Chillaxin’ in Chandigarh

Awwww gawd I’m cracked-out!  I’m finally feeling the pain of this night-owl’s schedule! Nonetheless, we need to catch-up… so here’s what I’ve been up to!

/ > First stop we made in town was the Police Station.  Cab wanted to introduce us to his police officer friend, as he’d be back in Sirsa with his family for a couple days mid-week, to celebrate the Sikh holiday Lohri which is only celebrated here in Punjab.  In the event of an emergency or if we needed any help, we were to call our new officer friend.  Hooked-up!

/ > We visited the really cool, over-the-top Rock Garden, a project of impressive scope which draws visitors from all over India. Imagine a sprawling public garden the size of a small amusement park (40 acres)… all made completely of rock and recycled materials. It was amazing… You wander through it like a long maze, over bridges, through tunnels and waterfalls, stooping through dozens of really small arched doorways (like 2 feet shorter than me!)… it’s Dr. Seuss meets the Flintstones. There are huge swings (2 or 3 to a seat) to play on, and there hundreds, no, thousands of sculptures of imaginary animals and people (one area had all these women sculptures, decorated completely with recycled ladies bangles… wish my camera still had batteries at that point. (Check Cara’s Photostream.) Freakin’ cool!

/ > We spent a lot of time “at home” in a nice apartment (Hot Showers baby!) on the outskirts of Sector 28, with Cab’s roommates Neegam and Alook being Domestic Internet Hermits”R”Us.. First BIG bonus of this place was broadband internet, which we all have used and abused the hell out of every day & night. While this might sound excessive, it was much needed (apparently), as we’re Americans so addicted to it, and we barely had any for nearly 2 months so we had to make up for lost time. We all uploaded our photos to Flickr, did lots of Internet telephony with our friends and family (Skype, audio chats, video chats), I re-did my blog on WordPress (and added a Touring Map!), etc. etc. etc. Good times! I’ve also been researching like mad, to plan out the coming months here in India and beyond, and I’ve been conspiring with Amy to join us here in India, hopefully ~ mid-February. We’ve also been Home Cooking. Cara and Bonnie, who learned much in the Indian culinary arts back in Sirsa last week, have made some kick-ass Dals with the pressure-cooker (need one of those!), and we’ve also experienced our hosts with comfort foods from home like pasta and tomato sauce, french toast, and rice-pudding, which they enjoyed OK (but thought were weird and dull w/o the masala!)

rose garden 2

/ > Despite us being hermits and eating all day, we did manage to leave the house at least once daily. We spent an afternoon at the lovely Zakir Hussain Rose Garden, sniffing many of the 1600 species of roses till I was dizzy and having hallucinations that I was lost in Grandma’s bathroom.

suckey camel's #^$*!
Handsome camel outside the Rose Garden."

/ > I feel like Chandigarh is as close as it gets in India to being back in the West, especially as we were eating chocolate cake and sipping Cappuccinos next to the Pepe Jeans store in The Mall. We really went there to hit the Book Store and see if any English-language movies were playing… Nope! I had to restrain myself from buying too many books, but I walked away with a fat new South India Rough Guide, Rudyard Kipling’s Stories if India, Kim, and The Jungle Book, Gurcharan Das’s India Unbound which discusses the impact of Indian economic policies and social transformation in contemporary India, and Paul Theroux’s Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, the accomplished travel-writers latest novel about his journey on the same South and SE Asian path that we’re on. I’ve got my work cut-out or me reading, but I know how much good books can enrich and influence one’s travels, and also how it goes on the road… lots of time in the evening to read and collect one’s thoughts (hence all my blogging from the farm), and once this broadband is gone I know I’ll be hittin’ those books!

/ > My favorite adventure in town so far was biking around the Market, which Jamey and I found while biking yesterday only 2 blocks from here. To me it feels like some of the old parts of Prague and Barcelona, with its extensive network of centuries-old narrow and twisty streets, very urban in that there’s continuous dwellings and shops (without physical space between them), and also rich in very old, established, fancy homes. Some alleys were so narrow we could barely fit, and I couldn’t see (or imagine) a car in any of it. We found an impressive and beautiful white temple with old natty Sadhus (Hindi monks) hanging about, enormous Banyan trees growing right in the road (and everything else growing around it), and what can only imagine was the ruins of a fort – must be 500 years old – not ruined enough that I could scale it’s 50 foot wall. We had no idea where we were after 10 or so turns, but without any rush to find our way out we found familiar turf and got back home intact and enthralled a couple hours later. Old Chandigarh rules!

Another random tidbit…

/ > We have a lady who does stuff around here. I don’t know what to call her… we asked Cab and he told us that a cook is called Pomechi, and a worker is called Comhi. (Com-hi doesn’t sound too… polite, does it?) This came out of a non-confrontational conversation about women’s roles, equality, wages, servants, and the working caste, which I promise I’ll report on once I understand it better and read the chapter on it in India Unbound. It seems everyone has a role here, and whatever it may be it goes largely unchallenged. The lady who comes in twice a day cooks breakfast, dinner, and cleans up. That means we don’t have to do dishes, even when we cook. It’s kind of strange, but nice to have meals prepared. It was the same in Brazil too, and it was equally shocking! More on women sometime later… (all I can say is that these conventions would NOT fly with the women who know otherwise back in the West.)

That’s all for now! That Kiwi (and now Rhododendron) wine is really kickin’ in! Good night!

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2 thoughts on “Chillaxin’ in Chandigarh”

  1. Anthony! It’s been such a wonderful surprise to discover your blog, and that you are in India ~ next time you bump into a sadhu, tell him Om Namah Shivaya for me:-) Hugs from NJ !!!!

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