If you miss graphicness in the newsletters’ reports please do visit our make-shift multi-media section below. We will try to deliver one or two wonky pics per week, illustrating the situations or landscapes documented in the newsletter. For the documented walk through convoluting Chakkarpur, a village in Gurgaon, please read text below photograph…
Some recent 2011 photos from Gurgaon published in the New York Times:
If you want to see some professional photographs of more Dubai-style buildings in Gurgaon then click on Dubai below…
If you are more interested in photos from Gurgaon based Suzuki Maruti car plant, click the links below…
“Drifting Social Whirlpool Chakkarpur (1)” –
Some words about a 45 min walk through convoluting/transforming Chakkarpur, a village in Gurgaon.
In order to see the pictures of the walk and read the related comments below, please open this page again in a second window. Then click on ‘Photos’ and choose the ‘Chakkarpur Walk’ album. You will then be able to switch windows between comments and pictures.
Chakkarpur is a village situated on the way from Old Gurgaon to Delhi. Fifteen years ago it was still a medium-sized farming village like many others around Gurgaon. The closeness to Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road in the North became the first urban boundary and access point of Chakkarpur. In the 1980s the car manufacturer Maruti built a housing complex for its employees, which started to encircle Chakkarpur from the west. The arrival of best-paid industrial workers and staff members must have had an impact on Chakkarpurs social life. In the 1990s the private developer DLF started the construction of DLF City Phase One in the East of Chakkarpur. Posh villas and apartment-houses now encircled Chakkarpur from the east. DLF also set-up a golf course, which turned the street at the eastern fringe of Chakkarpur into double-lane Golf Course Road. Then the shopping-malls at Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road in the north were erected, Chakkarpur now being hidden behind towers of commodity worship. Tens of thousands of middle-class Delhites arrive for their pilgrimage at weekends. The bus stand changed its name from Chakkarpur to Sahara Mall. Behind Sahara Malls there are 600 empty apartments of the Sahara Grace Housing Estate. According to a security guard working on the estate they are supposed to be sold for up to 6 crore Rs each. The old Chakkarpur population changed. With the rising land-prices a lot of them turned from land-owning small farmers into land-less millionaires, more or less over-night. They built spacious family houses with stables in the backyard, for the two-three cows, which help remind them of what their life used to be. Next to the stables are quickly constructed rows of single rooms; rented out to the new arrivals flowing in. In those single rooms live families from Orissa or Uttaranchal, the men looking for work in the nearby factories or offices. Chakkarpur has many migrants, now. In the nicer houses young men share flats which are empty at night, while their inhabitants are at work in call centres. But with the money, also a previously unknown poverty arrived. On the empty plot of lands between the new-rich farmers houses emerged many small settlements of plastic-tarpaulin slums. Landlords make up to 800 Rs rent per month from each hut. Mostly workers from West-Bengal live there. They work as rickshaw-drivers in front of the shopping-malls, as security guards or as cleaners in call centres, as house-maids for the rich. Inside Chakkarpur there is not much commodity production going on, some handicraft workers have set-up small businesses for the surrounding middle-class estates. They repair electrical appliances, they manufacture electrical stablizers on smallest scale, they mend or change clothes, they re-cycle waste. 3,000 to 4,000 people or more might live in Chakkarpur today. Within less than a decade the population of Chakkarpur must have quadrupled, while it has been physically/geographically confined. The old farming community has dissolved, hundreds of micro-communities have arrived, all connected by Gurgaons ruthless economic growth. The social composition of Chakkarpur has transformed from farming into a mixture of land-lordism and service (and to a lesser extent industrial) proletariat. What happened to this small village, happened in similar ways to dozens of other villages in the Gurgaon area. Chakkarpur shows that the glorification of “India, the land of the contrasts” is more or less ethno-romantic bullshit. The truth is much more profane: the mystified ‘contrasts’ are just an expression for the fact that our own social productive forces have turned into an avalanche of re-locating industrial capital, international financial streams and waves of migration which transformed the life-style, source of income and local community within less than a generation. The old forms of living was not even given the time to disappear completely. If you want to see photographs of a 45 min walk through Chakkarpur, have a look at the wacky multi-media section of the web-site (Photos of Gurgaon).
(1) A clumsy pun in Hindi: chakkar = rounds, round journey,
dizzyness, trouble, confusion
(1) Chakkarpur Map
[minute zero] On the map you can still see the village lay-out of Chakkarpur, a scattered village-type form fenced in by square pre-planned lay-out of the surrounding estates. Chakkarpur got encircled by the two main roads in the north and east and the Maruti housing estate in the west. Chakkarpur covers not much more than half a square kilometer.
