It’s Still Millennium Village
On Tuesday, two days before B R Ambedkar’s birth anniversary, the BJP-Manohar Lal Khattar government decided to remember Ambedkar’s fight against casteism in the most novel possible way: by renaming Gurgaon to Gurugram, to remember the man it was originally named after, Guru Dronacharya.
Now, this can be a tricky gesture politically. For starters, Dronacharya, the teacher of the Pandavas, refused to tutor Eklavya, leader of the Nishadha tribe, because of the latter’s low caste and the possible political ramifications if he took him on as a disciple. Despite this, Eklavya taught himself archery and considered Dronacharya his guru.
To add injury to insult, when Drona realised that Eklavya was a better archer than Arjuna, he asked Eklavya to cut off the thumb on his right hand and give it to him as guru dakshina. This would ensure that Arjun’s archery would be superior to Eklavya’s. The Khattar government has now decided to honour this casteist event by renaming Gurgaon as Gurugram. As I said, it’s a great way to remember Ambedkar.
According to an official gazette, Gurgaon’s actual name is ‘Guru Ka Gram’, named so when the Pandavas gifted the village to Drona. The name morphed into Gurgaon thanks to a postal error. According to T L Satyaprakash, the Gurgaon deputy commissioner, he “framed the proposal based on the demand by city residents, RWAs, municipal councillors and villagers”.
This is my second bone of contention. I don’t remember being approached for my opinion despite being a resident of Gurgaon for the last six years. It must be the darned postal office again acting up. What has impressed me is the focus of the government and the mayor on seeing through this name change.
According to Vimal Yadav, the mayor of Gurugram née Gurgaon, “MCG [Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon] passed three resolutions in two years to change the name of Gurgaon to Gurugram. Gurugram goes well with the culture of the city.” According to the deputy mayor, Parminder Kataria, they had even roped in “influential people like Sakshi Maharaj (BJP MP from Unnao)” during the Gurugram Gaurav movement in 2013.
They do love their gurus in Gurugram, that we must concede. From having a baba as a brand ambassador to call a murder-accused ‘maharaj’ an “influential” person, upholding the memory of Guru Dronacharya kind of makes sense.
Forget the absurd reason for renaming the city. What’s worse is that the government and MCG don’t realise that Gurgaon by any other name will still remain Gurgaon. We will still feel like we are living in a village. Yes, those of us in gated colonies are indeed surrounded by greenery (usual palms) and with 24-hour electricity and water backup and security. But only when we stay cooped up in our condominiums named after Greek deities and French and Tuscan localities.
Stepping out into Millennium City is like stepping into Mad Max’s dusty, dirty, dry, lawless land, with the local thug Lallan Singh replacing Max. We have dug-up and potholed roads, almost non-existent water and electricity and a crime rate like few others. There is no concept of safe public transport or regular public transport — other than the metro, which once you get off, leaves you stranded.
There are practically no autos or buses. There are no sidewalks. Women’s safety is an excellent joke. Chain-snatching, carjacking, kidnappings, theft at knife point, sexual harassment of pedestrians and people using public transport are par for the Gurgaon non-golf course.
There are regular reports of people shooting each other in front of the most popular and ‘elite’ shopping areas, such as the one last year outside Galleria market when a man was shot dead. Not to forget the gang shoot-out that took place on M G Road outside Beverly Park — a residential high-rise, not a park — leading to multiple car accidents and a fatality. Most roads do not have street lights and are unsafe for anyone to walk on.
And that’s the pain point. Name the city after whomever you want, even if it’s a casteist mythological character. But before doing so, get the basics right. The MCG and the Khattar government should spend more time focusing on what matters to the people of Gurugram, yes, even us, the posh ones: paved roads, women’s safety, street lights, law and order. The money that will be spent in changing signages and paperwork could have been far better spent in improving the current conditions of Gurgaon.
But that won’t get the Khattar government or the MCG any bouquets from the powers that be or (non-gated colony residential) voters. They’d rather waste resources on converting Millennium City — a name that in itself is an insult to other Millennium cities — to some Mythical City à la Atlantis.
What’s good to see is that the MCG and the Khattar government are simply following in the populist footsteps of their current poster boy Guru Dronacharya. Where Drona received an extra thumb for his misdeeds, the Khattar government may soon have many votes.
There goes the signage