Chandigarh: A Garden? Or a junk house?

As we drove into this planned city (by architect Le Corbusier) I looked for the aha moment knowing it was the 1st planned city in the country et al. That feeling eluded me. My first impressions were army, cantonment, green, wide roads, lack of traffic, clean, lots of trees, lots of big cars (hmmm capitalist city). As we drove further inwards into the city we realized ‘planned’ was a bit confusing! Localities and markets looked identical! And everybody asked for a sector number-I mean is that enough to find an address?!

To be fair to Chandigarh the traffic is disciplined, nobody jumps lights or parks at zebra crossings. The city has many parks, rose gardens, (the University itself has one) the famous rock garden, lakes, making quality of life distinctly a cut above the rest of the country. Wow I wonder aloud ‘is this Hamara Bharat mahan’ Why does Bombay suck so:(

Talking about the famous(?) rock gardens many consider it to be a marvel, a great work of art, very well designed and fits into the surroundings of "the best planned city in India". I must admit that I was at sea in my lack of appreciation - I was stunned at the rubbish they call art! Agreed modern art is beyond me, it has many expressions most of which I do not understand, the rock garden certainly falls in that criteria – it was a concrete monstrosity, a park made up of debris with the mandatory water fall. Such a deflation for such high expectations! Wham went the aha moment!

My summary of this planned city- it lacks soul! Nothing stood out for me. No no I’d be lying the air is fresh, one sees a cleaner environment, sexy roads to drive on, no rush or peak hour, buzzing sector 22, inadequate (good or bad?) public transport, BUT it still lacks soul! I simply could not connect with Chandigarh! Thank God for the extended family I visited, it took the edge off the bite for me. Good food, family gossip, met the cousins etc – 2days were enough time spent to get back on the road on way to Delhi!


How do I feel about Kashmir

My mum and Dad went for their honeymoon to Kashmir- I see those pictures often and wish for one day when I can safely visit Kashmir and experience its pristine world. And feel the magic called Kashmir for myself

As a school going girl I remember a Kashmiri gentleman visiting us 3-4months in a year, every year, (being peak winter months in Kashmir) to sell things uniquely Kashmiri- we’d love to rummage through the colorful warm shawls, stoles, ornate jewelry boxes in paper-mâché, mufflers, shoes, embroidered bed spreads, and what not! We used to love speaking with him for his genteelness and unique Hindi accent- he was full of warmth despite walking for hours in the sun trying to make a sale happen. The only thing he would ever ask for was a cold glass of water when he’d reach our doorstep- and then on drinking the water he would regale us with stories about the people of Kashmir, the shikaras, the Dal lake, the children, the weather - his janat

And today his vatan Kashmir is simmering for the nth time. With curfew imposed in Srinagar, Baramulla, Anantnag and Sopore, the angry stone-pelters are in stand off mode, even in hiding till the army retracts. Tourism is slipping and sliding, children’s education and examinations are indefinitely postponed.

For how long one wonders will the valley take this beating, this abuse, this injustice? Is it the fault of the people in the valley that they are Muslims? Or the fault of those who are Hindu Brahmins and still surviving? The question that begs an answer is what will it take and when we will see peace return to the valley? When will that state truly return to becoming a paradise on earth again?

It is not “peace” that ordinary people want; they stress they want a “resolution” to the Kashmir question. They want development and jobs, yes, but they also want a political solution. These are not mutually exclusive. Sitting far removed from Kashmir’s existential problems I wonder why have we since decades now, not resolved Kashmir? Does it suit the many governments of India to allow the pot boiler to simmer? Who are the interested parties that are benefiting the most by dragging this dispute for ever and this long?

The power struggle is beating the local Kashmiri further into his/her grave. They are mired in problems of everyday existence and to top it a political, social and cultural binder that has shackled them so badly they do not know any way out other than rebellion and open confrontations. What is the issue behind Kashmir’s pot boiler? Maybe I am being naive -but to me it is an issue of weak or no governance. As long as individual coffers are getting filled, as long as individual motivations are being accomplished, nobody cares for what happens to the locals there.

I honestly don’t give a rats ass about what Nehru agreed to at Partition time or what Jinnah did or the divisionsit Brits did! What is the current Government in India doing to resolve Kashmir TODAY? Bring out the army? Will peace be restored thus? What are the long term goals and what is the strategy to achieve it for Kashmir?

Do the people of Kashmir have a forum to air their grievances? Do they have a mechanism to address their problems? Maybe if there were enough college or university debates, youth bodies that could influence, National harmony makers from varied streams of life from Bombay, Delhi, Aurangabad or Jaisalmer who could interact with the Kashmiris and bring about an osmosis - we may still have a chance to restore peace and harmony back in the state

Kashmir is a proud state. Lets not break its back to such a state that we cripple it forever. That it can never stand on its 2 feet again. We living outside Kashmir want to feel as proud about our cities as Kashmiris do about Kashmir. I miss my Kashmiri friend from childhood - I miss his easy warmth, his open welcoming smile, his undying spirit which I see reflected in a zillion of us too- weather beaten hands and feet that never stop for tiredness but only to greet a customer or help pick up another’s basket to put it on the head and walk on towards the next sale. I sincerely want to see peace and equanimity restored to Kashmir. I wish Kashmir safety and wellness soon.