Me ( in my car, driving in through the gate ) to the the group of security guards at the main gate of my residential society ( after having lived in the said society for a whole year ) : “Tell me something please. If I wanted to go to the roof to take photographs of a sunset for example, how would I go about getting permission for the same?”
Guards ( looking at each other – and then at me – blankly at first ) : “You want to go to the roof to take photographs?”
Me : “Yes. If sunsets. Maybe sunrises – if I can wake up that early.” ( Punctuated with a *giggle* to sound harmless. )
Guard ( the one who always salutes and smiles at me whenever he’s manning the gate and I drive by ) : “Madam, the roof is open. You can go anytime you like.”
Me : *speechless* Then in a shockingly loud and squealing-with-glee-voice : “What? It’s open?! Anyone can go? OMG I should go now! It’s looking like it’ll be a pretty sunset! Ok thanks!”
And so it began. As they had mentioned, at least in the apartment tower where I live, the roof is indeed accessible – any time of day or night. No special permission is required. The door is unlocked. Come and go as one pleases. This is rare, if not impossible, in a city like Gurgaon. Roof access is nearly impossible, even if I sign a legal affidavit stating that I mean no harm and will be solely responsible for my actions. So many things can go wrong and there’s always someone who will misuse such a privilege. Probably because the gated society where I live is so old – and the residents are mostly old folk as well – no one really cares about the roof and hasn’t bothered. So there probably have been no incidents that have forced anyone to consider roof access to be an issue. And I had not known this for a whole year. What a waste. Of course, this meant that I now had to make it up.
Some neighbors have their beautiful plants out catching sunlight as it pours in at an angle. Sometimes the plants are probably indoors and I don’t get to see them as I race up the stairs. And I am usually found racing up the stairs. The elevators are ancient and Gurgaon’s frequent power cuts can mean that I’ll probably spend the sunset holed up in the lift as the generators kick in slowly – very slowly – and the lift does it’s “go to the ground floor before anything else” routine. I prefer the stairs. It is also probably the only other exercise I get, apart from my standing work-desk situation.
The first thing I usually do when I reach the roof is to whip out my mobile phone and quickly make a video for my Instagram stories, where I announce, “Aaaaaaaaaand another pretty Gurgaon sunset!” in a voice that clearly belongs to someone functioning on half a lung not two. *wheeze* *cough* one word in *wheeze* second word, explain why I’m wheezing etc. Once that’s done, I run from one side of the roof to the other, to figure out which side will work best if I had to make a timelapse on my DSLR.
I don’t always carry my DSLR – not during the Monsoon season. And I judge the requirement of a DSLR first from the windows at my work-desk. If the buildings are glowing pink enough, then I might consider the DSLR. Otherwise it’s usually just the mobile phone ( the Google Pixel – for those who’re curious ).
These days, the sun sets around 1930 hours. And this means that I’m up on the roof about 30-60 minutes prior. Obviously I can’t go up every single day – that would be madness – and the sky can be dull and grey and totally non-photogenic.
Sometimes I’ve gone up hours before sunset because the sky was uncharacteristically blue with cotton clouds and that’s a great subject for timelapse photos. Clouds like those, move quickly across the sky, creating drama in the video as the city goes from sunny buildings to dark buildings aglow with artificial lights of all colors. The clouds reflect the artificial light sometimes. The longest I’ve been on the roof was six hours once. I had crows, squirrels, pigeons, mynahs, bulbuls and even a peacock for company. And lizards. The crows particularly enjoy swooping over my head and cawing their heads off some reason. I haven’t spotted a nest anywhere. The smell of freshly cooked meals wafts up around sunset and I’ve been known to wrap up and trot off to my parents’ place.
Nearby buildings are slightly taller and slightly shorter than the one I photograph from. Depending on where the light is best, I can set up the camera facing one of these building clusters. I can’t really actually see the Sun setting. There’s a building obscuring that view. “Obscuring” or “decorating”, depending on my mood and the mood of the sky.
It is rare to find a clear sky and hence rare to see stars. So when there’s a hint of stars, of course, I try my DSLR hands at star trails. But I get uncomfortable, constantly looking over my shoulder, once it gets dark. I’ve only ever seen one other person on the roof, of an adjoining tower. He was on the phone and quickly left as soon as he spotted me in the distance. My back toward all the entry points to the roof, when someone could sneak up on me, startle me – not an ideal situation. At worst, they could harm me. At best, if I’m startled, I could topple my camera off the ledge. It would be best if it didn’t hit anyone on the ground below. WorstEST if it did because they’d die. Which is why roof-access is such a dicey thing. I’m really worried, all the time, when I’m up on the roof.
Except this one time when I dozed off in the shade during the day. Wearing my red and blue t-shirt. It was peaceful. I was hidden away from view. My camera safely weighed down. No worries. Maybe when the boy is back, I’ll take him with me so that he can watch my back and I can make more star trail photographs at night.
For now, enjoy the photos below. I’ve been posting the timelapses on my social media networks ( this one’s been quite popular ) but haven’t gotten around to figuring out how to post them on the blog. Too short for YouTube.
See the #EyesForGurgaon hashtag on Instagram for videos and animations of the sunsets that I haven’t posted here on the blog yet. Some new ones coming up.The #EyesForGurgaon category here on the blog for previous photo stories of and in the city of Gurgaon.
( All images can be viewed in much larger sizes – just click on them! )
As it turns out, from what I’ve heard, a young couple was discovered on the roof of the adjoining residential society. Apparently they were making out / having sex. I’m completely unsure how the two incidents are related but the roof in my residential society is no longer accessible. A giant padlock stares at me. I’ve been told that the roof has been locked so that no one can indulge in sex on the roof. But that’s like banning cars because someone died in a car accident. Or banning roads because someone got injured in a road accident. No one was even injured on the roof. But I cannot indulge in any more Gurgaon sunsets for now. I doubt that’s going to change either. I was hoping this blog post would be just the first in a series of many such updates. Alas, it will be the first and the last.