Hi everyone, I am back after another long break and feel obliged to offer an excuse–well, our shifting to Mumbai had to be preponed by more than a month and mid-February found us in Mumbai. The internet connection, however, materialised only nine days back, thanks to those MTNL guys who like to work at their own sweet pace. Oh well. And then I was too busy reading the hundred-odd blogposts sitting in my reader to write something myself these past nine days.
Though Mumbai has been growing on me steadily, I am still missing Chandigarh a lot, so here’s a mushy, rambling tribute to Chandi and all that I love about it.
–A multitude of wonderfully maintained parks and gardens dot the city. At least four large parks exist in even the not-so-happening sectors. To anyone used to the cramped, ugly, unplanned urban areas starved of open spaces in north/eastIndia, this comes as a very pleasant surprise.
An even greater surprise is the sight of vast tracts of wild, uncultivated greens which show up in the most unlikely of places–bang in the heart of the city, for instance. Walking on roads alongside these forests after a spell of showers overwhelms you with the very pleasant smell of lush vegetation along with wet earth–a smell you’d associate only with the countryside. One is also greeted with the forgotten sounds of crickets in concert. Bliss!!
Thanks to these open areas, Chandigarh also has a sizeable population of peacocks whose distinct calls could be heard all around our campus in the evenings. I once spotted twelve peacocks and peahens in the area behind our campus though I never could catch them dancing.
— The roads of Chandigarh must surely be the best among Indian cities. Potholes are a rarity . There are spacious pavements and they even have separate cycle/ rickshaw tracks on some stretches. Everywhere in the city the roads are lined with all kinds of trees and it is fascinating how they suddenly burst into blooms at different times in the year. The road leading up to Sector 19, for instance, is lined with mahua trees whose leaves turn golden orange before they are shed at the end of spring and are replaced by beautiful crimson leaves which turn green over time.
—The majority of women in Chandigarh are fastidious dressers and are very well turned out at all times–you cannot catch them in a ‘nightie’ even in the privacy of their homes. Winters generally bring out the best in them as they don their coats, capes, cravats, caps and sweaters, all in keeping with the latest trends in fashion. Some of their enthusiasm for stylish winter-wear rubbed off on me too and I splurged on quite a few coats and woollies myself while in Chandigarh. Too bad they won’t be seeing the light of day as long as we’re here in Mumbai!!
–The Kisan Mandis here are an experience unto themselves. Farmers from around Chandigarh bring their produce by the truckloads and sell it at these very well-maintained mandis at rather cheap rates. You can get just about everything that grows on trees here. I once spotted green almonds–the outer shell not yet brown and wooden but tender and green–being sold and bought some purely out of curiosity!
–Annual events like the Rose festival at Zakir Rose garden, the Mango festival at Pinjore, the Chrysanthemum show…Sigh!! I’ll spare you the details for now 🙂
–Every time one travels out of Chandigarh by road, one encounters the prosperous Punjab/Haryana countryside. Field upon endless wheat field greet you and you see for yourself why this region is called the bread basket of India. One also sees the Food Corporation of India godowns all around the region which stock millions of tonnes of grains. Towering stacks of grain sacks covered with canvas can be spotted from afar. In Haryana there are numerous Basmati rice mills and the fragrance of Basmati pervades the air for miles around the mills.
And then there are the famed Punjabi dhabas on the highways, some of which are very swanky and dhabas only in name. They serve the most fabulous stuffed parathas you’ll find anywhere–yumm!!
–The best thing about my stay in Chandigarh were my neighbours, a fifty-something Punjabi couple who loved me like a daughter. Whenever Aunty cooked something special, which was every other day, she would make sure to send me some first. Come winters and she would often bring me a large bowl of sarson ka saag , with dollops of butter, which I loved. Nobody else in the family was able to develop a liking for the stuff which meant I got to have it all by myself! Whenever I complained that all that butter was making me fat, she would look indignant and insist that I was not fat at all!!
Just before we left, she handed me a large box of ‘pinnis’ she’d made–laddoos made out of roasted wholewheat flour, ghee, almonds, jaggery/sugar and spices– which she knew I loved. I was too touched to say anything at all. I don’t expect to have a neighbour like her again.
— It’s impossible not to pick a smattering of Punjabi if you happen to live in Chandi for a few years. So it was that I gradually began to catch the meanings of popular Punjabi songs. One in particular amused me somewhat as it seemed to sum up the whole attitude of the Punjabi youth–ambitious and driven but brash and reckless.
Gaddi jiththe chahaange uththe moraange, phir saare de saare signal todaange!!
Meaning, we’ll turn our vehicle any which way we like, and then ignore every signal on the way. A traffic cop’s worst nightmare, surely!