Chandigarh – My Soul City

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Last night, I dreamt of you
like every other night
My heart longed for you
and your eternal beauty
For, there is no other city
that my heart is captive to…

This city runs in my blood. Maybe, because I was born here or maybe because I feel she is like an older sibling. When I became conscious of my existence and looked around, I began to feel fascinated by her growth, and her journey and could feel an affinity with her. It will not be wrong to say she is my soul city who witnessed many of my ‘firsts’.

Chandigarh, which has a spirit of a woman and a goddess, got its name from Goddess Chandi’s shrine. She is picturesque with Shivalik Hills peeping through everywhere to lend grace, elegance, and artistry to this City’s Beautiful.

She was turning adolescent when I began to take my baby steps. My earliest memories of appreciation of her beauty happened when I was taken for a stroll by my parents, where I walked with new steady steps holding their hands, to the Panjab University  campus( there is no error in the spelling as Panjab University carries ‘a’ instead of ‘a’.)

Though I must not be more than four, the beautiful roads, broad walkways built on the side of roads, trees lined aesthetically the entire road,  and lush green lawns left me mesmerized. It must be spring because the entire place was full of the fragrance of flowers. Be it Phlox, Petunia, Roses, Lilies, and what not. The most vibrant backdrop that my eyes had ever witnessed.

That was the day I fell in love with this City where Charles-Édouard Jeanneret  or
Le Corbusier’s,  French-Swiss architect and master planner’s soul must be residing and India finally got its first planned city.
That must be the moment when my hunger for beauty enhanced and I  craved for more.

I was five when I was sent to a high school. A school or rather several schools run by the government but unlike any government school, one ever has known. These were the model schools that were fully equipped with the best infrastructure as well as the most accomplished and gifted teaching staff. I can never forget my first day there when I attended the morning assembly and heard the school band. It was incredible.
Huge lawns bordered by neat flowerbeds added color and character. These vivacious gardens were accessible to students and we all used to enjoy our recess time amidst trees, shrubs, vines, and floral background. School canteen could have put any canteen of today’s, to shame. You name the sport and it was played there. I played handball at the district level for three years. This school left a lasting impression in many ways to be cherished forever by my heart. It was here that I found my friends for a lifetime and it was where I fell in love for the first time. Here, I learned the value of relationships, and here I tasted the emotions of jealousy, envy, and love.

Once I grew up and began to ponder on things, I strongly felt that such model schools can change the face of India and can become the model for the entire country. These schools are ideally designed to provide the best in education. They are a state of the art schools run by the government but no less than any public school.

As I mentioned earlier, Spring is the best time to visit my pride. It is so that all the roundabouts, pavements, and small or big gardens are blooming in happiness. I feel mother nature showers its love here only.

Near my school was a residential colony and the entire lane had Kachnar and Gulmohar trees, along the road. In my memory, these trees were always laden with flowers, lilac, and fiery red, a sight to behold forever.
Whenever I think of descriptions, I  remember Kushwant Singh, one of the acclaimed Indian authors of yesteryears, whose Sunday Column, I would never fail to read in The Tribune, Chandigarh’s favorite newspaper.
For my young mind, this column was a treat to tickle and awaken my senses as to how a writer can create the visuals in a reader’s mind through his writing. And one that remained intact in my memory was the mention of Frangipani trees in Lutyens Delhi, which were abundant even here in my city, to make me feel, what he must have felt, looking at them.

Rose garden always held my fascination. So many varieties of roses to fill one’s heart with delight but my childish desire was to walk on a small bridge constructed inside the garden which would suddenly lead me to a big fountain. On a hot summer evening, it was the ideal place to enjoy one’s ice cream while an occasional sprinkle of water from this fountain would enhance the fun element.
Then Nekchandji made us all so proud when he gifted us with the most unique garden, Rock Garden. It was a complete fantasy world for me. Every waste material, be it a broken toilet seat or bangles or cups and saucers had found its happy place there and the figurines made out of them told a tale of an unusual city.
Sukhna Lake, the perennial landmark, has complemented the exquisiteness and furthered the charm. Chandigarhians, too have contributed a lot to keep it clean and fresh. Morning walks or a cycling adventure are best enjoyed here. For me, it was the picnic spot to visit and a place to show off when any guests came home. Believe me, there were a lot of people coming. Many honeymooners from small places would stay with us and who would be happier than me to take them around, bloating with that superior feeling.

I remember when an essay on my city was written in my 2nd or 3rd class, its population was only five lakhs but with the coming of satellite towns on both sides of the city, it has increased manifold.
College time was the most thrilling. All the birthday treats happened in Sector-17, again a unique feature of Chandigarh. It was famous for being a shopper’s paradise as well as many eateries and beautiful restaurants to enjoy delectable delights. But if you wish to have the best of Golgappas or Pani puri, there was only one man who could make everyone’s mouth water and he had a special stall in sector-23.

Wait! Did I tell you that the whole city is divided into sectors but the French superstition of the number 13 being inauspicious, left us without 13 sectors! Each sector has residential as well as commercial complexes.

Chandigarh is also known as a city of bureaucrats as well as to Pensioners paradise. She takes pride in displaying the most beautiful and grand houses.  Being the union territory and capital of Punjab and Haryana, it is a city where ‘Babu’ culture prevails as most of them are government employees.

Oh! How I wish, I could go on. Whenever I talk of this beauty, I am so homesick and nostalgic.
Though it has changed a lot with time. Traffic, pollution, and population are all on the increase but it still swells
my heart with pride to answer the question, ” Where are you from?”
I can go on and on and it will never end… My love for you is everlasting, never quenching my thirst to see you more or one last time till we meet again…

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