Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Life beyond the heart of delhi...

Chandigarh Diaries: Part 1

I have been a hard core delhiite since the day i was born. Having spent 28 years in the capital city of India, that too a resident of south delhi, i had never even imagined or dreamt of a life beyond this city which has been my life throughout. From my school 15 mins away in Hauz Khas, to my college being Gargi College at Siri Fort road to later pursuing journalism at JNU to finally Law at North Campus (phew! too many degrees right!!), i have tasted each and every part of Delhi and cherished all the moments. Never did i go to a hostel to study, nor did i move beyond the comfort zone of Delhi University. Having all my family and friends in Delhi was a plus point. Though i always had this curiosity of how life in other cities would be, yet I never made any intentional effort to move out of Delhi. Father’s bank job did make us have a brief stint in Jaipur but that too was confined to summer and winter holidays. Though it is a nice city but it did not have the charm delhi has. Or so our minds are tuned to think.

Not that i have any regrets because i got the chance to study whatever i set my heart on. What was my biggest satisfaction is that unlike other cases, i chose my colleges, i chose my streams and i finally chose my profession myself without anyone interfering with my decisions. Till last Dec 2014 i was happily moving to and fro to my office in Connaught Place. Though I must admit that the way we used to enjoy living in delhi till college days, the scenario has gone a total facelift. Today living in Delhi is all about checking your google traffic maps before leaving your home for a destination, planning hours in advance for an outing, avoiding late nights specially being a girl, and basically just living like a machine doing the usual chores of office-home-office with very little personal time. Adding to it is the fact that we Delhiites are more psychologically mesmerized to the idea of Living in Delhi even though we know that the city is not the same anymore. We people are just not willing to admit that any other city of India could even be at par with Delhi life forget better than the city. Many of us praise other cities for eg the weather of Bangalore, the happening night life of Mumbai, the simplicity of Jaipur, the madness of Kolkata but when it comes to spending your life there, we are too cowardly to leave our hometown. And probably I too belong to the same thought process to a great extent. Until Now…

Perhaps to enlighten me against my beliefs, that fate did a curvy turn recently. Life had other plans for me and marriage and change of job brought me to the most planned and beautiful city of India, CHANDIGARH. To add to the irony, IOCL chose me, and I in turn left Delhi and chose Chandigarh.

Its been just about four months since I have shifted my base to this City. And to my and other’s surprises, I do not miss Delhi as much as I had imagined to. It wont be a revelation to say that Chandigarh is indeed a planned city. The architects have clearly demarcated areas for everything they could think of. The houses, the markets, the parking spaces, the wide roads and most importantly , the parks. I am told that Chandigarh is spread in a mere 15 by 15 km area with sectors instead of names of colonies. I am also told that we have around 1100 parks here.. Phew..!! If only each city could have half of this number, the residents would breathe such fresh air than now.
I along with my spouse have been exploring this city for the past four months and there is a loads to observe and analyse. This city has the most spacious of bungalows, the most expensive cars, the most rich businessmen of Punjab, its full of Enfield’s, BMW’s and Audi’s on the roads, and yet there is a certain simplicity to this city. For some strange reason, the parking in almost any market is free. Imagine this in Delhi and it seems like an almost impossibility.
This city moves at a very ordinary space, much in contrast to the likes of Mumbai and Delhi. Here, shops open late, close early and for some strange but understandable reason, most of the markets are closed on SUNDAYS..Really??! Sad but true. I wonder what happens to the loss the shop keepers suffer as maximum people go out shopping on weekends only. Life here is very smooth, no rush of local trains or metros. As one can leave home as late as possible and still reach office in time. I think it takes us almost 12 minutes to reach our office in Sec 19. Our nearest cinema hall is a five minute drive. Be it railway station or airport, gone are the days when I had to leave home hours in advance anticipating jams at Lajpat Nagar, South Ext, Dhaula Kuan or the NH8. For someone who used to spend almost four hours on the roads each day from Faridabad to CP and back, it is nothing less than a blessing. Today I do not have to wait for a certain Sat and Sunday to go for an outing as we even have time after office to go to a market, catch a movie or just hang out for a while. Today commuting isn’t a physical and mental burden anymore. In this city which I somehow find safer than Delhi, I see girls in shorts and tees casually strolling or on their Activa’s in their nearby markets for snacks or shopping and I have hardly seen any bunch of guys commenting or staring. Being a Delhiite and knowing almost all routes properly, I still lack the courage to venture out after 9pm alone unless it is an emergency. And here it is exactly the opposite.

Another thing which we observed here is that as compared to Delhi, the girls of Punjab also love to dress up nice. And man do they look good in their bright suits, dresses,  jewellery and hairdos. But unlike Delhi wherein I feel everyone does it to show off and be in some sort of race and league, here girls do it for themselves and not to prove something or gain appreciation. The quality of life is also much better than Delhi, people breathe better, eat better, are more fitter, travel better and I feel overall they just live better than others. I am sure there would be many more cities like Chandigarh in the west and south  but as of now I can only comment out of my personal experiences. Ofcourse, a small city lacks the charm and noise and rush of a big city like Delhi, here the shops close by 8-8.30, there are hardly any people on the roads and  in colonies after 10pm and for someone who has lived in cities which never sleep, it could be a bit tough to adapt to this new calm serene and quiet atmosphere. Other than that, the shops are the same, the brands are the same, the malls are the same, being in north india even the food is the same, and maybe better
all this has made me realise that it is only a matter of taking that chance of leaving one's comfort zone, of experimenting with life and the results are not always so bad. It has also made me realise that even though we are still young at the end of the day all we need is a calm and non controversial end to the day. no matter how many big malls are built how many townships and business centres are constructed, all we need is a life without too many hassles and tensions. And a small city does offer it to a great extent. Of course many people choose the opposite and are equally happy. I guess it all boils down to personal choices and priorities.

It would be a lie to say that I do not want to go back to Delhi. I do and ofcourse cannot stay out of Delhi forever. With all its flaws and limitations there is something in that city besides family which pulls you back towards it. But as of now, I guess I am at peace and happy at being in Chandigarh and curious and inquisitive to explore the areas around it as fast as possible…Atleast till now...:)