Now that I look back I think my visit to
was meant to be incomplete, so that I can go there again with a little more time. Chandigarh
After wrapping up all the work that we had come to do, my colleague and I decided to go around the city for a few hours before heading back to the airport. Our hosts had given us a cab (gratis!) and told us to take it wherever we wanted (Go to Shimla if you wish, we were told) but little did we know that the cabbie would be such a spoilsport. Lesson learnt- think twice before accepting anything free.
First of all, we wanted to eat an authentic Punjabi meal. Our man showed us a five star hotel. When we told him we didn’t have that kind of money to splurge, he took us to a place which boasted ‘we serve only Chinese and Continental, no Punjabi food’. No!!! Please!!! We were craving for sarson ka saag and makki roti. Finally we ended up at a place which looked more South Indian (after living for so long in
, I can certainly identify one) but claimed to serve roti and paneer. Alright, we gave up as it was well past lunch time and we were starving. Food was passable. Next time, I will do a thorough research and find a place to eat authentic Punjabi food. Bangalore
Then we asked him to take us to the important places around the city. He was totally discouraging and told us that there is nothing to see in the city. How could anyone say something like that about their own city, I really wondered. When we argued and reminded him about the Rose Garden, he said – Wahan kuch nahi hain, bas phool hi hain. We told him that is exactly what we wanted to see, but he discouraged saying that it was too far. Then my colleague spotted a hoarding about some traditional handicraft fair. Again he threw cold water on our plans saying it was far away. We were not willing to give up. We told him to take us to the Rock Garden and were almost expecting him to say – Wahan kuch nahi hain, bas toote patthar hi hain; but he must have figured out that we were determined because he quietly agreed.
On the way, we spotted the Sukhna lake and asked him to stop. Although he discouraged us again saying that he would have to park the cab, we simply showed him the parking lot and got off. We refused to take his hints. The place seemed to be very popular with even the local people. I later found that it is a man-made lake and allows many recreational sports. The Shivalik ranges in the background give the lake a picturesque touch. There were artists doing caricatures, small toy train rides, carousels, vendors selling chaats, and families with small children. The lake had several paddle boats too. A granite installation on the sidewalk declared
Chandigarh as a City of and urged all to strive for ‘Communal Harmony, Cultural Diversity, Rejection of Violence, Resolution of Conflict, Reconciliation of Differences and Freedom of Expression’. It had an engraved open hand which resembled a dove, which I later found was the emblem of the city. Peace
We then went to the famous Rock Garden. Before starting our tour we checked how long it would take us to travel back to the airport and the cabbie told us a twice the time it would have actually taken (which we realized only later on). He told us that we might get stuck in the traffic on the way to the airport; this actually did seem unbelievable because we could not imagine a traffic jam on well planned, broad roads of
. But we did not want to take chances, so we decided to do a quick tour of the Rock Garden. The figures made with broken ceramic tiles on the compound wall at the entrance gave visitors a glimpse of what lay in store inside. The garden is a body of sculpture art designed and constructed by Nek Chand who worked in the city’s PWD department. The garden showcases thousands of his art works created from waste materials and rocks. It is said that Nek Chand quarried the rocks from the river Ghaggar and collected remnants of the old town (which was razed to create Chandigarh new city of ) to make the scuptures. Nek Chand carried out the project clandestinely as is explained with the help of authoritative sources on http://www.nekchand.info/. I was impressed with the patterns created with the help of most mundane materials, some of which are seen in the pictures. Chandigarh
We walked upto a point and realized that time was up. We checked at a small snack store inside and they told us we would need atleast half an hour to complete the tour. We decided that it would be better to simply head back. It was not easy walking back along the same route because we were going in the opposite direction through the narrow lanes and crossing the other visitors. We hurriedly got into the cab and headed back only to reach the airport within half the time we had planned for. After checking in, we discovered that our flight was delayed by an hour! Oh, how I wished we had known all this earlier, we would have easily seen the entire Rock Garden.
I would like to believe that this was only a jhalak and there will be a next time. How can one leave a trip half way and not return?