cities, I see many kids learning Sarod – which is great.” Chandra Mohan is documenting the age-old Sarod notations.
Living in g’City
When asked what is the best thing about living in a city like Gurgaon, Shilpa says, “I would call it the Singapore of India. I have travelled all over the country; not even Bangalore and Hyderabad have this culture. Southern India has a culture of its own. They have their own distinct code of dress and dance. There is something distinctive about it. In Bangalore, there is something typical Bangalorean; and in Hyderabad, there is something typical Hyderabadi. But like Singapore, there is nothing typical about Gurgaon.”
She, however, feels strongly about the builder nexus, and lack of civic infrastructure in the City. According to Shilpa, when her family moved to Nirvana, there was no power supply at all. “For four and a half years, we were on generators. There was no State power supply at all. There was a continuous humming noise 24x7. From 2003 to 2010, Unitech made 800 villas, but couldn’t provide any electricity and water to the residents. There is also no water body that Gurgaon can rely upon. Builders are draining water out of mother earth, causing damage to the environment. This is due to the builder nexus in Gurgaon.
Moreover, the sewerage system in the area is not connected to the City system. The Maintenance department sends suction pumps, to pull out the waste from each villa,” she says.
The Way Out
“Despite the many civic issues in the City, we can’t get away by blaming the authorities and builders. I think it is time for RWAs to join hands. I recently put across a suggestion to all the RWAs, to help provide a shuttle service from South City II and Sohna Road to the HUDA City Centre metro station. RWAs should work to provide transport to the residents, and also fight against the builder nexus,” suggests Shilpa.