Thursday, October 28, 2004

Moebius Gurgaon

There’s something in physics called the Moebius strip, which, put very simply, is a one-sided surface. A layperson can get a very rough idea by taking a piece of paper and folding it in a loopy way so that one side of the sheet seems to merge with the other, and you can trace the entire surface without having to lift your finger. Arthur C Clarke made eerily effective use of the idea in his haunting short story "The Wall of Darkness" (not to be confused with Rahul Dravid’s current lean trot).

I used to think of the Moebius as a concept that belonged firmly in the realm of High Science. But last night I realised that what it really refers to is the roads in Gurgaon, which have this habit of doubling back on themselves in sinister and inexplicable ways, so that it is theoretically possible to drive around the place for all eternity and never find one’s way out.

(Gurgaon, for anyone unfamiliar with our neck of the woods, was once a vast rural stretch located around 15 km south of southernmost Delhi -- my father claims he went rabbit-hunting there in that great decade, the 1970s -- but which has seen development at such pace in the past few years that India’s capital, itself no mean urban jungle, is now jokingly referred to as a suburb of this once-village.)

Anyway, an emergency necessitated my driving down to The Village around 9.30 last night. Now normally, as any driver will tell you, so long as you maintain a general sense of direction (in simple north, south, east, west terms) you can’t ever really get lost. But in Gurgaon, especially at night, this principle doesn’t hold. As soon as I crossed the border I knew I was in trouble. I drove in circles and occasionally in pentagrams. I took one small, seemingly innocuous turn that should not have had the effect of turning the compass around 180 degrees, but that’s exactly what it did: to my horror I found myself headed in precisely the opposite direction from where I wanted to go. Enervating feelings of deja vu rushed over me in waves as, in my attempts to get back to Delhi, I espied the same buildings and signboards I had seen on my way in, and on the same side of the road as before!! When, stuttering helplessly, I tried to ask for directions, people looked at me with an evil leer in their eyes, like the zombies in Night of the Living Dead, and said incomprehensible things that suggested they didn’t want me to find my way out. I still have no idea how I got out of the loop, so to speak.

Theoretically there will come a time when all Gurgaon’s roads/flyovers/highways will have been completed so that there will no longer be any need for confusing detours, half-roads, meaningless signboards and bizarre round-abouts that lead nowhere. But that time isn’t now. These people should put up a sign by the Delhi-Haryana border saying "Abandon all conventional notions of direction and dimension, all ye who enter here." The place is a Cubist universe with its own rules.


  1. The Concept Police come a-knocking...Moebius was a math guy, not a cubist. You seen Maurits Escher's 'Moebius Strip' and 'Waterfall'. That's Bangalore roads for you.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.