Thursday, October 24, 2013

Chandigarh Location Recce

Day 1

Jantar Mantar
We had a brief layover in New Delhi. Hence we walked through the wide boulevards, thorough the PTI building and Sansad Bhavan to reach Jantar Mantar. For foreign nationals the entry fee is 1 pound (hahha!)and for Indians 5 bucks. It is one of the ticketed sites that Archeological Survey of India (ASI) has done well to maintain well.

The Rajputs kings took great interest in astronomy and built these amazingly accurate observatories. I had to watch a couple of more YouTube videos to understand the workings of the structures. I was never good at trigonometry, but at least I know this that the hypotenuse of the giant triangle (Samrat Yantra) is parallel to the earth’s axis. We came along pretty impressed with the architecture and emphasis on science by the Rajputs, even when they were fending off the Mughals.

Soon we were joined by scores of class VII and VIII kids, each with a fancy mobile tucked in. The teachers had it easy as the kids are easy to control. They are more bothered about their screens and images that they will upload and share.

Chhole kulche @ Connaught Place
Nirula’s was supplying the day's stock to its metro kiosk and we saw the boys in red offloading food items from their van.
However, we opted for the roadside delicacy and staple diet of the area- Chhole Kulche for a mere 15 bucks a plate. And here’s what! The guy gave us a second serving and topped it up with thin ebullient onion chops, fried chillies and a dash of lime juice to perk it up. The dish has the chutzpah!

Delhi has THE metro 
The similarity between Dadar and Rajiv Chowk is that both are important junctions in their respective mass transit networks. The differences are many. To start with, the Delhi Metro station is underground and clean and has security checks for the commuters. While one stands for gradual decay, the other represents spurt in progress.
And the clinching argument in favour of the young Metro is that not one single person spat in its premises. Who says infrastructure doesn’t change people. It does!

Empty streets
We arrived in Mohali when the third ODI between India and Australia was into the 96th over. MS Dhoni had played a gem we had heard and were informed by the twitter chatter. It was fairly desolate on the streets as mostly everyone was inside the park. Then James Faulkner hoicked a few Ishant Sharma deliveries outside the park in a sequence of 4 6 6 2 6 6. An over later he tonked another six into the stands and sealed a memorable win for the aussies. Well, for the neutrals it was a great game, for the locals, not so much. But the nip in the air as we reached in Chandigarh and its outskirts was refreshing and welcoming.
Work starts early tomorrow. So should be hitting the sleeping bags now.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Chandigarh Location Recce Day 2

Day 2

A gulp of sugarcane
Just outside the Zakir Hussain Rose Garden, sugarcane juice was made the old way, by an ageing man with his long canes carted from across the union territory from Haryana. 
No added ingredients, just juice squeezed out with a little help from the machine that he muscled with his biceps. As the cane started to resemble bagasse, he slid a bunch of cilantro leaves for that mild deviation in flavour from the sweetness of sugar. A glass of juice at just 15 bucks that left an aftertaste in our mouths for close to half an hour.

Indian Coffee House
When you have mutton burgers @ 29.30 which would put McDonalds and KFC to shame, finger chips that were as English as they come, you know you have hit upon a great place to grab a bite. The Indian Coffee House still seems stuck 1982, when it celebrated its silver jubilee; and I say that as a compliment. It retains the old world charm, with its small 2x2 feet brown square tables, arranged in various permutations and combinations to suit the space and clientele.
There were 50-60 people in the lower stall where we sat. People’s conversations cut into the ones going on aside and beside added to the gentle orders being tallied and the trays being rallied by the middle aged people waiting the tables with enough efficiency to not rush the pace of the place.The bill on our table read thus  
Mutton burgers                   2         29.30                58.60    
Finger chips                       2         20.00                20.00
Chocolate milkshake           1         29.30                29.30
Spanish Omlette                 1         34.50                34.50
Masala Dosa                        1         43.40                43.40
Tot_tax                                                                25.73
CASH                                                                  231.53


Of course, we are visiting again. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Chandigarh Location Recce Day 3

Day 3

Early morning, the crew reached the Bollywood Facilitation Cell at UT guest house. We had waited in vain for a connecting bus from CTU Bus terminal. The frequency is notoriously spaced out and erratic. 
However, at the UT guest house, we were greeted by the nice people whom we were corresponding and co-ordinating for the last two months. In a largish mezzanine reception area, we were received and the due papers and clerical work signed off. The cell is as smoothly administered as the city. No red flags or red tapes. And I can say with certitude that every single bullet point on their posters and website is true. You can find out so on your own if you want.
We walked through the Sukhna Lake road towards the Sector-4, as it was too early for the water body shots and boat pedalling. We shall return for that when the light is just right.

Rock Garden
Next up was a place that we were quite excitedly looking forward to. In our schools we were taught that Nek Chand designed the Rock Garden. It doesn’t explain much else. They should. There’s such detailed artistry and a nonchalance towards the traditional concepts that it hits you in your head. Here the unconventional has a way to surprise and awe with its splendor, fluidity and regularity of occurrence.
The making of Chandigarh provided the site, opportunity and material for Nek Chand’s own creation and the city’s people and government supported his creative process all through. Without Chandigarh there would be no Rock Garden. Yet there is a clear contrast between the city’s grid patterns streets linking sector to sector and the Rock garden’s labyrinthine paths on which the journey is the purpose.  
Nek Chand had observed building methods of Le Corbusier and developed them through his own interpretations. His innovative techniques include using drum and sacks to mould concrete for walls, pillars etc. and curtains of wire gripped in frames and clad with pebbles and cement. He also has hydraulic engineering skills, designing an efficient water pumping system for the waterfalls that channel rainwater all year along. The blend of artistic vision and technical competence contribute to the scale and variety of the Rock Garden.
It is a whole lifetime’s work that calls out for more mavericks like him. Not for nothing is he conferred the Padma Shri.Tickets at the Rock Garden for adults are 20 bucks each and it is an absolute steal for such an absolute delight.

