Chandigarh: Spring is in the Air
This post is a surprised outcome of three very innocuous happenings. How come you never write about Chandigarh? A query posed by a visitor being ferried around the attractions of the City Beautiful. (Note to self: must rectify pronto). Then there was that request by a national magazine to contribute a piece on how this city treats its people. (Note to self: well enough; must experience more often). Finally, some splendid photographs, clicked by a friend, of the luxurious foliage that characterizes Le Corbusier’s dream city. (Note to self: must share).
It was fairly simple after that. In order to action first note, I needed to enact the second, followed by the third. So, a couple of weekends ago, armed with the sole desire to experience Chandigarh as would a visitor (as opposed to an unseeing blasé resident oblivious to its charms), I caught up with some friends in Sector 17, easily the heart of the city. Food, one of my preferred past-times, found us at the newly opened Girl in the Café. Located on the second floor, the cavernous and cheery environs enclosed by glass walls on three sides, were a welcome change from similar establishments. Their prawn soup, waffles and tiramisu received a thumbs-up from us; but they really should lose that noisy blender!
Stepping out to discover an overcast sky and gentle breeze swaying the trees lining the plaza, we chose to stroll the evening away. It seemed like plenty of people had the same idea as we made our way past the brilliantly hued mural and towards the Neelam Theatre. Vendors of all manner, cajoled, teased and mingled with the lively shopping throngs, swelling as we approached the central plaza.
A closer look revealed two activities in progress. One, a celebration of Anna Hazare’s campaign against corruption, and the other, the beginning of an informative street play about AIDS by GS Chani. A hugely talented, quirkily attired cast had us introspecting and guffawing at the same time as they appealed: Rocket Ho Ya Bomb, Pehno Condom!
Post sundown, the plaza fountain lit up in a warm comforting glow, while shop fronts came ablaze with crazily flashing neon signs. Calling it a day following some lazier window shopping, my friends and I parted company. The return back home took longer than usual as I decided to treat myself to an unhurried drive along the brightly-lit, tree-lined boulevards crisscrossing the city.
Every one around me seemed to be in a maddening hurry, even as I carried on at a pace that allowed me to ruminate about one of the world’s most feted artificial cities. Architecture aside, landscaping aside, elitism aside, and insular minds aside, Chandigarh is ultimately a city with its heart in the right place.