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Faridabad, Tracing a town's culture

Rajiv 55 / 400  
Jul 21, 2011   #1
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.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Jul 23, 2011   #2
the evolving culture during these past thirty years.

I think this sentence should include a word or phrase that hints at what message you will be giving about this cultural evolution. In the moment she is reading this sentence, the reader is not yet interested. You can hook the attention by revising this important sentence.

College years and into the twenties are the headiest in one's life.

This sentence makes me think you will possibly be writing about your own personal evolution rather than that of a culture.

There's a kind of hand-off happening at this time...Finally then letting go: dust to dust, ashes to ashes !

This makes it sound like you are talking about a handoff that consists of life itself. The parents moves aside to let the daughter or son take their places as the people-in-their-prime-in-this-world.

similar to each other's.
OP Rajiv 55 / 400  
Jul 27, 2011   #3
Thanks for your corrections above Kevin.

As my mind travels to the past, it takes me to my tower, the place I lived in then. It was two rooms on a large plot, built one over the other, with a red terraced roof and a stairway winding up. I mixed the two sides of the town I mentioned earlier. It wasn't actually the eastern with the smaller houses that had developed first. That was west of the main road and I would come over to the eastern side, to see what new was going on here. A Sweets Corner .. a fast-food like restaurant came up. It was a comfortable place to sit in, sipping tea and looking out at the traffic.

One time someone at another table recognized me. It was someone from my college; there with his wife. Meeting them felt almost unreal to me. They asked me over to their home.. a large and well furnished house, better than any I had seen in Faridabad till then.

They were hospitable people, and it was a relief to find someone to talk with easily, and do other things with some sense of abandon. I realized the effort it took to communicate with the other people in the town. I had not acknowledged that to myself till then. The paths we were on were different--- the one of the people I had known until then, and the other, of people like myself and these friends. Others too soon joined our group. They were from colleges such as ours, and it was always an experience discovering the strange similarities in our thinking.

It had been Pandit Nehru's vision to create a slew of high caliber engineering colleges around the country -- collaborating with the very best institutions in the developed nations. We were early graduates from these. These colleges were not just academically distinct, but their campus lives too set them apart. It is a little amazing to think how this was .. but it infused in us a totally different outlook to life. The culture, as it changed in schools abroad, did so simultaneously in ours.

A very Indian way of thinking was becoming out of place in India. Indian schools of thought count on a natural tendency in man to work harmoniously with his environment; all its teachings are directed towards enabling this and realizing himself as part of that. Western schools believe life is defined by an individual's goals, subjugating all in nature for realizing them. An innate belief in his supremacy in the world.

It was not from a want of means that people in India deferred taking the Western path. There were advantages in learning western ways and becoming part of their systems. These always worked more efficiently in the changing world. But for many, it simply wasn't the right thing to do !
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Jul 29, 2011   #4
I agree! Practicality is sometimes impractical. In the Tao Te Ching is says something like this: We cut holes to make the window of the house. It is the emptiness inside a cup that makes it useful. Profit comes from what is there, but usefulness comes from what is not there.

Wait a minute! I don't think that quote really applies to the essay, ha ha. My bad. The essay seems to be showing that there is more to life than adapting to the changing world, and a kind of self-expression can be more rewarding than efficiency.
OP Rajiv 55 / 400  
Aug 3, 2011   #5
There is something quite distasteful about older people here in Faridabad. The religious groups that have formed here upset me for being so shallow. One of these gathers in our house each week, and I am required, by politeness, to sit through these meetings. Though the meetings are structured, and based upon a scripture which they read aloud ... the discussion has hardly any content. Instead I notice the person who has become the leader, using oratory techniques to hold everyone together; achieving little else but an assertion of his position over them. I am angry at the self deception. The only real purpose of this gathering is a very worldly one -- the emotional benefit that comes from sharing one's views with others of similar perspective. But please.. please, I implore them in silence .. don't swallow me.

At one time I really believed god was easy to find; like some things we might be looking for, and quite suddenly discover them. A particular book, a printer cartridge, a pair of Nike sneakers or Levi jeans .. a plant or carpet for the house, the right school for our child, or the right apartment for the family; or a job, when the earlier one has become weary. Searching for these things made me aware of the process; of wanting, looking for, the putting of one's mind to it; going over the steps one has taken when the searches are being unsuccessful; re-strategizing the search process .. and generally becoming obsessed with accomplishing the end in mind, even at the cost of neglecting of some others .. till finally, an acceptable result is achieved. A result which brings a sense of release from the mounting pressure that had built up inside, and then I might spend some time simply admiring the accomplishment, contemplating its features, even exaggerating its qualities to enhance the sense of achievement; as if to say to myself, yes - I do have capabilities that I had not completely acknowledged to myself, and that is the reason the object of my effort is unique and better than the ordinary; or I might say to myself, that luck or my own and unique good fortune favors me; 'she' is actually out there and working for me.

But of course, I never discovered god -- not the slightest part of him; for discovering even some of him, would have added to my capabilities -- is it not ? Is that not what we are expecting to happen if and when we discover him ? Like becoming acquainted with a person of power .. not so much as us getting to know him, but of him knowing who we are. Like a person of some importance, a supremely powerful politician, and letting him know that we have searched for him, and believed that he really did live somewhere around, and now that we've come face to face with him; he will remember us. Sometimes during the office of his day, he will recollect our presence, then wondering how we are, and remembering how we had looked up to him, he will summon his courtier in attendance, and instruct that the cause of our trouble, or what we were wanting -- be taken care of.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Aug 6, 2011   #6
achieving little else but an assertion of his position over them.

That's called organized religion! :-)

Ha, so you are in Faridabad... so interesting to be talking to you...

letting him know that we have searched for him, and believed that he really did live somewhere around, and now that we've come face to face with him; he will remember us.

Jesus said something to the effect that we would be able to access him in the form of every poor person we help...

And we are all such poor people, I think you can just turn to the next person you see, and there she'll be.
Aha, the person is the confused incarnation! The sacred is right there in that jerk who speaks to me unkindly!

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