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Urban development – Gurgaon vs Manila

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I’ve ramped up to a higher gear on the working to get work front (i.e. business development for a client)… which found me hoping on a plane last week to Delhi. Except this trip, I didn’t actually spend any time in Delhi.

Nope it was all Gurgaon for me baby!

Welcome to Delhi Airport

Welcome to Delhi Airport

Believe it or not, the first time my feet touched ground in Gurgaon, Haryana was 25 years ago. Yup! Back in the day when this massive, teaming, constantly growing city spawned outside of another megalopolis was merely a crazy idea with the first skeletal buildings starting to spring up in the middle of nowhere.

I was on a Shastri summer study abroad program and learning, amongst many other things, about India’s urban development plans.

Then we were invited to spend time in a village, squat on mud floors, sip masala chai, eat hot delicious chapatis from a small chulha while a goat bleated beside us.

Today those mud paths are covered in concrete, huts replaced by glass skyscrapers, home no longer to goats and chickens but instead half of the world’s Fortune 500 companies, with a population boasting the third highest per capita income in India.

Sure, there is still dust and dirt from all the Rapid MetroRail construction, however the peaceful village is long gone.

Civilised Malbec 1st night in Manila

Civilised Malbec 1st night in Manila

I couldn’t help but contrast this experience with a work trip last year to Manila… the Philippines equivalent of Gurgaon is Bonifacio Global City.

There you could be mistaken for thinking you took a flight not to the Philippines but the US – except it is a much nicer, cleaner, happier, more vibrant urban centre which not all American cities can boast after years of economic challenges. Everyone was out walking, bicycling, traffic was well-ordered, you could almost sniff the optimism in the air.

Contrast Gurgaon and you land plonk into the middle of a messy, traffic riddled, walker / cycler unfriendly environs. Instead of fitness lunches out in a park or jogging down a path, like rats in a maze I saw folks circling around the same halls indoors. But hey! At least they were taking time out to put one foot in front of another instead of being glued to their computer screens at their desks all day.

As for me? Two days of hoping in and out of taxis from one meeting to the next…

At one point my network failed and couldn’t book an Uber taxi, so I grabbed a rickshaw and finally felt like I was in Delhi. Why? Aside from no longer being protected from the heat and dust, I had to haggle in Hindi to pay almost on par with an Uber.

I actually started to smile… yup… that’s the Delhi I remember. Even if it a small sliver in Gurgaon… (yes that really is being expressed with fond affection).

Goodbye Delhi Airport

Goodbye Delhi Airport

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4 Comments

  1. So interesting to read how it change during those years. I only know xi’an from the many Asian mega cities and each time I come back here I see it growing again into the countryside. Soon the city will reach the airport which is actually rather far away from the city center…

  2. Marta says:

    Chinese cities change very fast… the district where I live in Suzhou was the countryside 18 years ago! And now they are building which will be the third highest skyscrapper in the world!

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