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BTW: The charm of being sad in Chandigarh

Being sad in Chandigarh is a comfortable thought. The wide open spaces are swept in all months by a constant breeze that makes it seem possible to just float; float, not swim.

columns Updated: Apr 23, 2018 19:08 IST
Aarish Chhabra
Aarish Chhabra
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
By the way,Chandigarh,angst-filled teenager
Sukhna Lake seems to relive her birth every monsoon, and thereby tells you that nothing is permanent. Not even your sadness.(HT Photo)

People are unfair to sadness. If not the most important, it is the most honest of all feelings, matched only by the joyous curiosity of a child who is not yet old enough to understand grief’s irresistible charm.

And, on days of such clarity, I love the fact that I am in Chandigarh, a city that respects sadness. No, the city does not necessarily make people sad. That’s not what I am saying, at all.

I am just saying that, for instance, its languid pace is quite in sync with how grief holds and caresses you, and then washes over you, like the liquid gold that fills the sky at sunset. Evidently, this city and sadness also combine well to make a poet out of you, however bad your verse.

Being sad in Chandigarh, thus, is a comfortable thought.

The wide open spaces are swept in all months by a constant breeze that makes it seem possible to just float; float, not swim.

In a smaller town, the narrowness of the lanes and the bumps on the roads create a disturbance that wants to shake you out of your grief — much like those old friends who tell you that you must stop being depressed now. These friends just don’t understand: That’s not how it works. Maybe someday these poor chaps too will feel the priceless sensation of sadness, and get goosebumps of grief — like tears of joy, you know.

Chandigarh is just the right size.

In a bigger town, you are not allowed to be sad. Noise and dust hit you in the face, roughening and toughening your exterior, inducing an alien numbness that makes you feel like an angst-filled teenager who hates himself for being sad. That’s just not cool, buddy!

Know what’s cool, actually? Living in a city that behaves like a rare friend who understands, lets you be sad; and sits next to you in quiet solidarity. Chandigarh is that friend. It does not mock your grief with neon signs and shiny billboards selling happiness. The municipal planners of this modern city, perhaps, do not realise this added benefit of being strict about rules. Maybe they do.

Nor does the city yet have the angry traffic that wants to cut through your car, leaving you exposed, vulnerable, right in the middle of everything and nowhere. Instead, it has cycle tracks and walking trails that crisscross through trees as old as, or even older than, the city. They shed leaves and grow new flowers sometimes at the same time. Is it autumn or spring? You can take your pick. No pressure, my friend.

The city has the Himalayas too in sight, standing there, tall and reassuring. Old and wise, they lord over time; the mountains never forget what they hear. You can talk to them through your balcony here.

The foothills under the city’s feet, too, are considerate. They give it descents that let you move without pedalling or revving. You can float; remember? And then there are some sharp inclines that slow things down to a comforting hum. Have you noticed the stretch from the Sector 10-11 roundabout to the Sector 15-16 traffic signal? Next time you will, maybe.

If you do go up that road, go talk to Sukhna, the lake. Her patience holds many lessons. She does not mind losing some of her heft in peak summer, when man-made greed dries up the rivulets that provide water to this man-made beauty. She knows it will rain soon enough. The exposed, cracked lakebed at the corners will disappear when monsoon visits and fills the lake to the brim again. Some say she’s dying. To me, she seems to relive her birth every monsoon, and thereby tells you that nothing is permanent. Not even your sadness, sadly.

Email writer at aarish.chhabra@htlive.com | Twitter: @aarishc

First Published: Apr 22, 2018 09:26 IST