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Chandigarh - City Beautiful
Chandigarh, the City Beautiful, the first planned city of modern India, the pride of the nation, and it has been called a lot more. Well it has survived today in an avatar that is beautiful enough for the current residents to continue to call it the green city. It was my first station after marriage and a lot of memories are attached to the place.
Today it is developing a new name as a center for Information Technology with the Rajiv Gandhi IT Park coming up. It has also resulted in the land prices in and around the area to sky rocket. Mohali and Panchkula are the satellite towns experiencing a property boom these days. There is no more place left in the main city and these suburbs are growing fast.
It is the capital of the Union Territory of Chandigarh, but also houses the houses of assembly of the states of Punjab and of Haryana. Basically all the states in the region wanted a piece of this prime property. As a result VIP traffic is a regular and painful feature in the single digit sectors.
The Tourist Beat
The Sukhna Lake is an artificial one created in Sector 1. It serves as a major tourist destination, but you will also find a lot of locals hanging out there in the evenings. They are usually patronizing the jogging track which runs along the lake in a semi circle. You can hire a paddle boat and head for the small island in the lake, but you can’t land on it.
The Rock Garden created by Nek Chand out of junk has been discussed ad nauseum and so I won’t bore you with more details. Suffice to say that you must visit it. Nek Chand had been bestowed a phone connection by the UT Government, only for the BSNL to cut the connection for non payment of bill, one of the classic examples of the inefficiency of Indian Bureaucracy.
Rose Garden in Sector 10 is worth a visit when it is in flowering season as is the Garden in Sector 33 dedicated to Chrysanthemums. Each sector has some kind of park or garden area clearly demarcated. The city is quite crazy about their garden competitions and all the kothis maintain a garden. The residents duly submit their flowers in pots for the prize ribbons. The formal competitions are well organized and worth visiting if you have a thing for flora.
Pinjore Gardens are an excursion en route to Simla. They are typical mughal gardens and quite popular with people stopping over at Panckula at night to head into the hills next morning. Of course Timber trail and Kasauli are also close enough to count as uphill expeditions from Chandigarh.
Shopping in Chandigarh
As such there is nothing typical that is said to be of Chandigarh. There is all the phoolkari of Punjab to be had as there is the traditional haryanavi ghagrah, and the traditional nine stone earrings can be found at most city jewelers.
Regular souvenirs are available at all the tourist spots. The t-shirts at the Sukhna Lake are quite popular. The pashmina and semi pashmina shawls make an appearance each winter. These are just a few things that are typically for tourists but there is excellent shopping to be had in the city.
The Sector 17 area is the town’s economic center and you will find shops of all the multinational brands that you could want. It is also more expensive than the Sector 22 market area which is the conventional shopping area for the locals. They go to 17 to check out the latest trends and head for 22 to pick up the exact same thing at half the cost.