Mistress of mine

If Delhi gets too mercurial for you to handle, time you took a break and got yourself a mistress

Delhi is my temperamental wife. With old, serene neighbourhood lanes creasing her face, she hoodwinks me into believing that she is an aging, sober companion happy with her traditional chores. Turn your back and she adorns herself with an ever-growing string of retail chains and malls and off she goes honking all the way to have a wild time.

The Sukhna Lake

Of course, I love my wife. But there is only so much a man can take. So once in a while I visit my mistress. Five hours drive away, Chandigarh is the paramour who helps me keep my sanity. With Lahore falling into Pakistan's lap, post Partition Punjab was left in need of a Capital. As a government official over aloo paranthas and dollops of ghee once quoted (Biblical lines adopted in the city's official documents perhaps), 'something good cometh out of evil,' referring to the city born out of Partition. Today, this union territory is known as 'city beautiful'.

The lobby at Marriott

And attractive indeed she is in many ways. She is the faultless weekend escape for those who are bored to death by the Delhi-Jaipur-Agra routine.  Chandigarh is not a city buried under a million footsteps, it is spacious and of course the country's first planned city so you can soak in its flavour without getting distracted by the teeming human populace. Last time, when I was there it was for JW Marriott's launch. I was bemused by the makeover the city is going through.

Nek Chand made his humble start here. Pics/Ajay Dewan

A few years ago, the only luxurious hotel was the CITCO run Mountview, outside which you could spot teary-eyed cricket fans waiting eagerly to get a glimpse of their stars whenever a match in Mohali was on. Blame it on the city's growing role in playing host to business executives and travellers, the Marriotts and the Tajs seem to be changing the city's skyline.

I remember sneaking out from Marriott after attending their launch party. Chandigarh is about an evening by the Sukhna Lake, watching love birds from Ambala getting cozy on a swan-shaped paddle boat. It is about Nek Chand's bangles and ceramic waste giving life to human forms in the Rock Garden. And it is about driving into a muddy village called Kaimwala on a modified Willys jeep and get drunk as your friend croons a Amar Singh Chamkila song.

If you are a first timer, get lost on your way to Chandi mandir and befriend a local who sells succulent bhuttas.
Visit the University and dip your feet into the waterpool by the Pierre Jeanneret's Gandhi Bhawan until the security guards chase you out. Challenge the burly students in the university ground for a game of basketball.

If Delhi is a city which keeps nagging you to be on time, leave the watch with her once in a while and visit a mistress. Be footloose in a new city and do something 'sinful'. Once in a while you need to demand your chance to wear the pants in the house.

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