What’s so beautiful about Chandigarh? That’s what many commuters seem to wonder as they patiently negotiate potholes and bumpy stretches while crawling through haphazard traffic on entering the city via Zirakpur. Driving through the Manimajra barrier is no different. Wild growth, ill-maintained roadsides and dividers make all claims of visiting the country’s first planned city sound hollow.
It hurts to see parthenium or congress grass growing rampant right under the CITCO umbrella after the railway crossing. The monsoon has been around since last month and so has the wild growth. The rail crossing got a facelift recently but the stretch a few metres ahead is a picture of neglect.
The official apathy is for all to see across the town as bougainvillea shrubs grow wild on dividers and tall grass makes it difficult to walk through any open patch.
In fact, barring the wide roads, which don’t seem as wide any more thanks to the growing traffic, and the few roundabouts, Chandigarh is fast losing its beauty. The Sukhna Lake, the Rock Garden and even the Rose Garden are losing their pride of place simply because of the lack of maintenance.
Picnics and get-togethers at these one-time haunts are becoming a fading memory. It’s time we reinvented our public spaces and took pride in maintaining them than lose them to neglect.
The neighbouring Sector 17 wears a decrepit look with building facades that are pockmarked with telltale signs of weathering. A walk down any stretch in the heart of the city’s commercial complex is interrupted with broken tiles, lose slabs, wires dangling overhead and a fetid stench. We choose to forget the world outside the moment we step into the air-conditioned environs of glitzy showrooms. Business done, we beat a hasty retreat for the comfort of our cars, shutting out the uncomfortable reality.
The state of public amenities anywhere in town is not worth mentioning. God forbid if one needs to use a public toilet. It’s far more convenient to rush back home or visit the nearest friend’s place.
So who can help Chandigarh regain its lost glory? Many believe it is for the union territory administration’s to do the dirty job. Perhaps to a certain extent it is, but don’t the people who call this city their home have a role to play too? Why can’t the elite showroom owners of Sector 17 pool in funds and take pride in maintaining their area? Why can’t students initiate cleanliness campaigns on the campus and beyond? Why can’t the aam aadmi rise to the occasion? Why can’t he teach his children the values of cleanliness and dignity of labour?
Come to think of it, the City Beautiful doesn’t necessarily need a makeover. It’s we, the residents of Chandigarh, who need to change our mindset for she only needs our care and concern.