Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Girl Who Owns A City

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”
When I moved to Chandigarh, I had no illusions about the city. Having spent my life wandering across the length and breadth of the country, Chandigarh was just a go-between on my way to Simla. It was good for the occasional stop-over but lacked both the vibrancy of Delhi and the serenity of Simla. You could come here and go shopping, catch a bite to eat or find the conveniences of a metropolis within a small space. But not much more.

Today, after having stayed here for a few years, I still feel the same-a rank outsider. It’s almost as if the city and I just could not adopt each other. Even my favourite haunts seem like they belong someplace else. It feels almost surreal, like viewing everything from a distance, detached and aloof.

So when I stand here on the cusp of my imminent and permanent departure, I should be able to say my farewell without any qualms. After all, I will not miss the lake, the tree-lined boulevards, the planned symmetry of the city. I might remember it once in a while, but not with any special longing.

But there is a void somewhere. For I am also leaving behind a lot of people. People I worked with, people I dined with, those that I fought with and those that I laughed with. Be it the paan shop which always had an interesting anecdote to offer or the old man who always overcharged for his wares. In their own special way, each of them wove threads into the fabric which makes up life. I got to enter their homes and feel the warmth of a homestead, make unreasonable demands and claim a right on them, deflate their tyres and experience the antagonism that unites dear friends. All in all, a remarkable montage of life, compressed into the span of a few months.

One of the peculiarities of life is that it is with the most arcane of things that we develop a very strong sense of connection. It could be the smell of meethe-chawal that brings back memories of childhood. It could be a song that takes you back to the carefree vagrancy of college. It could even be a cologne that you put on after a long time which brings with it the fragrance of a special someone. Regardless of the trigger, each thing is associated with just one particularly memorable event or person. Despite having stayed in over a dozen cities across India, I still connect each of them with just one thing- Assam is all about cricket just as Bengal was all about reading, Jammu is the land of my grandmother, Delhi is the place I found myself and Simla is the perennial sanctuary.

And as I leave Chandigarh, there is, above all else, just one thing I will remember it as-the city of a girl. A girl I met in my first few months here and who was always with me in all our sojourns around town. The girl with a lilt to her walk and a spring in her step. A smile to light up the room and a frown to humble the darkest cloud. With a million questions and a billion answers. Funny, intelligent, vivacious. And much more.

The girl who, to me, will always own the city of Chandigarh.

"I went my unremembering way,

I went and took with me

The pang of all the partings gone,

And partings yet to be"


  1. Though a lot of things have been said, I would like to highlight one point- "It could even be a cologne that you put on after a long time which brings with it the fragrance of a special someone." Well, what to say!!

    n lemme guess, is this Chandigarh girl names Jasmine? :)

  2. nice nostalgic post u dished out.. liked it a lot.. All the best in ur future endeavours..:)

  3. Elated to read your blog sir. It was from the very first workshop when I became sure that someone with ideas and clarity of thought like you must write. Though everything that I had attended face to face was pretty serious in flavour: Economy, terrorism etc. but I had always waited to read something from you as well. However in this article, under the people you would miss, I think you forgot to mention your students who became really fond of you and have been trying their best to follow your guidelines. There must be a few, if not all! For me, you became the face of insight and motivation. As I head towards reading the other articles in this blog I would like to wish you all the best for a life in a new place.