KATHMANDU:Even on a Sunday, we had to queue for about 20 minutes at the toll gate of National Highway 8, which leads from Delhi through Gurgaon and on to Jaipur. Over the past two and a half millennia, not much seems to have changed in the system of collecting toll
for financing and maintaining highways. At the toll plaza, the eight-lane highway curves and widens out to some 30 lanes.
Over the past two decades, Delhi had acquired five satellite cities located outside its boundaries in the neighbouring states. Gurgaon, located in Haryana, had the strategic position of being near the international airport and on the national highway leading to Jaipur. In the 1990s, the Haryana government constructed housing for the burgeoning population of the capital. With the tax reforms, multi-national companies were wooed into the country and
began establishing their bases around the capital. Today, there are supposedly more than 90
of the Fortune 100 companies
represented in Gurgaon.
Along with this economic boom came the hotels — the
Trident, the Oberoi, the Westin, the Leela Kempinski and the Crowne Plaza. Sprung up over the last decade, a certain trend seems to have permeated into the design of all these hotels, with varying combinations of similar elements. The interiors are basically of laminates in
various shades of wood designs, alternating with glass and
mirrors. The bathrooms are in principle glass cubicles, which are provided with louvered blinds, should a certain amount of privacy be required. Each of the hotels seems to have tried
to create an identity using
You drive up to the fifth floor to enter the Oberoi. From this vantage point, one looks down at a central courtyard which is covered by a reflection pool. It was a pleasant evening and we chose to sit outside on a small platform jutting out over the pool with six square tables. We asked for two tables to be joined for our group of six, but were told that it was not allowed. The staff could give no apparent reason for this decision — it might have been to keep the order or balance of the design. It rather seemed to be some weird idiosyncrasy lingering on from the British Raj.
There is always a tendency to try to provide ‘culture’ to something new. Gurgaon itself was supposedly called ‘Guru-Gaon’, and as per the legends of the Mahabharata, the village was gifted to Dronacharya by the Pandavas. But what we see today is a spectacular development. The focus on connectivity by highway, metro and close proximity to the international airport gives an idea of priorities. It is, however, a relief to know that even here the roads flood during the monsoon.
Kathmandu Valley is rapidly filling up with chaotic urban sprawl. It might be time to
consider some options on how to deal with this unsustainable trend. The new constitution will provide a federal framework, which should ensure some level of decentralisation. There are, nevertheless, already the beginnings of a satellite developing in the Banepa – Dhulikhel – Panauti area. There are possibilities for expansion further east along the Panchkhal Valley. The planned fast-track might, however, pull the expansion of the capital south towards Nijgadh. Will these options be deliberated on by planners or politicians?
(The author is an architect and can be contacted through email@example.com)