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Long route home Our trip all the way home, trying to catch no planes and stay on the ground like civilised people. It's taking us via India all the way to Europe from Japan, the furthest of the Far East...

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INDIA | Friday, 1 October 2010 | Views [592]

Good evening citizen.  The Computer welcomes you to sector 22-B of Chandigarh.  Report immediately to your hotel and present your papers.  If they are not in order you must report for termination...

Chandigarh feels rather like a sci-fi vision of Paranoia, with its sectors and so forth.  Designed by Le Courbousier in 1952, it's a model city, designed as a living being, with head, lungs, heart and arteries.  It's comprised of sectors 1200x800m large on a grid system with wide sweeping boulevards.  People live in the middle while shops etc are on the outside of each sector.  The head is ironically the government buildings which rule not just Chandigarh but both the states it borders, Sikh Punjab and Hindu Haryana.  The heart is sector 17, a shopping and entertainment district, fully pedestrianised and used for getherings and events.  A river running the length of the city surrounded by parkland provides the lungs and the road/path network - originally graded for 7 different modes of transport - functions as the lifeblood of the city.  The layout is unusual - the city is rectangular and very long, so many people now in the extensions are far away from the heart of the city.  It is sometimes criticised for being unIndian but it works.  Well, it worked, anyway.  Now it's stuttering, still far from life support but not firing on all cylinders either.  The arteries are creaking due to a total lack of segregation leading to chaos instead of order.  Our papers, funnily enough, were not in order when we arrived and we had to trek around to find a hotel that would accept our (legal) photocopies of our passports.  It was particularly annoying as the bus from Punjab had had to stop at the city borders on account of heightened security surrounding the Ayodhya verdict (see previous entry).  Once we'd finally checked in there proceeded a following day of high farce as we tried to get to watch the opening day of the first test match against Oz.

We got up early so we could head to the Mohali stadium - at the other end of town, technically in Punjab - and collect our tickets from the ticket desk, having booked them online the week before.  The policemen there gave us short shrift and sent us to the place to buy tickets, which turned out to be a bank, which was closed.  We didn't hang around and instead headed back towards the head of the city to check out of our hotel and move to one across the road in a bus station (don't ask).  From there we headed to the head of the city to see the acclaimed rock garden of Nek Chand, an eccentric bus worker who had a dream to build a giant park/garden out of concrete and junk.  This is exactly what he did,at first in secret and then eventually under stipend from the goverment.  It's hard exactly to describe, at times narrow and limited, at others dramatic and grand.  Take a look at the pics. 

From there we tuk-tukked all the way back to the stadium (another 45 minute journey, giving us more opportunity to marvel at the free flowing roads and be grateful this treasure hunt was taking place in the only well designed city in the country), only to receive a call telling us to turn all the way around and come back to sector 17-C.  From there we were to look behind the cinema for the service centre.  As there was naught behind the cinema, only a road, we wandered for a while, meeting a friendly old sikh who wanted to be photographed helping us as that was his self appointed job in life, (yes, he spends his time rescuing tourists from 'mischievous elements and bad types'), then finally getting hold of the guy with our tickets who turned out to indeed be in the service centre - the mechanic's service centre in the petrol station cross the road.  Slightly surprised, we enquired further and learnt that the security was too high for the tickets to be left at the stadium today.  A few more long minutes later we were discovering this first hand as we slowly trudged through endless rings of cops and soldiers before being given the run of the place once we were inside - that's Indian 'security' for you.  Hurray, 3pm and here we were in the stadium! We'd spent about 3hrs being taken for rides both literally and metophorically by tuk tuk drivers who have an advanced nose for desperate tourists, and finally we'd arrived just in time for tea.  A few samosas later we were happily chatting away with Aussies high in the North stand while Shane Watson eked out a very slow century in the final session.  Turned out a bunch of the lads there were from the Rickshaw Run we'd seen pulling in to Jaisalmer a week or so ago, which was interesting.  It was a good atmosphere - mixed seating and enthusiastic but good-natured support all round.  The stands below were rather sparsely populated with Indians - another Ayodhya hangover - in good spirits who yelled and waved whenever they caught sight of us.  Of course we supported India who went on eventually to win the see-saw series.  Jai Hind indeed!

Tags: chandigarh, cricket, india, roads, tickets


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