(2) Sahara Mall
[minute zero] Famous Sahara Mall now marks the entrance of Chakkarpur Road. A friend who works in the Big bazar (supermarket) tells that on a good day the whole mall makes 10,000,000 Rupies turn-over. That is about 100,000 times his daily wage. Apart from shoppers the mall attracts riksha-drivers, food-vendors, beggars and bombers. About every second month the mall is evacuated because of a bomb scare. The mall also consumes quite some energy, due to the bad electricity supply it turns an average of 1,600 gallons of diesel daily into cold air and moving stairs.
(3) Vipul Mall
[minute two] On the other side of the road which leads to Chakkarpur is Vipaul Mall. The tents you can see belong to a family from Rajasthan. They have lived on this piece of land for twenty years, they have goats and chickens, they do skilled blacksmith and other artisanal metal work. A huge construction site emerged right behind their tents, first planned as the new call centre for US-company Dell, then taken over by Dubai-based Vipul Agora. The Vipul Agora office building is still empty and the security guards tell you that the owner has difficulties attracting new companies after Dell pulled out. The construction of a second road forced them to move their tents to a 30 sqm small plot, which is further diminished by gardening work for the mall. Half of the family already moved somewhere else in winter 2006/2007. Sometimes the police come and hassle them, but the land-owner promised that they can stay as long as there is work to do. Some women and men do excavation work next to the shopping mall; when you ask them about payment, they quote the land-owner and shrug their shoulders…
(4) Chakkarpur Road
[minute four] Leaving the shopping mall front behind us we walk on Chakkarpur road. Various shops for building materials, coolers, hardware, grains and groceries on the left hand side.
(5) Sahara Grace Appartments
[minute five] Behind the row of shops there are 600 empty appartments, which are supposed to be sold for up to 6 crore Rs each in autumn 2007. If an average industrial worker or the security guard who secures the empty estate could save their full wage, they would only have to work for 2,000 to 2,500 years in order to buy such an apartment. But we can imagine that within a decade these tower blocks will have lost the attraction of the middle-classes, they might turn into flats rented by better off office or factory workers and might end up as concrete ghettos like in Europe or the US.
[minute six] Main bazar in Chakkarpur. Most of the poorer local people prefer to buy vegetables and fruits at so-called ‘Bihari Market’, which is located at the south fringe of Chakkarpur and which is considerably cheaper.
(7) Social Focus Chai Stall
[minute seven] We arrive at the new central market square of Chakkarpur. The chai stall is meeting point for rickshah-drivers, local shop owners and building workers. The twelve year old boy who makes the tea works 13 hours every day. Opposite the chai stall is the main temple of Chakkarpur, recently renovated and enlarged.
(8) Quarters and Work-Shops
[minute eight] We move eastwards into the village. Some local food-places, a row of metal work-shops downstairs (mainly welding work: entry-gates, window-bars, …), a row of living quarters on the first floor. These quarters are normally eight foot times eight foot and often occupied by several tenants.
(9) Land Lord’s House
[minute nine] Here and there new and spacious houses can be seen. Often these houses belong to local farmers who got rich by selling land when the land prices started to sky-rocket. In these houses the farmers often live together with their extended family.
[minute ten] In the back-yards of these houses we often find more living quarters which are rented to the less fortunate. From small office employees to factory workers, who have arrived from all over Northern India. Rent is about 1,000 to 1,500 Rs. In this back-yard about 40 to 60 people live in 24 quarters, which means a monthly income from rent of about 30,000 Rs.
(11) The hidden tradition
[minute ten] Apart from renting out rooms, these farmers often keep some remnants of farmers activities. Despite their sudden wealth a lot of older generation of farmers still do manual labour, they take care of the cattle, make dung-cakes for the fire, they still cook over the fire, they lead a simple live style. Their sons and daughters are often out of all this, they have changed life style and appearance. They rather become shop owners then keep on pretentious farming.
(12) Shanty Lane
[minute eleven] We move further east. Slum settlements are often hidden behind the houses or squeezed between them, on the empty land. A lot of the slum settlements are formed by people who have arrived from the same state and who often do similar jobs. This is a settlement of re-cycling workers.
[minute twelve] These kind of backyards are numerous. They are migrant places, living area of those who found a job in Gurgaons boom. The rent for such quarters, usually 8 foot by 8 foot is about 1,000 Rs per month. Several families share a latrine, a tap.
(14) and (15) Plastic-walled Homes
[minute thirteen] On a gated plot of land, often surrounded by stone walls, people build slum huts out of card-board, wood and plastic tarpaulin, which can turn into a dangerously trap when catching fire (see newsletter no.3). The inhabitants are call centre cleaners, house keepers, security guards and other service proletarians, in this case from West-Bengal.
