Chandigarh: The City where Autos are Pink

Off late there has been a lot of uproar about police force in India. I remember a friend once told me of how corruption was institutionalized in the police of his city. Apparently a new law was passed regarding use of helmets for two wheeler riders. My friend had not yet bought one and as luck would have it, the police caught him.


Take out 50 Rs.,” he had demanded.

My friend paid up but raised a genuine concern, “It will be difficult for me to bribe the policeman at every signal.

But the resourceful policeman was ready with a solution to the problem, “Tell any policeman who stops you that you have already drunk Pepsi.”

My friend tried that and it worked like a charm and every policeman let him through without a bribe.

The next day again my friend set out without a helmet armed with the fact that he now knew the words to let him pass through without bribes. So when the first policeman stopped him, he said,

I have already drunk, Pepsi.

The Sardar policeman broke into laughter, “Nice try, my friend! Today it is Coca Cola, not Pepsi. Now take out hundred bucks!

That was more on the lighter side, but frankly given the general impression of police, we were pleasantly surprised to be welcomed by a policeman the moment we landed in Chandigarh airport. He politely gave us information on places to visit, how to get to our hotel, where to get a taxi and how to avoid getting cheated by taxi drivers. Then he told us it was an initiative by Chandigarh police to make the city tourist friendly and took our comments on a register. That gave us a very good first impression of the city.

We had heard a lot about the city’s planning. So the expectation was very high. The roads were indeed wide and it did look better than many Indian cities but having already seen foreign countries, I was not really awed as such. Also the local shopping complexes looked rather jaded. Maybe it would have been a much more impressive spectacle when it was just built. Also with the entry of so many malls across India, shopping complexes no longer hold any charm. However when you enter one of the supermarket stores, you can sense a difference in the kind of things being sold: a reflection of higher standard of living. Or should we say higher disparity of incomes? We could see many more homeless people on the streets as well.

Like people, cities also have some eccentricities that help us remember it by. And for Chandigarh, it was the pink colored autos. Wonder whoever got this idea to have pink auto rickshaws! And apparently you can’t hail these pink autos off the road. You need to call up a number and book them like a call taxi.

As far as sightseeing goes, since we had just two days, we decided to have just two places on our itinerary: the rock garden and the rose garden. As you get older, every place starts looking the same and you don’t get the child like excitement at seeing new places. Vacations become more of a ritual: something you do because all people of your status do it. I do get cynical about some places, especially the ones with a lot of hype associated. But I often do stumble upon places that charm me every now and then as well. Both these places fall in this category.

The rock garden has a unique history of being established illegally by a former roads inspector: Nekh Chand Saini. When the government had discovered it, they had wanted to demolish it. But then bowing to public opinion, chose to regularize it instead and further make it a city memorial. A testimonial of how things work in India! But then I am happy they did. I really loved the place. It had a magical feel to it with all those sculptures assembled from an ensemble of recycled materials. It was indeed amazing how one could create such beauty out of ugliness. Seeing those sculptures of people and animals from various materials, it seemed to me as if I had entered the fascinating land of Oz. I wonder if Frank Baum’s stories had any influence on the design of this place. The creator apparently still has an office in the garden and people could interact with him. But though I admire his creation, I had no clue what I would say to him. So I decided to skip that part.

Unfortunately, it was not the right season to visit the rose garden. But I really loved how the garden was organized. In most of the gardens I have seen, plants are just randomly put together all over the place. Here however, the different species of roses were neatly arranged in rows and columns with small placards naming the species. I was surprised to learn that this park alone had 800 species of roses. It would have been fascinating to see them all. But unfortunately they were just planted and the roses would be in full bloom by March only. But we still spotted one or two stray flowers of over twenty different species of roses. We kind of enjoyed playing a game of rose spotting, trying to spot the stray roses that had bloomed among the barren stumps.

So that was Chandigarh, the starting point of our week long north India tour. We stopped by briefly to see Pinjore gardens as well on the way back. It was a nice garden built in Mughal style but did not really leave any lasting memories as such. Unless one wants to count a horde of large bats that were raising a ruckus right outside the garden!

27 comments:

Suresh Chandrasekaran said...

These travel posts of yours are pretty interesting TF - and you seem to be getting into the flow now fluently. Chandigarh, of course, evokes memories of my Delhi days since it used to be the gateway to all those hill stations in Himachal.

