Turning mundane into magical: A book that talks of life as it happens in Chandigarh | books | Hindustan Times
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Turning mundane into magical: A book that talks of life as it happens in Chandigarh

The book deals with an array of topics, from politics to people to the general trivialities of life, all connected somehow to life in Chandigarh or how life looks from here.

books Updated: Dec 13, 2017 11:29 IST
Arshdeep Arshi
(From left) Harish Jain of Unistar Books; HT senior resident editor Ramesh Vinayak; the author Aarish Chhabra, his father Raj Kumar Chhabra; and eminent author-critic Nirupama Dutt at the launch of ‘The Big Small Town’ at Chandigarh Press Club on Tuesday.
(From left) Harish Jain of Unistar Books; HT senior resident editor Ramesh Vinayak; the author Aarish Chhabra, his father Raj Kumar Chhabra; and eminent author-critic Nirupama Dutt at the launch of ‘The Big Small Town’ at Chandigarh Press Club on Tuesday. (Anil Dayal/HT)

Had Lahore not been made part of Pakistan after the Partition, the city of Chandigarh would probably never exist. The need for City Beautiful was felt because after independence, Punjab needed a city which could not only be its capital, but also imbibe the aspirations of a modern India, said aurthor-critic Nirupama Dutt.

She was in conversation with Aarish Chhabra during the release of his book ‘The Big Small Town: How life looks from Chandigarh’, at the Chandigarh Press Club, on Tuesday.

Chhabra is currently working with the Hindustan Times. He has been a journalist since 2008 and was earlier with the Indian Express.

Beyond architecture

Speaking about the book, Chhabra said it attempts to provide readers an account of life in Chandigarh. “If you search for books on Chandigarh online, all you will get are voluminous accounts of the city’s architecture. There isn’t any book on the city’s life and I wanted to write something about it. So this is a book about Chandigarh, but this is not a book about its architecture,” he said.

The book comprises a selected collection from his column ‘By The Way’ that is being published in HT since 2013. It deals with an array of topics, from politics to people to the general trivialities of life, all connected somehow to life in Chandigarh or how life looks from here.

It was released by Ramesh Vinayak, senior resident editor of Hindustan Times, Chandigarh.

During the conversation, Nirupama Dutt asked him about why he keeps playing the small town boy from Abohar, which he is, even though he is now a part of the city’s cultural circles too, to which he replied: “That gives me the liberty to get away with saying things. I am part of the local circles, yet I am an observer. That’s a great place to be in, if you want to write about it!”

Chandigarh in a new light

Speaking at the launch, Vinayak mentioned a chapter titled ‘A lungful of petrichor’, which talks about a rainy evening spent stuck in a market corridor with rickshaw-wallahs who are as much a part of this city as anyone else. He described Chhabra as a traveller, turned into a chronicler, whose curiosity often “turns the mundane into magical”. “He writes in a tone that is soft and yet subtle. Over the years, his writing has come of age and the book shows a Chandigarh that people from my generation never knew of,” he said.

Speaking about the transformation that the city has undergone, Chhabra said, “This city has changed over the years to become a younger, more energetic town than the quiet retirement city that it was once. Yet, the city’s people, the life here hardly gets mentioned in books.”

When Dutt mentioned alienation and the possibly boring quietness of the city’s initial years, she touched upon a part of the book too. “Increasingly, houses in Chandigarh have started to gain their own character, subtracting the alienation, and adding elements that define the modern urban India of today, not the imagined city that Corbusier had made,” writes Chhabra in one of the columns.

When asked how he selects the topic for his columns, Chhabra said he often tries to write on current topics and how they are related to Chandigarh. “Of course, at times I also write on things beyond,” he said, adding that tagline of Calvin and Hobbes— “the sound of the deadline” — has been quite helpful in deciding these subjects.

Unistar has published the book, and it is available at bookstores and online at Amazon and other sites.