(16) Re-located Slum
Often people can only live on the plot of land as long as the landlord gathers money for further construction or as long as he waits for the thumps-up of the planning commission. Instead of leaving the land empty (and run the danger of being occupied with illegal settlements), the landlord decides to take rent from slum-dwellers. A hut might cost up to 800 Rs rent per month. A land owner expresses his fears on a web-site of upper-class Gurgaon:
“Posted on Mon Jun 04, 2007 at 11:42:07 AM EST
I will be gratefull if get answer to the following.
I have a small 60 sq.yds plot in phase 3 DLF , which is on Nathupur Road. I am far away from Gurgaon & the plot is unattended since last 4/5 years. I have not taken possession from DLF so far. Only registry is done at the sub-register’s office. My questions is as to how safe it is to keep the vacant plot unattended / unoccupied. I mean is there any chance of illegal encroachment or some other inferior move by somebody or something like that. I just wanted to know the general view of the members on the above. Thanks. (http://www.gurgaonscoop.com/story/2007/6/4/11427/29883)”
Once the land-lord is ready to use the land, the people have to go. Three days ago about 200 people still lived on this plot of land.
(17) At the Fringe
[minute fifteen] This road leads towards Chakkarpur’s eastern fringe.
(18) Master’s Palace
[minute seventeen] We step thirty meters into DLF City Phase One, on the eastern edge of Chakkarpur. Within sight of the paupers’ quarters are the villas of the very rich. If you want to catch a bus towards Faridabad, and quite a lot of people from Chakkarpur go there on a daily bases, you have to pass through DLF City, pass about fifteen of these material displays of arrogance.
(19) Master’s Fear
[minute eighteen] Surrounded by a swirling sea of social change and turmoil the rich feel the need for protection. Poor people’s lifetime and energy is cheap to acquire, so in front of each of the villas security guards are on duty (about their working conditions: see newsletter no.3 and no.5). We move back into Chakkarpur.
(20) Cities Ripped Back-Side
[minute twentythree] We have arrived at the southern fringe of Chakkarpur. The earth is thrown up, the days of the trees are counted, in the background a construction site for the high-rising classes.
(21) Doomed Trees
[minute twentyfour] Just some steps closer into this eree land-scape. The little temple is still marked on the map, so is the village lake behind the tree. In one-two years time the map will probably have to be re-drawn.
(22) Walled in Remnants
[minute twentysix] Turning westwards and approaching the old village. Its remnants are slowly eaten up by new buildings and driveways for small-sized cars, acquisitions made from the real estate boom.
(23) Nostalgic Cows
[minute twentyseven] Some of the old farmer’s families still keep cattle. But these one or two cows are a rather nostalgic or prestigious way to keep a link to the old mode of existence. The members of old farmer’s families still have their meeting points, the older men still sit together like they used to and the women meet, for example during marriage preparations. The older generation still wears its traditional clothes, but in the streets these clothes now mark them as a minority, outnumbered by uniforms of call centre cleaners, security guards or other clothes of the modern proletariat. The ‘migrants’ often refer to the ‘Haryana people’, in most cases they then complain about their arrogance. The ‘Haryana’ people in turn complain about the bad changes, the increasing number of wine and beer places etc.
(24) Spacious Yards
[minute twentyseven] We can also see that there used to be more social space in the old village, at least for the better off farmers. Nowadays, to keep such a space open like this seems like a crime against the economic mind. Most of these spaces are turned into construction sites or at least sites for slum-hut tenants.
(25) Historical Entrances
[minute twentyeight] Neighbours say that this building is about 250 years old. In the whole village about three or four of them are left.
[minute thirtyeight] We have arrived at the western border-line of Chakkarpur. Some brothers from Muslim Mewad district near Gurgaon have set up an electrician work-shop. They repair fans and assemble stabilizers (given the unstable electricity supply they are necessary for middle-class consumer goods like TVs). The parts for the stabilizers they get from a market in Delhi, where they fetch material once a week. Currently they make about 2,000 Rs each with repairing and 1,500 Rs each with selling their self-manufactured stabilizers.
(27) Maruti Vihar
[minute fortytwo] Maruti car company constructed this housing estate for permament workers in the mid-1980s. This is quite exceptional. Maruti workers were the highest paid industrial workers in India. Since ‘Independence’ there are hardly any public or private workers’ housing schemes. The new industrial areas are exactly planned on the drawing board and they are provided with all necessary infrastructure, but although the planners know that in these areas like Udyog Vihar Phase One about 200,000 to 300,000 workers will find work, they do not care to think about where these workers will live. Maruti knew that a tight and paternalistic control over the permanent workers will be necessary, and the housing estate intensified the dependence of the worker on the company. Nowadays a lot of the Maruti workers are landlords themselves, sub-letting parts of their company flats. People in the Maruti Vihar still refer to the ‘gaon’, the village, when they speak of Chakkarpur.