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If Chandigarh goes the Punjab way

Here we go again. Every time something of consequence happens on the political landscape of Punjab or Haryana, one question gets asked: Which way will Chandigarh go? As if Chandigarh ever goes anywhere. Writes Aarish Chhabra.

chandigarh Updated: Nov 02, 2014 08:50 IST
Aarish Chhabra
Aarish Chhabra
Hindustan Times

Here we go again. Every time something of consequence happens on the political landscape of Punjab or Haryana, one question gets asked: Which way will Chandigarh go? As if Chandigarh ever goes anywhere.

The asking style changes, depending on who’s at the receiving end of the question. In the latest, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, the patriarch of the Shiromani Akali Dal, was asked if he would now seek transfer of Chandigarh — the union territory that serves as joint capital for Punjab and Haryana — to Punjab. The issue is old but the ‘now’ is important, simply because the BJP, the SAD’s ally everywhere in India except Haryana, is in power at the Centre as well as in both the states — thanks to the SAD in Punjab; despite the SAD in Haryana.

What was Badal supposed to say? He said ‘yes’. But he dwelt no further. It’s not that simple, you see. In the Haryana elections that the BJP won comfortably, Badal was with the BJP’s main adversary, the INLD. There is even speculation about a possible break-up between the SAD and BJP in Punjab. The frost has set in; can we call it winter already? That’s the hottest question.

Congress MP Capt Amarinder Singh jumped at the irony, particularly asking the BJP to clarify its stand. He underlined that the BJP’s units in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh have been speaking in different voices on the issue. The Maharaja ignored that the situation is no different in his party.

But let’s put this boring circle of irony aside.

Let’s, instead, deal with some hypothetical horror.

I am a Punjabi, belonging to whatever is left of Punjab after the partitions of 1947 and 1966. If at all there is a situation wherein Chandigarh has to go to one of the states, I am clear where my loyalties reside. Yet, I am pleasantly horrified at the prospect.

What if Chandigarh actually goes to Punjab? Things will have to change.

First things first, Sector 17 will be renamed Chauda Bazaar, and the parking lots be finished off. For both, blame tradition. The name comes from the way Sector 17 looks: chauda, or wide. The logic is the same as applied to my cousins Billa, Gora, Kalu and Silky. As for the parking lots, well, they are just not part of the Punjabi culture. We like to operate in a time when there were no cars. Nostalgia is important, timelessness the hallmark of tradition. We park where we park.

Next, there shall be no divisions of properties in categories, such as residential and commercial.

What’s the fun if you cannot even lower a bucket from your first-floor house to get a new packet of washing powder from the ration shop below?

There will be no restriction on the number of floors for houses. It’s wrong to stop growing, especially when the whole of Punjab wants to come and settle in Chandigarh. Zirakpur, Landran and all are not really Chandigarh. Take my word for it. I am not even sure how to spell where I live: Dhakoli or Dhakauli? Even the government and the signboard writers are confused.

Toll tax will be levied for every road. Because that is how we do things in Punjab. That will not mean the roads will be good. Because that is how we do things in Punjab.

Be happy, though, as you would no longer need helmets. Life and death must remain God’s domain. We don’t like taking matters in our own hands, unless it is a fight over a cricket ball, or an accidental brush of a shoulder, or even a misdirected gaze. Triple riding and other such things shall be respectfully ignored for the same reason.

Police will have to be potbellied, or be sacked. And a foul mouth will be compulsory. As for Haryanvis in Chandigarh Police, they need not worry. The MC-BC vocabulary is common to Punjabi and Hindi. Just learn the correct pronunciation of ‘bh’.

The 10pm deadline on playing loud music will go too. In fact, to weed out any discipline that may create confusion, it will be mandatory to play music till at least 1am at all functions.

Otherwise, how would you know you’re in Punjab? Dustbins will be removed. We are just not used to them. Public toilets shall meet the same fate. Deal with it.

That’s about my list, except one thing that I’m actually looking forward to.

If ever Chandigarh goes to Punjab, people of the ‘city of stones’ will need some re-socialisation.

Not only will it be compulsory for people to know and talk to their neighours, but every household will also have to borrow at least one thing from another household once a week. No one’s asking for much. Just some sugar will do.

First Published: Nov 02, 2014 08:46 IST