For the businessoriented Gujarati community, Chandigarh lacks factors needed for an emerging business and cultural hub.
Though they have tasted success in their respective fields, the close-knit community longs for social and traditional bonding, and feels residents are indifferent and socially distant.
The soft-spoken community addresses each other as ‘bhai,’ while for women, it is ‘behan’.
The community members set foot in the city in the late 70’s.
Today, their population is nearly 2,000. While a majority of them arrived in search of jobs, they ended up doing their own businesses.
Hindus and Jains, which are a majority in the Tricity, are predominantly vegetarians. Gujarati cuisine follows the traditional Indian full meal structure of rice, cooked vegetables, lentil dal or curry and roti.
In 1975, the community formed the Gujarati Mandal to promote, socialise and fraternise the cultural interests of nonresident Gujaratis in the region.
During the tenure of Gujarati Jaisukh Lal Hathi as the Governor of Punjab (September 1977 to July 1981), land was allotted to the community in Sector 24 for the Gujarat Bhawan, which was constructed in 1984.
Dandiya Raas is the most popular dance form of Gujarat, which is performed throughout the country during the Navratri festival. The festival is celebrated to pay homage to the nine incarnations of Mata Amb, the Mother Goddess.
Garba Raas is a popular folk dance of Gujarat. The dance is said to have an ancient origin. Like the credit for popularising Ras Leela goes to Lord Krishna, the credit for promoting Garba goes to Usha, the grand daughter-in-law of Shri Krishna.
Some of the popular dishes of Gujarat are ‘Khaman Dhokla’ — a salty steamed cake; ‘Oondhiya’ — a vegetarian dish with potato, brinjal, green beans and other vegetables cooked in an earthenware pot in the fire; ‘Khichdi’ — mixture of lentil and rice; ‘ Kadhi’ — savoury yoghurt curry with chopped vegetables and variety of spices and ‘Debra’ — flour mixed with spinach and yoghurt etc.
Vat Savitri is the most popular festival and celebrated in the month of June. On this day, women pray for the prosperity and longevity of their husbands by tying threads around a banyan tree (wata), known as Peepal Puja, on this day.
It honours Savitri, the legendary wife who rescued her husband’s soul from the ruler of the departed Yama.
Jayesh Mehta, general secretary of the Gujarati Mandal, who came to the city in 1995 and runs a business of electrical and submersible wires, said, “Though Chandigarh is a well-planned city, people are socially distant. Here people don’t come forward to help each other unlike our community.”
VG Chhatralia, chairperson of the Gujarati Mandal, arrived here in 1983 and started working with a glass company. He later set up his own glass factory in Derabassi about 10 years ago.
Chhatralia says one of the reasons why Gujaratis are successful in business is due to their habit of saving. “Also, we people don’t mind doing any work to earn money. Chandigarh is a modern city with all basic amenities. Our children speak fluent Punjabi and Hindi,” he said.