“I was in awe even before I set foot here”
Chandigarh’s exaggerated reality had become a part of my sensibilities long before I entered the city’s borders and started calling it home. Friends and relatives would talk about the charm of open spaces here, the view of the dawn-kissed hills and the romance of gardens pregnant with flowers. I was awed even before I set foot in this city. It was the year 1976 when I left the very rustic Bareta in district Mansa (Punjab) to join DAV College in Chandigarh and introduce myself to the fact that this architectural marvel also reeked of intense alienation for those who came to occupy the land.
It is tough for me not to remember that despite its proximity to Punjab, and that so many people here belonged to that state, the need to learn English as soon as possible was intense. It was vital to converse in Hindi, but never in Punjabi. If you were speaking in Punjabi, you had not really ‘arrived’.
Having lived here for nearly four decades, I have witnessed it change its character in ways more than one. And not very subtly. When I was a student, the city offered immense scope of in different artforms. We had a chance to interact with masters like Ebrahim Alkazi or do a workshop with a playwright of the stature of Badal Sarcar. The Chandigarh Film Society was very active, giving us a chance to expose ourselves to some of the best films in world cinema. We were conscious of the surroundings that enveloped us. Big cars and ugly malls never came between people. The visual landscape offered bicycles, not kids of powerful bureaucrats driving at break-neck speed. calm was part of the character, of the city and its people.
Things have changed now. This is now a city that is forever aspiring to adopt the status of a metro. Vulgar display of wealth hits you like the force of a mugger in a dark alley. People from all over come here. And they don’t necessarily aspire to build an emotional relationship with the place, but just enjoy the facilities offered. Now, human bonding has become a casualty. As a city, it is important that we create infrastructure for the intellectual and emotional growth of people here. Let there be more addas where people can hangout. Let’s get top scientists, thinkers and artists to expose the people to the world outside. Diwan Manna is a conceptual photographer and Chairman of Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi.
As told to
BIG CARS AND MALLS NEVER CAME BETWEEN PEOPLE. A CERTAIN CALM WAS PART OF THE CHARACTER.