There is one question that a migrant to a new country, esp. a western country, gets asked very often, “Where do you come from?”
Of course the intention is to define the personality of that person and attribute certain traits typical of their race and native land. Otherwise people are curious about what memories and what local experience we carry about the place where we come from…
But…where do I come from? If a person spends more than 20 years at one place and then another twenty at another place, interspersed with months here and there, then the whole concept of belonging gets lost.
And yet, even migratory birds are born in a particular nest and if they could remember, they would also say, “That is my home nest”. So the fact remains that, having been born and brought up in Chandigarh, that is pretty much ‘where I come from’, I suppose.
Located near India’s capital Delhi, my home-town Chandigarh is a beautiful city in northern India. It is referred to as ‘The City Beautiful’ and its original motto was ‘Sun, Space and Verdure’. Verdure means greenery.
In comparison, Sydney where I have now lived for the last two decades, is also very much about sun, space and verdure. And blue skies. But Sydney is also about expansive beaches.
Both these cities are beautiful. How did this happen to me? God’s been kind. They are actually beautiful cities, not because I like them.
So there you go. This itself is a speciality of Chandigarh City – the abundance of open space and greenery. Other than that, it is this city’s high literacy level that defines the city rather than the heavy industries, business, film industry or movie stars. A huge number of Chandigarhians are from the public services, administration or education.
Thus one feature worth mentioning in Chandigarh’s travel guide would be that there are well planned big and small gardens throughout the city.
Zakir Rose Garden is one of them. It is Asia’s largest Rose garden with more than 1500 different species of roses. An annual rose festival is held here with cultural shows. Growing up in Chandigarh, in a family of seven, we siblings and our parents, our weekends were often spent packing our meals and going for a picnic in one of the gardens and parks, Rose Garden predominantly one of them.
Another not to be missed local feature of Chandigarh is Rock Garden which is innovative and unique in its craftsmanship of objects that were totally assembled from waste material and useless things thrown away by people. The garden has lined or grouped figures and dummies that are made of scrap, broken glass, bangles, ceramic cutlery and other waste. There are miniature water-falls inside to add to the beauty.
As I see it, the concept of Rock Garden proves that, if we want to, we can create something beautiful even out of scrap, the leftovers. Or should I say crap. That our life might have once been full of broken pieces of scrappy incomplete experiences, but it is up to us to make it meaningful by uniting and compiling these fragmented bits and shaping them into a complete beautiful whole. Now that was excessive!
Situated near this Rock Garden, we have Sukhna Lake, a man-made vast lake amidst the abundance of fine nature. It has nice eateries, fun elements for kids and then there are water sports like yachting and water skiing and so forth. There are birds all around seen from far and near.
Sukhna Lake is a place where you are bound to feel great – whether you come early in the morning when it is quiet and natural or during the day with chirpy lively crowds around or else at night when it is well-lit and sparkling. I must add, that this is a favourite outing spot for locals of all age-groups. My own childhood and early youth days were spent walking up to Sukhna Lake, jogging there and then walking back home.
Thus Chandigarh is similar to my current home Sydney in its gardens and greenery but it is different to Sydney, the ‘city of beaches’ for another reason. Chandigarh is at the foothills of mountain ranges called Shivaliks. As one enters the city, one can see the far off mountains.
I remember, when I was a girl, standing outside our house I could see the far-off mountains that were sometimes hazy and over-shadowed by clouds but often bedecked by star-like twinkling lights. Being a dreamer, I used to be extremely charmed by the view and would specially go out at night to see if the far-off lights were bright or not as the view changed each day. Those days, the mountains seemed very far away so I used to wonder – ‘Who are the people who live there?’.
So travelers if you ever plan to visit Chandigarh, you can have these mountains on your travelling list. Go to these hills and do find out who are the people who live there. I haven’t discovered this till now as nowadays I do not visit Chandigarh very often, what with my hectic schedule I don’t even get time to know (again) all the people within my close families, many of whom, esp. the elderly, have left this world without saying their last goodbye to me.
© 2015 Alka Girdhar