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Himalaya

Day 32: Chandigarh to Shimla

Michael Palin - HimalayaChandigarh seems to consist entirely of roundabouts. Beautiful, well-kept, florally abundant roundabouts, sending the traffic spinning from one to another like some endless Scottish reel.

Verdant avenues of peepul, ashoka and mango trees connect this gently swirling system, leading, presumably, to a city of some substance, for Chandigarh is the capital of two states, Punjab and Haryana. I say presumably, because in our short stay here it is difficult to see much beyond the roundabouts and dead-straight, repetitive avenues.

What I do see reminds me of Islamabad. Both are post-Independence cities, built in a self-consciously modern style to replace the architecture of the Raj with something new and fresh, and more in keeping with what Nehru called 'the nation's faith in the future'. Both are discreet, tidy and a little cheerless.

At least Chandigarh secured the services of the top man. Swiss architect Le Corbusier designed the grid-plan layout and the boxy, modular buildings in concrete and red brick that can be glimpsed every now and then between the trees.

When I enquire what sort of person lives in this mecca of modernism I'm told that it's mostly wealthy Punjabi farmers approaching retirement.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 32: Chandigarh to Shimla
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Chandigarh
  • Book page no: 70

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