DS said...

I have been to the places that you have mentioned and they are interesting indeed. Nicely depicted.

umashankar said...

I knew the soft drink was going to land hard on your friend the following day!

I have had the good fortune of visiting Chandigarh often in 2010, when I had my regional boss there. It is a fabled city and nearly one out of three Punjabi songs have Chandigarh in them. It is an amazing city that keeps growing on you. However, it may go to dogs the moment it is ceded to either Haryana or Punjab.

I have met good policemen not in Chandigarh but surely within the bounds of our nation. Having known folks who are police officers I know how hard it is to maintain your sanity for long. The system stinks.

Thank you for reminding me of Chandigarh. Your travel posts have a distinct flavour.

The Fool said...

Thanks Suresh. Glad you find it interesting. As I mentioned that is something new I will be trying out this year. I was also in Chandigarh on my way to Simla.

The Fool said...

Thanks, DS.

The Fool said...

Yeah, Umashankar. Chandigarh indeed seems to be a special city. Glad I managed to see the city. Is Chandigarh planned to be ceded to one of the states?

I am glad you find a distinct flavor in my posts. I used to try to diffrentiate myself in my book review and now want to do the same in my travelogues as well.

Deepa said...

I remember another friend's experience, where having faced this the first time, he had then set about paying the fine and getting a 'pakka' receipt. It made me hopeful. But anyway, that's another discussion. I have never visited Chandigarh, but have heard many first hand experiences. I hope to visit someday! Until then, reading about it from your experiences was fun! Keep posting your travelogues!

The Fool said...

I know so many funny experieces dealing with traffic cops. As Saro has commented on an earlier posts, corruption actually is an integral part of our society.

Rachna said...

I have been to Chandigarh more than a decade back. There were no pink autos back then :). I loved the planned look about the city; back then I had never seen any city that planned. The food was good too if you like North Indian food. Overall a nice, big city. I think every city has its quaint places and hyped places, and it is fun to discover both.

indu chhibber said...

Liked your post-Chandigarh is a class apart.

sharmila said...

Stopped over at Chandigarh on my way to Shimla some 25 yrs ago. No pink autos back then but I instantly fell in love with the clean , well planned city.

The Fool said...

Thats true, Rachna. Seems like pink autos are new. Did not try much food except at the hotel we were staying.

The Fool said...

Thanks Indu.

The Fool said...

Even I stopped at Chandigarh on my way to Shimla only. It is indeed a nice city.

Arti said...

Wonderful travel article, TF. I have been to Chandigarh as a child and have faint memories of the same. The rock garden is a marvel, the beauty and artistry of all those statues neatly placed in order is spellbinding. It is interesting to know the creator has an office there open for interactions but I think even I would like to skip that part for the same reasons as mentioned by you.

Maliny said...

i have never been to chandigarh . . your account and detailed description of the city and the tourist spots did leave me intrigued . .any reason behind the autos being pink ? just curious :)

bemoneyaware said...

It brought back the memories of the visit.
Loved the joke in the beginning of the article!

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot, Keerthi.

The Fool said...

Thanks Arti. Good to see your comment on a travel post. After all you are the master of this genre.

The Fool said...

Thanks, Maliny. I tried searching on the internet. Could not find any reason as such.

Satya Rekha Ramaswamy said...

Amazingly narrated... Now I feel like going to Chandigarh myself!

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot, Satya Rekha.

Diwakar Narayan said...

I have not had a chance to visit many Indian cities. But, I do enjoy reading about them. Nice description TF.

The Fool said...

Thanks, Diwa.

debajyoti said...

i was wondering why i haven't commented on this post. now i remember, i read this post in my e-mail (you probably need to change feed settings to 'summary only' to stop people like us from reading everything in the mail without visiting the blog :D).

enjoyed reading this post!! Never visited Chandigarh. but i will be, soon.

be it a travel post or a fiction or humor, you write everything exceptionally well!

The Fool said...

Thanks a alot, Debajyoti.

Good idea, debajyothi. But only reason I have whole posts in e-mail is to enable folks who do not have internet to read it as well in their mail boxes.But I guess people won't subscribe in their office mail boxes. So I think maybe I will do that.

simi said...

Beautiful roses,i love this roses.

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