Google+ Followers

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Chandigarh Then and Now

There was a time when Chandigarh (French architect Le Corbusier’s dream project) a meticulously planned city, was open, peaceful, expansive, grand and lovely. You could walk without being disturbed by honking horns and deafening noise of the combo of vehicular traffic and people.
I’m referring to mid sixties when Chandigarh was in its infancy and cycling down to my college in sector 11 and later to the university used to be a pleasurable experience. Yes, cycle was the mode of transportation for most of the students, who were day scholars. Commuting by a rickshaw for a student was seen as being softy and unadventurous.
I don’t remember seeing any car on the road, only a few scooters.
In the university, love bytes were exchanged in the library (we had to spend much time there preparing notes.) The language of romance was the gleam in the eyes and mischief in the smiles and mutually devised nods implying volumes of meaning. Sadly there was no pillion riding on boyfriends’ mobikes and killing time sipping coffee and in spicy gossip sessions. Most of the girls’ were wary of going over board in such matters because of strong parental influence, hormones or no hormones.
Trend setting styles and hot couture hadn't caught the fancy of the students and our parents didn’t have money enough for us to splurge, as they had our siblings to support also.
Today student life has changed entirely. Students wear trendy, branded clothes and foot wear, and sport stylishly coiffured hair; are smart, intelligent, fully aware and well focused about their goals
Then there were only two fully developed shopping centers, Sector17 and 22. I purchased and got stitched my marriage trousseau from Sector17 and jewellery, crockery and other stuff from 22. There was the hotel Aroma, where the marriage party was put up. There was the Tagore Theater. That was all.
All the sectors’ve their own markets now. There’re exclusive stores for branded clothes and consumer goods and there is nothing which is available in the US and not here.
But Chandigarh’s taut and chiseled landscape has been furrowed. It is bursting at its seams. There is a mushroom growth of colonies around it and burgeoning migrant population to make a fast buck out of the pockets of the rich. Chandigarh’s limited infrastructure is overburdened with multiplying floating labour force. Who won’t aspire to be part of this “thing of beauty?” Needless to say, it has been messed up completely.
Crime rate has risen alarmingly. Not a day passes without news of chain snatching, day light robberies, deadly brawls, property disputes resulting in murders and old couples robbed and then brutally killed by their servants. Law enforcement agencies remain under tremendous strain. The city nestling in the Shivalik foothills has lost its virgin identity and is crying for a face lift.
I always loved to go to Chandigarh because it was the city of my youth. (After marriage I shifted to where my husband was.)But now I dread going there. One confronts traffic snarls, traffic jams and meandering movement of the vehicles all the time. From where‘d you get so much patience and how‘d you reach your destination on time? People buy cars without knowing the ABC of traffic rules. (They procure driving licenses somehow.)
The perennial traffic snarls are accentuated further as Chandigarh has become a favourite shopping destination for residents of its satellite towns. The basic cause of course is our ballooning population which neutralizes any enhancement or up gradation in public utility services. Chandigarh’s special status may soon vanish unless we take effective measures to keep its landmark status afloat.


  1. Hi Uppalji. Thanks for a good write up on Chandigarh. Everyone will speak volumes about the physical part of the city, but you gave a glimpse of what it was to live there and how it is now. I always wanted to see Chandigarh and Kulu manali. It did not materialise so far. One goes to USA , but there are constraints in Indian travel Funny indeed.

    Most of the cities that we knew earlier have been plundered in the name of development. We ape the west for all ideas, but do not follow their discipline in maintaining cities!

  2. I was reading this interesting post about Chennai.

    I was reminded of your post on Chandigarh.

    All metros have their major black areas, I suppose.

  3. Hi Pattu,You're so right.Last month we went to see an exhibition organised by Chamber of Indian Industry.It was a grand affair.Stalls displaying everything from A to Z were there.Even traders from Pakistan were there with textiles and kitchen ware.But the unnerving scenario was the jostling crowds as if the whole of the city was out there.We had to make a hasty retreat because of the suffocation.
    In spite of all this,it is worth a visit.There're a few landmark places with original Chandigarh stamp.
    Thanks, the article
    about Chennai'll be my next read.