GURGAON: A destination for India Inc, food hub, and now arts and entertainment Mecca. Gurgaon may be synonymous with infrastructural chaos but there's little arguing that it has built up a decent little reputation when it comes to offering diversions for the culturally minded.
As Gurgaon gets more of the events pie, neighbouring Delhi looks on with envy. But even as performers - in music, stand-up comedy and theatre - continue to make a beeline for the Millennium City, surely it's a no-brainer that a little extra money and effort will help bring in more quality artistes, men and women who'll find it worth their while to make the journey south from the Capital.
For, no matter how well attended the city's concerts, plays and comedy shows, four venues - Epicentre, Kingdom of Dreams, Leisure Valley, and the amphitheatre at the Aravalli Biodiversity Park - do not make a cultural hub. There is, then, a strong case for the authorities to invest in a space, or spaces, for culture, both traditional and contemporary.
Uma Prakash, of the Arts and Literature Foundation, whose endeavours have helped make Gurgaon Utsav a heartwarming success, believes that more venues are the need of the hour. For this city does have one advantage - an audience with its ear to the ground, folks young and old for whom culture plays an important part in their lives. "Things are looking up," feels Prakash. "Epicentre is doing its bit - they stage good plays, and these are well attended. But unfortunately, this is just one place. It would be great if Gurgaon had its own Triveni, with an art gallery, a space for performing, and a cafe too. The government needs to invest in a cultural centre, which has an auditorium, or auditoria, that organizers can rent out."
Yet it's not as if this is a city beyond reach for those who can't afford the rents. Gurgaon's bars and pubs, Prakash points out, play their part in presenting an alternative in entertainment. More than a few watering holes around here host bands at least once a week - it helps add to their coffers, and musicians don't have to break the bank to get a gig. "Bands are doing well, because pubs have an open-door policy towards them."
Roliee Anshuman, a Gurgaon resident who happens to live just a stone's throw from Epicentre, feels the city scores high when it comes to hosting big events for large audiences, but this means that the more intimate gatherings tend to get overshadowed. "There are a lot of events in the city that people don't get to hear about, smaller events like exhibitions.
"But the positive is that people see Gurgaon as a market for entertainment, and that Gurgaonites are interested in and curious about what's happening, and they're open to new things. A dastangoi performance that I attended, for example, got a very good response," shares Anshuman, who is less regular than she once was when it comes to getting her soul's fill of culture.
Shalini Vig, who helps organizes CSR events, says Gurgaon lacks the space and facilities to host big names in music. "If someone like a Bruce Springsteen came down here, I'm not sure if Gurgaon would have the infrastructure to put on a show.
"Then there's doubt over whether you can get the requisite permission, and one is also not very sure about the security."
So, plenty of food for thought for anyone who'd like to see Gurgaon emerge as an even bigger culture destination. Hopefully, the coming year will see an expansion in the city's space for the arts, so that Gurgaon's culture vultures are never at a loss when it comes to deciding how best to spend their evenings.