We took a quick trip to Chandigarh to visit a friend. Chandigarh is on the plains of Punjab, and was planned by French town planners. It has a completely different feel from a regular Indian city.
The streets are wide, many of them divided avenues with leafy central islands. The houses are European-style, and set on large blocks. There may have been more crowded, slummy areas in Chandigarh, but we didn’t see them.
Our trip to Chandigarh began with an auto-rickshaw (tuk tuk) ride from Rishikesh to the railway station at Haridwar. Haridwar was surrounded by tents, as people had started to gather for the kumbh mela, a huge gathering of sadhus held somewhere on the Ganges every 12 years.
The train we planned to get to Chandigarh was delayed by more than four hours, so we went to wait for the next train. It never arrived, so in the end we had to catch our late train, arriving at Chandigarh close to midnight.
The long-suffering Dan was there to meet us.
Dan divides his time between Sydney and India. His family has a home in Chandigarh, and farms in the surrounding area. Staying with Dan in Chandigarh was an amazing experience!
The house is large, and there are several staff – a cook, a butler, and two gardeners.
The garden is all organic, and grows a wide range of edibles, as well as English cottage garden flowers. We were there in early spring, so only a few of the flowers were starting to bloom.
It was still pretty cold by our standards, but there was warmth in the sun by about 10 am. It was beautiful to sit on the porch as the tiles started to warm, drinking chai, and admiring the garden.
You can see in this picture that it has just become warm enough for Ravi to unwrap the cashmere shawl from around his legs!
Our first day in Chandigarh was a recovery day – we had eaten a meal after arriving at midnight, and talked for quite some time.
So we slept in, had chai on the porch, enjoyed a late breakfast, and went for a gentle stroll in the nearby Rose Garden park. It is quite famous.
The park is large, well-designed, and heavily staffed with gardeners. Roses are fairly labour-intensive, but in India, labour is readily available at reasonable prices.
Some of the roses were already in bloom, and they smelled wonderful. Two weeks later, they would all be in bloom, but our window of opportunity was what it was.
They even had a black rose!
The park was laid out in European style, but the park visitors made use of the space in typically Indian ways.
Socialising between unmarried men and women is heavily restricted and monitored in most of India, One of the few opportunities young couples have for some slight privacy is to go out to a park.
Ravi helpfully assisted this young couple to get a nice photo of themselves together.
There were stripy squirrels everywhere, buzzing with the joy of Spring.
After another huge meal, and another long and fascinating conversation, we turned in a bit later than we should have, given that we had an early start the next day to go to the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
After a glorious day in Amritsar, we sadly had to say goodbye to Dan, and head back to Rishikesh. We were held up in traffic getting to the station, and had to race away without having time for a long and sad farewell,
Then, when we got to the platform, it turned out the train was running two hours late anyway. India … sigh.
We made some friends while waiting for the train – medical students heading back to Rishikesh after a family visit. We were the only foreigners on the platform, which may have been why we drew such a large crowd of onlookers.
Eventually, the train pulled in, and we were on our way back to Rishikesh, where Mooji would soon arrive.