If you drive from Gurgaon on the pahari
(hilly) road and enter Faridabad, you can cut through the town by taking a right at the Sainik colony, or drive straight past Badkal onto Mathura road. You go left some distance before making a u-turn, then head back in the direction of Agra. Old Faridabad comes up in a few kilometers and sectors 14 to 17 are on your left, behind it. The shorter route though is through the town, if you do not mind driving in the congestion. All sectors are mostly west of the main road. Four sectors coming together first, then an equal space taken up by government and commercial buildings -- plazas, civil courts, a town park, a stadium. At the far end is the Ford Motors factory and next to it, Indian Oil complex.
Making a boundary there, two parallel canals run from Delhi to Mathura. Past them, on the other side, was a typical rural landscape just twenty years ago .. green maize and mustard fields with a small road meandering through the villages. But now BPTP - the extension to Faridabad, is fast coming up, and only the higher of these building floors get a view of the countryside, till that too is obliterated..
I have a long association with Faridabad, back to the 70's. It was a boom town then, and I had just begun college. My father retired early from the army due to health reasons, starting an ancillary here. My intention is not to write about that ancillary, but instead, of the evolving culture during these past thirty years.
College years and into the twenties are the headiest in one's life. As we step into the deeper waters of adulthood, what all do we carry within ourselves! Anxieties too, of course, but much more of optimism; bolstered by enthusiastic friendships, and life seems to have no foreseeable end.
There's a kind of hand-off happening at this time, between parents and their grown-up sons, and maybe even the daughters. At one level it's all quite natural and organic-like a process -- of the old being shed, or moving away, and the younger moving in. One can visualize each family as a stem or branch, and the entire tree, its community. The parents are like pieces of bark shedding from the branches, peeling off and disconnecting. They survive as long as some sap is stored within them, connected by slivers here and there to the bark forming in places they have been displaced from. Finally then letting go: dust to dust, ashes to ashes !
Sometime soon after partition, so I hear about the history of Faridabad, a group of people, in all likelihood a fairly large group; displaced from their homes in the region now Pakistan, approached Pandit Nehru, Prime Minister of India, asking him for a place they could settle down in. The partition was bloody and violent; families were wrenched of their possessions, fleeing with only their lives. They don't like talking about it .. like a memory they wish wasn't there. But the group that met Nehru, was likely a very bedraggled one.
One can surmise that they had strong beliefs; strong as any other community in the country. They had given up their possessions, but not their faith. And like the rest of the country had united on the principle of ahimsa
, a basic tenet of our religion. Every adult in the land, young and old, believed in the rightness of this path. For by its power had they rid the yoke, delivering the coming generations to freedom and independence.
Faridabad was born, a child out of these shackles. Placed some distance from Delhi, it was looked over as an older brother might the younger sibling. The township of Faridabad thrived, espousing the most modern of ways and becoming industrialized. Manufacturing heavy agricultural equipment and motorcycles, rugged enough for rural areas, which for the most part the country was.
The township came up twenty kilometers south of the Delhi border. All along the road, large plots, an acre or more each were alloted to individuals capable of setting up medium scale industries there; some of which are around today, thirty years later. The town spread out where the land flattened, as that was easier to construct upon; unlike the pahari
area towards Delhi. When Huda - the urban development body was formed, it mapped the existing habitation into sectors 1 to 5, as these were only haphazardly constructed colonies. Sector 6 onward were placed around them, each with parallel roads, markets areas and all the other infrastructure of an urban town.
The sectors were placed both sides of the main road. On the east, a few sectors with built up houses were first offered. They were well designed but on plot sizes that were fairly small. All those wanting to get away from the congestion in the town, and could afford these, opted for them. As did junior executives and officers of the larger plants that were coming up. The western side of the main road with bigger plots was the choice of the higher level executives, desiring to avoid the commute from Delhi. As the sectors developed with schools and parks, owners of some medium sized industries too built houses here. But no top executives or owners of any of the larger industries ever chose to live in Faridabad.
One begins to get a sense of how different stratas of culture formed here, influenced by the town's own developing characteristics. Thirty years after urbanization began, one can guess where people in an area came from originally, and even a little of their background.
It is noticeable that as people grow older and into retirement, their lives become similar to each others -- the larger and different influences in their lives becoming discernible. Younger people living somewhere and their lives, are not as indicative, being driven yet by their professional needs.