Round about: Geri, Aazadi and after | punjab | htcity | Hindustan Times
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Round about: Geri, Aazadi and after

In fact when the Geri Route came into its celebration of the Valentine’s Day way back in 1995, I had already turned a feisty 40.

punjab Updated: Apr 01, 2018 13:34 IST
Nirupama Dutt
Nirupama Dutt
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Geri Route, now renamed ‘Aazadi Route’ came into existence in 1995.
Geri Route, now renamed ‘Aazadi Route’ came into existence in 1995.(HT Photo)

This spring an attractive young backpacker in her twenties has been making rounds of our city. The reason for her visit was that she was doing a dissertation for her master’s thesis on the ‘Geri Route’ now renamed ‘Azadi Route’. All very well but I was a bit surprised when a message came through Deeptha Vivekanand that she wanted to make contact with me. Now what would grandma Nirupama know of the Geri Route and too old to have attended the midnight Azadi celebration with young and determined women.

In fact when the Geri Route came into its celebration of the Valentine’s Day way back in 1995, I had already turned a feisty 40. Of course, I was witness to the excitement in the newspaper office that I was working in. A city pullout had been first launched those days and the marketing team had decided to give media sponsorship to the Valentine’s Day on the route that was to become a landmark later. Marketing all right, but I got a little taken aback when I found the new editor pouring passionately over the page layout, pictures and headlines of this page. In old times editors showed such enthusiasm only if there was major political news.

But times had changed and newspapers were now targeting the readers of tomorrow, the 18 to 25 age group! For that was time when editors were saying that each time an old person died a subscriber was lost! I was a little disapproving. However, I took courage to tell the editor, “Don’t you think we will be held guilty inviting the young to this exhibitionist culture?” He looked at me impatiently, nodded in dismissal and said, “No, the television has already done it.” Matter closed.

Mansi Thapliyal is doing her dissertation for her master’s thesis on the Geri Route. (HT Photo)

Yes those were post liberalisation, globalisation, disintegration of Soviet states, end of militancy in Punjab and the print media was competing with satellite TV and the movements of the 1960s-70s were gone and even I had to go and cover a fashion show!! Of course I took a little dig by giving a headline ‘In times when fashion is the only movement’.

But nevertheless backpacker Mansi Thapliyal persisted and sent me a list of questions and I looked her up on Google and found she was a very talented photographer having done some great work on gender resistance. And two questions sent me into a nostalgic reverie: ‘Tell me about your experience growing up in Chandigarh as a kid, teenager, a young woman?’ ‘What kind of space did Chandigarh have for love and desire?’

Now this tempted me a Chandigarh-born and with a fair share of love and longing to my credit. I recalled how my first boyfriend of the university days stole a kiss (on the cheek) of course in the overcrowded No 14 bus as it crossed the Sector 18/17 intersection. No one noticed it in the rush. What struck me was that love and desire are a reality and one cannot scoff at them when one is climbing down the other side of the hill.

Space for love and longing is always there even in the remotest of villages and I recalled a Punjabi boli which said ‘Khooyon-tibian ton milnon reh gaye, Chandre lava le nalke’ (We can no longer meet at wells and dunes, Wretched taps have been fixed in homes). Ever so many more bolis but what next comes to the mind is Asa Singh Mastana’s song celebrating the village, ‘Mele te chal mere naal kurhe’ (Come my girl with me to the fair)

Meanwhile, Mansi’s dissertation apart; the project has grown into a photography book and an event along with Abhishek Sahoonja of the cards-and-gifts shop that was at the very heart of the Geri route in its days of glory. The event will feature those nostalgic about Geri and those for Azadi following Varnika Kundu’s fight agains stalking. So more soon on this affair to remember.