But there are others for whom the city embodies a less venal entrepreneurial spirit. One grey monsoon morning, I visited Kunwer Sachdev at his sixteenth-floor flat in The Aralias, perhaps the city’s most expensive apartment complex, built by DLF on the east side of Gurgaon. A compact, cheerful man in his fifties, Sachdev is the CEO of Su-Kam Power Systems Limited, a Rs. 1,000-crore company that he described as an “Indian multinational”.
We sat on his spacious balcony, contemplating the view from his private piece of heaven. The Aravalli hills, green waves in this season, stretched out in the distance, and cars plying the road to Faridabad appeared inconsequentially small. A swimming pool surrounded by manicured bushes and frangipani trees shimmered below. Across the road, the DLF Golf & Country Club sprawled over 142 acres. A cool breeze and light drizzle turned the balcony into a beachfront. “You won’t get this view anywhere in Delhi, or even in Gurgaon,” Sachdev remarked. He was paying Rs. 3.5 lakh per month in rent while awaiting the completion of his own Rs. 13-crore apartment in DLF The Magnolias next door. I asked him how he liked living at The Aralias. “You know, when I didn’t have money, I used to think I will eat chocolate every day,” he reflected. “This view also gets boring after a while.”
Despite the city’s problems, and its evaporating appeal, Sachdev still seemed to believe in the basic promise of Gurgaon. The son of a railway clerk, he grew up in the capital and called himself a Dilliwala at heart. After graduating from college, he sold pens along with his brother, then became a cable television provider before making it big in the late 1990s with Su-Kam Power, an inverter manufacturing business. In 1998, he moved to Gurgaon, where he bought land to set up an office and two factories, in Udyog Vihar VI, just off National Highway 8. It was cheaper to buy commercial land here in Haryana than in Delhi’s industrial areas, and it was easier to run a business and get licenses, he said. When I asked him about the infrastructural problems that have become synonymous with Gurgaon’s rapid expansion, he said, “I am not a foreigner. They can complain, but if I start complaining I wouldn’t have been able to achieve any of this.”
“Gurgaon gave me the right environment and opportunity to change my lifestyle,” he added. “There was space for me to go out cycling and walking with my kids within the apartment complex, which I don’t think was possible in Delhi.” I asked Sachdev if he played golf. “Golf is not only slow, it is very slow,” he said. “I started but gave up after I got bored.” (Gurgaon has about a dozen golf courses, some more exclusive than others, and Haryana’s chief minister has suggested it needs more.) I looked at the vista again, and noticed labourers with yellow hard hats on the greens, and also maids on other balconies, gardeners on the lawn downstairs, security guards at the gate.
We took the lift downstairs to the lobby. Sachdev likened The Aralias to Zurich’s Dolder Grand hotel, where he said he felt “at home”. A path led to a dimly lit garage, where cars with custom number plates were parked. “All the ones with the VIP number 7 or 8 are mine,” he said. As he stood by his blue Porsche Cayenne, I asked him if Gurgaon roads were conducive to joyriding; he had mentioned earlier that they disintegrate at the slightest drizzle. As if confiding a secret, he said, “Yahan kya hai na, log dikhavay ke liye rakhte hain (The thing about this place is that people keep them just for show).”