Let me clarify at the very outset that I love Chandigarh… I really do. And I never quite got it when outsiders especially Delhiites called it a sleepy town that “never wakes up”. “There is a lethargy is the air”, commented one ruefully while the other had a more specific complaint,” There is nothing to do in the city except eat popcorn in Sector 17. There is no life here.” Humph! All the while I stayed in the city, as a student or later on as a working woman, I didn’t quite get the drift of their whining and complaining. In any case eating popcorn in Sec 17 sounded as good a pastime as any. Things however changed when I returned to the city after a 5 year stint in Gurgaon. Without realising, I found myself joining the chorus-“Nothing ever gets done here on time. Everyone has all the time in the world to do or not do anything”.
Before I invite a lot of brickbracks from my resident friends, let me reiterate that I love City Beautiful. In all fairness, who doesn’t? But now I was seeing it through the tinted glasses, read perspective, of a Delhiite. And I am not talking of any huge and happening social life let alone night life. I never went partying or pub hopping in Gurgaon-Delhi and it was not lack of this life that I was referring to in Chandigarh. On the contrary, if someone invited me for a dinner or get together in NCR and that too on a weekday, my grief knew no bounds. A dinner in Noida or even South Delhi meant easily 4 to 5 hours of commuting time which left me with no energy or mood for relaxed chit-chat forget food.
What exactly I mean when I say that I joined the sing-song chorus of the Delhiites, let me clarify. My first brush with the lackadaisical reality of the city came in my hunt for a maid. Yeah I know it’s the same story everywhere and we friends never hesitate to tell each other the same thing-“it’s easier to find a husband than a maid”. The problem here was not of finding a maid but finding someone who would deign to come before 9 am. “If you come at 9 am, when will I go to work?” I tried reasoning with one but to no avail. Eventually we struck a bargain at 8 only that more often than not, it meant 9 am only.
Anyways! Juggling around with a recalcitrant 6-year-old, a truant maid and a husband who was mostly missing in action, life gained some semblance of normalcy. I decided to devote a day to take care of pending chores starting with a boutique in the upmarket sector 8 of Chandigarh. The board proudly announced working hours as 10 am-6 pm but at 10.30 there was not a soul in sight. 11 am, still the same. Just as I was about to leave a maternal looking aunty walked in wearing a very elaborate suit in true Punjabi style. “Beta have some tea. Then we’ll see what you need”. One and a half hour and 2 cups of tea later my suit design was ready with a full Patiala salwar. I doubt I paid as much attention to detail even for my wedding trousseau but there was no arguing with the aunty.
Already running late by this hospitality I made a dash to pick up some dry cleaning that a friend had generously dropped off at a shop in Sector 11. After struggling to find a parking place, I was greeted at the shop by a swarm of ladies of all shapes and sizes, with all brands of designer bags and shades, engaged in an animated discussion with the owner of the shop over a lace sari. This recalcitrant sari, which the owner guiltily informed was picked up at a non descript sale, refused to regain its original shape or colour regardless of the treatment it was subjected to. Someone please kill me!! Doesn’t anyone want to pick or drop their stuff and move on? After another 10 minutes the gathering was dismissed by the shop owner with a ‘serves you right for picking up anything from anywhere’. Another 15 minutes to locate my stuff and I was screeching towards Sec 26 to pick up my son who, by the time I got there had thrown a mother of all tantrums.
In any case many shops in Sector 17 still observe the 2 hour lunch break so there was no question of my picking up my lenses or finishing off other work. So off we trooped to one of the many delightful coffee shops for a quick bite but more on the coffee shops later. This was followed by a merry jaunt to Rock Garden…so much for my hurry to get the work done.
Two years on and how do I feel about it? Well there are times when I do wish everybody would be more professional and everything would get done faster…that my 8am maid would actually show up at 8am; that my boutique aunty would be available at 10.30. But more often than not, I don’t leave the boutique without my mandatory cup of tea and a plethora of “puttar ji”; I don’t cross Sec 11 market without saying hullo to the “dry cleaning wali aunty” and neither do I drop or pick my son without exchanging pleasantries with the guards. My favourite pass time is once again eating popcorns in sec17 plaza. Yes..The city beautiful does work its charm on you!!