The curious case of Gurgaon, from Millennium city to Gurugram

Ever wondered why Gurgaon is known as the ‘Millennium city’? Oh why am I even asking – the folks who stay there must either be working hard, stuck in traffic or lying on a couch, half-drunk. Those staying elsewhere don’t give a damn. So, no time for such questions, right? But, I know you all often sneak into the more colorful virtual world when boss is not around or between two traffic signals or when, for a while, you are somewhere between sober and sleepy. After all, I’ve spent two of the most frustrating years of my life in town. So, let me tell you where this term came from.

The Millennium Cities Initiative (MCI) is a project of the Earth Institute at Columbia University that aims to assist through research and policy analysis in selected mid-sized cities across sub-Saharan Africa. The project’s initial focus is on policy analysis impacting foreign direct investment (FDI), with a view to creating employment, stimulating domestic enterprise development and fostering economic growth, all of which happened in Gurgaon when it suddenly boomed about 15 years ago. Some of us who knew about MCI made a direct comparison and self-proclaimed the city as ‘India’s Millennium city’. When I was trying to find out the reason behind the term, another argument came up according to which a large part of development the place has seen, started in 2000 and hence, people began calling it the ‘Millennium city’. Sounded idiotic to me, and so I would go with the former that sounds relatively more sensible.

Tomorrow never came! 😛

What was a flat land of green fields, forests and crops, is now a sprawl of glass, steel and concrete high-rise offices, apartments and malls, which are the workplaces, homes and shopping destinations for its population of two million and growing. And while infrastructure is still in shambles, electricity is infrequent and erratic, groundwater is declining at an alarming rate, crime rate is on the rise, the sewage system and roads are decrepit, all that officials could do was change the name.

Even if they had to do it, at least including a ‘K’ may have helped, like it did to some celebrities, apparently. But no, Gurugram it had to be. Let’s go back in time and see what the logic behind it is. Going by mythology, Gurgaon is believed to be an ancestral village gifted by the Pandavas and the Kauravas to their teacher Dronacharya, where Dronacharya gave archery lessons to the Pandavas. Therefore, guru (meaning teacher) and gram (meaning village) came together for the brilliant idea of renaming Gurgaon.

Rise or doom of an empire?

Now that you’re aware of the background of one of the major (constructive or destructive I’m not sure) areas of India, you can go back to pretend being busy if you’re at work, roll yourself up in comfy sheets and sleep if at one of those sparkling hotels in Gurgaon, resume driving if the hour-long jam has finally cleared, order another round of pizza and coke if it’s just another lazy weekend or drink up and play ‘yo-yo Honey Singh’ until aunty finally calls the police.

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© 2016, Swati. All rights reserved.

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