“My husband did not attain fame overnight. It was only after he struggled that we got Rock Garden,” said Kamla Saini, wife of Nek Chand, sitting in his office at the garden.
With pictures of Nek Chand accompanied by leaders like former prime ministers Indira Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the backdrop, Kamla said, “You know who gave the idea of starting boating at Sukhna Lake? It was Nek Chand Ji.”
Remembering the days when the creator of Rock Garden started experimenting with discarded materials, Kamla said: “My husband worked at the public works department and was in charge of one of the stores where different materials such as drums were stored. He started bringing empty drums home. One day, I saw that he had joined six to nine drums together to make a boat-like structure with a wooden flap in between. He took it to the lake, called some of his friends and started boating.”
Over the course of time, many people noticed him boating, a sight that amused them due to the strange-looking boat.
“Whenever he had time, he offered to take them on a ride without charging a penny. After a while, some of his acquaintances told him that he should start charging the people. As a result, he started taking 50 paise per tourist for a ride,” she said.
Kamla said Nek Chand made more than 14 boats, including one that resembled a Shikara. “At that time, the lake had forest all around it. He was the one who made a small stoned boundary wall around it,” she said.
However, Nek Chand was issued a nine-day notice by the administration for doing private business despite being a government servant.
“It was only after the intervention of a vigilance official that Nek Chandji was reinstated and deployed somewhere near the PGIMER. As being creative came as second nature to him, it was not possible for him to sit idle. As a part of his next project, he started collecting waste material and this is how the work on Rock Garden started. For many years it was called the PWD store and then suddenly the marvel came in open sight before the administration,” said Kamla.
“Yet again it was a long fight, but finally, he got his due for creating the garden,” she said.
A SNEAK PEEK INTO NEK CHAND’S OFFICE
The white stone room reflects the true spirit of Nek Chand. As you look around the room, there is hardly any vacant space. There are a lot of newspapers, cardboards and waste materials piled up.
Pictures and sketches of Nek Chand are put up in the room against the backdrop of awards he won. On the walls, one can see laminated cuttings of different newspapers. Poetry written on Rock Garden by Kaiffy in 2009 is also displayed in the room.
Wooden furniture, such as chairs and table, are placed alongside a small bed in the office.