Sun, Space and Verdure

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.


Such roundabouts are spread all over Chandigarh


Women on two-wheelers, a common local sight. I used to be one such.                   pic credit : discoveredindia

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.

Rose Garden, Chandigarh

Rose Garden, Chandigarh – India,  Pic credit: scorpion

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.

Sukhna Lake

Sukhna Lake. Pic: self-clicked

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.

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. Most pictures self-clicked
Rock garden: whatagreenlife

© 2015 Alka Girdhar

Lasting Impressions

If somebody asks me, which particular teacher changed your life, I will be confused. That’s because in case of most students, life does not change because of one but many teachers. 404x404xagoodteachercaninspirehopebradhenryquote.jpg.pagespeed.ic.hJ31rYnWZU

In the case of most students, just one teacher, or one human being cannot have such a drastic impact that their life alters completely because of him/her. But this too can happen in cases where a young person is truly deprived, a slow student with no clue about where his or her life is going, and then suddenly there comes a messiah teacher in their life to show them a path towards a wonderful life they are supposed to live.

The above extreme scenario may also occur if some student is from a family where there is no real support or guidance available from the first teachers, that is, parents. Quite often, parents are unable to provide guidance due to their own lack of education, or else they lack overall resources. In such a case, many if not most teachers, and sometimes even one particular teacher has a power to become a savior for the child and heavily influence a student’s life. In any case, any teacher is better than no teacher.

But overall it is collectively the whole school or college system that molds us or changes us to become what we are.  The era in which we are born, our city, the type of school we go to, the importance given by our school or college to values, morals, sports, arts; and then overall syllabus and school board’s curriculum, all these factors together have a slow and gradual impact on us during ten to twelve years of our schooling.

In my beautiful birthplace Chandigarh, the place that had connection to the likes of Sabeer Bhatia and Kalpana Chawla, nowadays there are many wonderful schools but during my school days we had two coveted convents – Sacred Heart High and Carmel Convent High.  As a primary school girl I had a secret desire to attend one of these high schools (yes we are charmed by elitist reputation). But the travelling distance was not convenient, well so said my father, and I obeyed.

The result (thankfully) was that I went to a multi-cultural, multi-religious, low-fee government school that nevertheless had a highly academic atmosphere with focus on moral development (not much of religion but values) as well as complete all-round growth.  As I recollect now, the morning prayers and assembly time were compulsory for the whole school to attend. This Assembly, supported by good amplifiers and microphones, involved regular readings of ‘Thought for the Day’, ‘The Daily News’ , all kinds of debates and declamations, open discussions on serious issues, followed by the National Anthem and some patriotic or moralistic songs from any of India’s various religions. Back in those days, such assembly times seemed tedious and long drawn out to many students including me – a supposedly good student. But now, I realize the role played by all those non-academic activities in my life.

Surprisingly, this government school had a very strict school uniform policy, to the point of being fussy and we were always expected to be spic and span. Proper ironing of uniform, supplemented by polished shoes, was must as there was a penalty for the rule-breakers. The habits once formed stayed with me or else I would have been much clumsier than I am right now.

So, coming back to analyse as to which specific teacher played a major role in my life, I would say all of my teachers in my inspirational school were just fabulous, and honestly speaking, I was most teachers’ pet. But, for hiring such perfect teachers and for such a perfect running of our school, I give complete credit to the Principal of our school, a very methodical and meticulous lady, total disciplinarian and highly knowledgeable not just in academics but also all forms of music and dance forms that multicultural India has. Our Annual functions were really popular in the whole city.

Growing up in such an environment I too became multi-skilled and always lived an all-round life, in my academic degrees as well as various careers and hobbies. At times I felt that being too all-round can be a deterrent in the path of any student’s main career, esp. during our formative years. But overall, looking at it objectively, esp. now as I’ve left my ambitious youth behind and will (have to) inevitably grow older, I feel by the time I reach the end of my days, I’ll fully and thankfully value this fact that I lived a multi-faceted life. Lived many lives in one life. Experienced many different educational and creative fields in a wide variety of workplaces. Good…because we are not going to come this way again, are we?

But, with all this, there is no denying the fact that our teachers do influence us till eternity, at least their influence reaches our coming generations. Because parents like us, who grow up in such inclusive and egalitarian school environments, have a mind that seeks similar open-minded academic institutes for their off-springs too. And so my son also went to a much sought-after (for right reasons) government school here in Australia, the serial highest performer ever in NSW, the famous James Ruse JRAHS.  And for this I give credit to my own school teachers.

The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Teacher’s Pet.”

Tell us about a teacher who had a real impact on your life, either for the better or the worse. How is your life different today because of him or her?