The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, October 12, 2003
Lead Article

City Beautiful: 2053
Rangeen darian & haseen savariyan

Chetna Keer Banerjee takes a futuristic, tongue-in-cheek peek into what Chandigarh may look like, say, 50 years from now...

Illustration: Gaurav SoodCIRCA 2053. The hundredth dawn of City Beautiful breaks over the still waters of the Sukhna Lake. A lissome twentysomething grinds to a halt in her jogging attire. Zoom. Click. She freezes the memorable moment on the nail-size screen of her digicam-equipped thumb-size handset. Then, this director of the Advanced Art of Living Club zooms forward, her limbs swinging in rhythm to the shlokas being relayed on her multi-task mobile. She has a tough time threading her way through the teeming hordes of migratory ‘birds’ that line the edges of this water body. The ‘birds’ are of the human kind, of course. There’s Mr Hu’s Hu from Japan, a heavyweight (literally and figuratively) of the city’s IT Park, who drives up for his walk in a Merc. Then there’s Mr Kyun Kya Kyi from Thailand who’s currying favour with bureaucrat Mr Khao Piyo for a license to open a Thai restaurant. The morning walkers native to the city stand relegated to the fringes—of the social circuit as well as the lake front. They confer in a corner to plan a sequel to the Return of the Native. The overcrowded lake has become a no-happiness (Sukh-Na) land for the serious walkers. It is the new Melting Plot of Multi-cultural Nature-loving Corporates (MNCs).


Move to the Leisure Valley. The traditional meeting ground for the retired brigade, with ample time for rest and leisure. It’s also the Joggers Park to those married in haste and repenting at leisure. The scene here no longer fits in with the traditional image of a city abounding in harian jharian and chittian darian. The landscape has a new trim. And the human beard a new tinge. Multi-hued hybrid foliage and imported shrubs hem in rows of exotic orchids and irises with in-built micro-chips to regulate their body temperatures to suit the climate.

Hair hangs another tale. That of the white beards and balding crowns of the retired gentry. Gone are the days of silvery strands. Golden browns, deep plums and deeper auburns are the shades to dye for. They’ve made this into a city of rangeen darian. Hair loss in ageing residents doing the valley’s rounds is now a case of hair apparent. Recycling of falling hair and genetic follicle implants have redefined the look of the city’s Bald and Beautiful.

The visual feast offered by the Leisure Valley is, however, offset by an eyesore of the City Centre. Diminutive beggars stand as an ugly footnote in the new skyline dominated by maha-multiplexes, mega malls and PVRs. The members of the Begging Bowl Inc have polished up their act though. One urchin grins from behind half a pair of Ray Bans. Half because it’s second-hand. But it suits beautifully his act of a half-blind person. Another one spouts Queen’s English into his mobile phone as he taps a car window for a tip. His bhasha, however, has nothing to do with the British monarch’s language. This ‘queen’ is the Godmother of the local beggar mafia. Her Satta spreads far and wide. And it’s her instructions they receive on the cellphones, telling them to move to sectors where there’s higher Paisa Vasool.

Talking of higher things, the flyover over the Aroma crossing provides the ultimate high of life in the fast lane. It’s choc-a-bloc with mega cars, racy sports models and houses-on- wheels that zip by at supersonic speeds. Phew! Their owners whiz into the future to the wacky beats of remakes of remixes. Chatty hosts of Radio Busy Buzz and Radio Chandigarh Chilli make those behind the wheel feel as if Koi Mil Gaya.

This flyover is the gateway to the happening hub of the town. Where there were once rows of eateries in Sector 35, there now sprawls a single-roof, multi-cuisine food court. Here, speciality cuisines call the shots in a day and night gastronomic match or, rather, mix’n’match. Indigenous dishes like Assamese or Bhutanese try to outmatch the Lebanese, Japanese and other firang exotica. In this lavish spread of menu and venue, it’s the foodies who have a field day. Fusion of tempting Aroma’s with sound Kwality of service has the gourmands raving "Wah! Chandy." Pizza Mansions, Slippery Ice pubs and Caf`E9 Night joints make the south of the city the Shangri La of the yuppie crowd and the Khyber pass to the Zone of Promise. Here’s where the action is, whether you Chop Sticks or chew Mr Burger.

With the southern sectors becoming a pulsating carnival of night life, the sleepy North gapes wide-eyed at the yawning North-South divide. North Bloc thinks up ways to snatch the limelight from South Bloc. Since ‘hot spots’ are the password to South Bloc’s power, North Bloc touts ‘open spaces’ as its USP. Sector Wars spark off a cultural explosion and fusion confusion. Though old remains gold, the new beckons the bold. The city wears a new face. A cosmopolitan veneer over the old-world complexion. Welcome to the city of rangeen darian (dyed beards) and haseen savariyan (alluring joy rides) !