Malls of Gurgaon Road

  • Harsimran Shergill / FG
  • India
  • May 29, 2015

Counting down to our 200th. issue (June 19), we are featuring some special Cover Stories from the past. This one is from Vol 1, No. 8, October 14-20, 2011.

I am 19kms long, begin from Mehrauli Lal Kot and go all the way to National Highway 8 (NH-8) at Gurgaon. I am the Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road, popularly known as MG Road…and this is my story. My introduction is important, so that people don’t confuse my identity with my name. People say, what’s in a name? But I think a name is the beginning of a social identity; it introduces you to the world. I may be MG Road but I’m definitely not a Mahatma road…unless Malls are the new Mahatmas. The story of my origin is similar to that of most of my compatriots. I might have been a village road to begin with, but my most glorious and prominent years have been during the reign of the Mughals - and subsequently during British rule. So crucial was my significance, that when the armies travelled from Calcutta to Dilli, the generals left their men under my responsibility - while they went to take permission from the Emperor of India to enter Dilli. A particular incident with the last Mughal Emperor stands out in my memory. It altered me forever - literally. There I stood, right under a balcony of Zafar Mahal, which had those wonderful ‘jharokha’ windows. This is where the Emperor and his family would stand and look out. Passersby were expected to dismount and bow, in respect to the Emperor. But the Britishers wouldn’t comply. Bahadur Shah Zafar solved the problem creatively; he bought the surrounding land and diverted me away from Zafar Mahal. That was the last time I saw him.

Another reason for my prominence - in today’s terms I would be called a celebrity - was that rulers, countrymen, horses, elephants - all of them - needed to pass over me while heading South West and into Rajasthan. As a gracious host, I asked my helpers to arrange for drinking water and rest stops along the way. In those days these were called ‘dhauli piaos’ and ‘sarais’, respectively. Even now you can see them scattered along my sides. Then came the Britishers - and there was a sea change. Gurgaon became the administrative headquarters. According to the first Gazetteer in 1883-84, ‘The station of Gurgaon consisted of public offices and the dwellings of European residents, the Sadar Bazar and the settlement of Jacobpura - which was laid out by a former Deputy Commissioner, Mr. Jacob, in 1861, for the accommodation of public servants’. The district was always alive with activities. By this time I had stopped waiting for the odd seasonal guests - like those visiting during festivals, or the armies - to arrive and park themselves by my side. Now I had become a ‘public’ thoroughfare, with Rolls Royces and Cadillacs visiting me all the time. Those indeed were the days. One of the things I liked about the Britishers was that they kept me well maintained. How different from today! Now I am known only for the ‘Mall Mile’ - the ‘MG Strip’. People often refer to me as the Malls of Gurgaon Road. However, that’s not even a fraction of who or what I am. The comparison came primarily because of my ‘resemblance’ (God bless them!) to the Vegas Strip - of which I shall talk later. 

As I look back and remember the first mall (MGF Metropolitan), I did have a feeling that this was going to snowball into something big. Along with Gurgaon’s real estate boom, there are now 28 malls that have surrounded me and, I must add, their constant 
chatter has left me with no peace of mind. I suffer from a multitude of problems - like excessive parking, jay walking, flooding when it rains (or even otherwise) and lots more. When push comes to shove and the citizens get real angry with me, the civic authorities come and stretch me a little wider. The solution to excessive cars and their need for parking has come in the form of illegal parking lots and parking in my service lanes - which were meant only for pedestrians. It is because of this constant and crazy rush that my arms and some parts of my body have started bleeding – exacerbated by accidents. My potholes are ever growing; and when the time comes for treatment, all they do is patch them up. Unfortunately even pedestrians have been no better. Most don’t think twice about spitting on me or throwing their waste around. That is why the civic cleaners are my special friends. Although most don’t come to clean up everyday, there are a few spots that get cleaned regularly. The best part of my day is the early mornings. It typically begins with mini-trucks, which come to drop off food to the supermarkets around the area. And then begins the hustle and bustle of a ‘commercial cum industrial’ city. The busiest time of the day is when shoppers throng the malls, particularly over the weekends. With the festival season the rush only gets worse. I see families coming to buy presents, lovers sitting outside malls exchanging SMSs and BlackBerrying each other. As Diwali season sets in, most malls around me are lit up with festive lights. However, the city authority doesn’t decorate me with any lights. Imagine if they did. Indian festive lights on buildings and on the roads… Vegas would die of envy! As mentioned before, many people compare me to the famous Vegas Strip. Perhaps I am…minus the casinos (go figure that out!).  Even just some 20 years ago I could have never imagined the number of people who would come to visit me. I have changed enormously…but I’ve embraced the change. Looking forward…twenty years from now I don’t know how many more malls, showrooms or taxi services will come up alongside me, but I can say with certainty that I will be accommodative. In India, life is like that only. Hai ye India meri jaans.

The Mall Mile may be the reason for calling Gurgaon the Millennium City, because there cannot be any other reason, isn’t it?

However, there is a good side to this story too. For me, that has come in the form of the Metro. This has meant fewer cars, fewer traffic jams, less honking, and consequently fewer accidents.



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