If you followed the Metro trail, passed the last station in Noida, a town neighbouring Delhi, and slowed down after the first bus stop, you would be greeted by a police van, a cigarette kiosk and a cluster of fruit and vegetable sellers, with a sprinkling of chicken and fish vendors in their midst. You could miss the turn on your left or spend precious minutes negotiating with shoppers parked at will along both sides of the road. And then your eyes would look away, for behind these permanent fixtures flows the drain, an ubiquitous feature in parts of this town.

I can still catch the rays of the sun, not as yet hindered by construction on the vacant plot behind. These rays also fall on the wall I share with the neighbours and the damage caused by water from the construction of their never-ending house. Patience and posters have become temporary panaceas.

Alongside the hills, retired military officers live lives of comfort in “Nar Vihar", within the pale yellow façades of their non-civilian homes. Certain other civilians live in the plush bungalows or kothis of blocks A and C.

Everything that is wrong with Sector 34 lives in the neighbouring villages of Gijhor and Hoshiarpur. Power outages are caused by freeloaders from this area, thieves and chain snatchers live and plot here. So do helpers who clean, cook and drive, but these services are easily forgotten in the desire of local residents to distance themselves from these village communities.

The adjacent St Mary’s Church had for years written the right path in God’s words across its outer walls. These now lie plastered with white paint, except for a small poster commemorating 25 years of being “United in faith". The poster is in disarray and the message at the bottom is only visible to those who care to look: “God is love, and he who abides in love, abides in God".

More earthly desires are satiated through a visit to one of the four markets that lie close enough for the comfort of residents. For milk and honey, pictures and painkillers, tailors and tumblers, one need only walk a few steps. Morning flower sellers make way for evening chaatwallas and all prayers, from last minute manicures to crunchy jalebis, are answered here.

The Community Centre, located at the northern end of the sector, stays silent most days, except when it welcomes marriage parties or doubles up as a voting booth. On a recent visit to the neighbouring town of Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav pledged 22 crore to build a Nari Niketan, a shelter-home for women, in Sector 34. The new Metro link to Ghaziabad and Greater Noida is expected to have a station at Sector 34. Both remain on paper for the moment.

In summer the lane bordering C-Block, where I live, can be almost beautiful, yellowed by countless Amaltas trees, the name shared with one of the four local markets. In order to truly enjoy it, I pretend not to notice the drain that runs parallel.

In the last 17 years, answers to “Where in Noida do you stay?" have always been accompanied by detailed descriptions and references, followed by disinterested looks from the inquirer.

Sector 34 is not a landmark but no one can lose their way in its streets. Those who come are always looking for something that lies within its neat boundaries. And when they leave, these lines are obscured, forgotten. Until it is time to remember and find your way here again.

The author is a financial consultant with a real estate firm in Gurgaon.

A monthly instalment of intimate takes on city neighbourhoods

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