“I was in awe even be­fore I set foot here”

India Today - - SIMPLY PUNJABI MY CITY DIWAN MANNA - Sukant Deepak

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


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