Sector 16 stadium
We were supposed to meet the Joint director of Sports Mr. Sidhu at the Sector 16 stadium. As it happened, he jauntily skipped that meeting for another one. As it is, were there to do a small recce.
Lots of localites team in and out of the stadium which always has budding cricketers polishing their skills on the manicured lawns and concrete pitches. It is a beautiful ground set amidst the ink blue of the sky and chlorophyll green of the fauna around it. Plus it is used regularly unlike a lot of other places where a built facility is never accessible to the public and hence never used to good effects. (My hint is towards the grounds that are rented for marriage receptions)
Even after a long day’s work, I was happy as a bird with a French fry. Because, that’s exactly what I had at the market place. I followed that up with a softie near Neelam theatre. I had had a vanilla-chocolate one after a long time. It felt quite rewarding too as we were walking and scouting a lot and clocking decent miles during the day. The packed schedule meant we were walking swiftly too.

Next up was a plate of chicken momos @ 30 bucks a plate. Fiery and soft. The stomach is happily mixing everything in. So a long day segues into a wintery night. Good night!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Chandigarh Location Recce Day 4

Day 4

Open Hand
The Open hand is Chandigarh's official emblem designed by Le Corbusier. It is located in Sector 1 in the capitol Complex. It has been designed in the form of a giant hand made from metal sheets that rotates like a weathercock, indicating the direction of wind. The open hand is 14 metres high and weighs around 50 tonnes.
The world is undergoing a fever of clasping mortal contradictions. It is agreed! The world may burst! It is possible!

The machinist civilization for its hundred years of scientific and technical conquest will shortly have the fruits for its efforts. The balance sheet is eloquent.

One science universally researched, practiced and developed.
An unprecedented technical equipment, revolutionary in the human history, is capable of producing the unlimited products for fruitful consumption and sensational information owing to the progress in photography, cinema and sound recording embraces an extensive domain between the astronomic spaces and the microscopic pro founders. This information through the effects of printing, radio and television, clothed with precision and exactitude, is responded all over the world with the rapidity of lightning. Everyday the world is instructed of its proper palpitation. The science of aeronautics is added to the means of land and naval transports. The air route has introduced a major modification in the relations between human groups.At last the fission of the atom will upset the sources of energy and thus the production. The abundance seems to be the sign of the epoch.

The open hand to receive, the open hand to give should be chosen as a symbolic materialization of all these victories.
Open for receiving the created richness…
Open for the distribution to India’s people and to others.
                                                                                                -     Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier Centre
Le Corbusier’s ingenuity and inventiveness inspired a lot of faith in then Prime Minister, Nehru; and he paid the trust manifold over the years. Filled with archives, photographs, telegrams, blueprints and paintings from the multi-faceted architect is the Le Corbusier Centre.
The Old Architects’ Office situated in Sector 19 is of immense historic value to Chandigarh; it was the design workplace of Corbusier and his team. It is a significant resource for understanding the technological, formal and aesthetic spirit of modern architecture, as also its peculiar manifestation in the context of Chandigarh.

Besides contributing to the ongoing international deliberations about the policies for conserving modern heritage, this project is a landmark as a first ever project of conservation and adaptive re-use undertaken by the Chandigarh administration.

Le Corbusier quotes
  • Architecture is the masterly, correct and magnificent play of form in light.
  • Space and light and order, these are the things that men need just as much as they need bread and a place to sleep.

Chandigarh Trivia
Sector 17 used to be a Harrappan civilization settlement. What a coincidence-the two almost identically planned cities-Chandigarh’s sectorial and Harrappan grid layouts-complement one another as if time meant them to perpetuate a tradition of planned settlement in this part of the world. History repeats itself albeit 5000 years in time and over 3 metres of silt in between.

Chandigarh Golf Club
We arrived after a short walk from the Cell and found elderly golfers doing the same between their rounds of golf. A quick one minute meeting with the general manager of the ongoing tournament and we got ourselves busy with covering the mounds and bunkers and tees and eagles around the sprawling 18-hole course. 
It is rare to find such golf courses right in the heart of the city. No urban planner would be allowed such freedom and luxury today. As unfortunate as it is, that is the truth. Nonetheless, it is a golf club that even the Scots will love to tee off in and we are happy to have covered the location.

Sukhna Lake
The man-made lake is home to quacks of hundreds ducks. The duck peculiarly get wet and then get dry and continue to do so all day.A quick grub and shared bites later,we picked up a few souvenirs from the shop.


One of the indications of an open, cosmopolitan city is the how she treats its artists. If she is open to subversions and representations of popular cultures, it says a lot. Here are some samples of the paintings and graffiti done by the students of the Chandigarh' Govt. Art College on the road stretching from Sukhna Lake to the Rock Garden in Sector 4. In fact they let us try our hand for a few broad strokes. The students splashed paint to bring to life Raj Kapoor, Charlie Chaplin, the minions, Heath Ledger’s Joker, Arabian knights, Pulp Fiction and many many more.