Ever since I left Chandigarh way back in 1982, I have looked for opportunities to visit Chandigarh again and again. There are so many pleasant memories and experiences associated with the city. It has not yet disappointed me in my so many visits in last 25 years. Though these visits are now never for a longer period, not more than 2 nights usually, but the visits and meeting with old buddies always refreshes me. Chandigarh has changed in so many ways, and yet it has remained the same in its character. It has expanded in all directions. Like NCT region of Delhi which now encompasses Noida, Gurgaon, and may be Sonepat also, Chandigarh’s unofficial boundaries now engulf Mohali, Panchkula, and may be Raipur Rani. It is not uncommon to find letters for Panchkula also mentioning Chandigarh in the address. The traffic has multiplied manifold; the ubiquitous cycle, the most common mode of transportation earlier, has rapidly been replaced by motorcycles and small cars. Traffic jams, unheard earlier, do occur now on some roads. I used to own a cycle then; and would enjoy using it for various errands, and also on many occasions with Chitra on carrier at the back. Later I also put a small seat in front and would take Ishu for fun ride in the campus. It was a bit of unusual since very few docs in PGI used cycles, and perhaps none to use it as a family transport.
My hobby for bird watching really took off from the woods adjacent to the hostel. There were many resident and visiting birds there and gradually I learnt to recognize them. I still remember my joy when for the first time I made a spot recognition of golden oriole and grey hornbill.
We got lot of visitors from Delhi who would visit us for various reasons: medical consultations in the hospital, just to visit and spend some time with us, or on their way to Kasauli or Shimla. We were always on lookout which hostle-room’s occupants were away on home vacation so that we could accommodate our own guests. Besides usual tourist attractions, we would always entertain them at the first floor cafeteria which they found so spotlessly clean. They found it amusing to see the caloric value of each item of food served there.
Some of the friends we made there are our closest friends now and we value their friendship. People of Chandigarh were warm, simple, and yet fun loving; unlike Delhi. I also tried my hands to learn to speak Punjabi; speaking same language is a key tool to communication and it proved very useful to establish rapport with patients. My skills to speak Punjabi were OK if some linguistic expert did not sit on judgment. However, what I learnt most at Chandigarh and which I continue to cherish is to take pride in my profession.
So when there was another opportunity to visit Chandigarh for a meeting, I jumped at it. And the organizers of the meeting booked my stay at the UT guest house in sector 6. It has just been renovated and its sprawling lobbies would put ordinary 5-star hotels to shame. The best part of the guest house is its close proximity to the lake. I went there for my morning walk. I was visiting it after so many years, may be after two decades, but was very happy to see it as clean and unpolluted. On the opposite side, one could still see the clear land and greenery with no encroachment. When we were there, visits to lake, rock garden, rose garden, 17 sector market were quite frequent. What I also liked very much there was the cactus garden in the Punjab University. It had at that time some amazing variety of cacti. I have not been to all these places now in so many years now, but would like visit cactus garden once again.
The roads and various sectors continue to be clean and uncluttered. It is such a contrast from Delhi where you could not pass a stretch of one km without the road being dug up, or huge dump of garbage. Unauthorized floors or extensions are not visible, at least on my short visits. However, with third generation having now grown up, the Chandigarhians will be facing tremendous pressure for the need to have an extra floor above their houses.