Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Chandigarh Family Meet

Getting out of Delhi was a bit difficult. The straight roads, well traveled from earlier days, were now folding and turning over themselves with 360 degree turns, while climbing over the numerous flyovers en route and forking in detours to different destinations. One wrong fork taken and you are lost.

New landmarks, the old having got obliterated by the frenzy of construction and chaos, added to my confusion.

I had started early to beat the traffic; apparently every one had the same bright idea, it appeared that the whole of Delhi had decided to exit on the same route and at the same time.

Once on NH 1 (National Highway), The grand trunk Road from Calcutta to Peshawar, I shifted to the overdrive, the fifth gear of the Astra, and with the engine purring smoothly accelerated to a steady 80 KM per hour.

80 KMS was slow for the highway with 90 the max permitted speed, others driving at 100 plus overtook me with ease; the brash Santros, i 10s’, Maruti Ritz’s and others of same ilk, showing no respect for the big brother; aggressively and disdainfully by the Honda Citi’s, SX4’s and Assent likes, all with disregard for the elder sibling, smoothly and condescendingly by the stately Mercs, Accords and Audie’s and frighteningly by the intimidating behemoths of the Haryana, Himachal and Punjab Roadways on any and every one in their path, hurtling down with blaring pressure horns. The truckers were the one who showed courtesy and waved me past.

Sadly, the earlier king of the road, the status symbol of yore, the ubiquitous Maruti 800 was conspicuous by it minimal presence on the road, completely ignored by all. Alas their time had gone past.

There was a new menace on the road, three wheelers plying between Karnal and Kurukshetra, obstructing and slowing down the fast moving traffic with their quirky habits of hogging the road.

Past Ambala and the confusing signage with the road bifurcating in numerous directions to various destinations travelled earlier replaced by a smooth highway traversing many flyovers. Once on the road to Chandigarh made me wonder as to where the single carriageway had vanished.

The only jarring note of the journey was the reasonable and at places unreasonable Toll Tax I had to dish-out en route starting from Noida itself.

Though entering Chandigarh was easy, identifying the land marks as indicated, on phone, by Bimal Jain to his house in Sector 35A, where every one was congregating for lunch, was difficult.

I missed the Tribune Complex, the first landmark, but did pick it up the under construction hotel on the left, a bit confused took the left turn at the roundabout instead the right and promptly got lost.

Many queries and directions later, especially by the good and ever helpful Rickshaw-pullers, I finally did reached Bimals, albeit when most, a few diehards still holding to the Beer mugs, were past the dessert stage.

To the all 'round delight, the officially designated ‘Photographer’ had arrived and I was hailed with more than a hearty welcome. Karnail Sandhu, pleased and excited was all smiles to see in me one from our own, the Technical Graduate entry.

Missed the lunch, I retrieved the Yashika from the car, and got going with my assigned duty. Hopefully, the worthy editor of the News Letter will find a place for some of the vignettes captured from the occasion.

With the sun creeping down, the shadows lengthening and many eyes drooping down with the beer induced sleep, it was time to break.

I had the now daunting task of locating the house in Sector 8B where I was to stay. Once again the Bihari Rickshaw-Pullers came to rescue and pointed me on to the right road.

Once settled, I had time to open the thick envelop proffered in my hand earlier on arrival at Jain’s. It contained a thick sheaf of papers; a detailed itinerary of events of our stay, directions and instructions with information on the hosts and guests; very helpful and convenient, a neat staff-work it was.

Dinner at Bakshi’s, with their house, fortuitously, in Sector 8A was just a walking distance away.

I changed into a lounge suite from the blue blazer, picked my camera along with the flash and drove the walking distance to Teginder’s imposing house. The entrance was full of blooming Chrysanthemums, the house tastefully done. I walked into the open arms and broad smiles from the Bakshi’s not forgetting their charming daughters-in-law and the doting assistant hosts, their sons.

Everyone, in keeping with the dignity of the occasion had changed to formal attire from that of the earlier casual dress for lunch.

The party went along roaringly, with snacks, drinks, games, sing-songs and the soothing music from the Bose stereo in the background.

The food on the table with the candles lit earlier, lovingly by Mrs Bakshi, catered to every taste and even included ‘Makki ke Roti and Chana ka Sag’.

One would have liked to linger on but the next day's activity, the picnic, were to start early in the day.

The RV for the picnic was the Rose Garden parking lot and I arrived early carrying my Mamiya SLR loaded with a slower 200ASA film, giving me ample time to view a Chandigarh that was in a holiday mood with the milling crowd enjoying the open space of the Rose Garden and the early morning fresh and nippy air. The much liberal and uninhabited attitude of teenage boys and girls, out for fun on public display in the parking lot was a revelation in as to how far ahead the teens were from rest of the country.

Cars kept arriving with guests, driven by hosts or drivers. Once all were present, they left en block leaving Bajaj and me to find our own way to a place known as the ‘Kansal Forest Reserve Resort’ with a cryptic direction: “Go past the Engineering College...keep driving straight”.

We drove straight for some time but even the straight roads do turn and twist and so did our road. The mobile signal wastoo weak to seek guidance from the main party and once again I had to resort to seeking directions from passers-by, some ignorant others indifferent. The helpful, on the other hand guided us to a "Forest Resort" but not the one that we were seeking.

The diversion was, however, utilised by Bajaj to have a look around and speak to property dealers who had setup shops to sell plots to those who couldn't afford one in Chandigarh. Still, by spending some money, one can live cheek and Jowl with the rest of the city.

To cut the story short, we did manage to reach the gate of the Forest reserve, or was it reserved forest for VIP’s and cajoled the frail looking forest guard and after establishing our bone fides, he opened the gate and let us in.

Driving on and on the narrow dirt track, cutting through the thick forest, over a number of causeways some dry, others with a thin stream of water flowing over, we suddenly reached a wide open space, the line of cars parked and the partying crowd in the distance was welcome sight. Bajaj and I joined the conglomeration to a tumultuous welcome, having been given up as lost, with mutual relief.

With beer, coke and snacks all around and in plenty from the makeshift bar and kitchen, some went for a walk while the others basked in the sun reminiscing about old times and current ‘Sass - Bahu - Children’ issues. The die hard Golfers tried their hands at the makeshift chipping range and won some prizes. I, on the other hand, in-between sips from the glass of Coke, got busy capturing the mood of the party on the Mamiya.

After the sumptuous lunch and bit more lingering around it was time to say goodbye. DSR Sahni on behalf of all of us thanked the Chandigarh family members for the unique and unforgettable event that they had organised. As some of us had plans to leave the same evening and were in a hurry, it was also getting late, so the departure and exit from the forest was quick.

The Golfers among us stayed on for the next day Golf. I, a non-golfer, left for Delhi / Noida early next morning.

As I drove out of Chandigarh, having spent the last two days with fellow course-mates, was profoundly moved and felt honored and privileged to have been part of the Jun '55 pass-out's family.
Posted by BLS at 6:56 AM
Labels: Army, Indian Military Academy Jun 1955 pass-outs

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At March 19, 2010 at 10:47 AM , Blogger L. Singh said...

Top Spice mall next to where I live.
Below a view of Chandigarh

At March 21, 2010 at 1:19 AM , Anonymous Kal said...

Looks like you had a lot of fun.


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