Those who love Chandigarh are well aware of its quality and its ‘modern heritage’, and are proud of it. Even though a city just decades old, it has carved out a niche for itself with its reputation for standards of living that are not easily replicable in our country.
On a flight from the West coast to the East, during a visit to the United States, several years ago, I found myself seated next to a portly Professor who asked me where I was from.
“Chandigarh, India”, I said.
He nodded and dozed off after a while, so I thought that was the end of our conversation. But he came to, by and by, and repeated the question.
“Chandigarh!” I said once more, a little loudly this time, certain that he would not have heard of it, and all set to offer a long description of where it is, what it is like, and various other things. To my sheer surprise though, he became rather animated at this point and gazed at me intently.
“My, my! I’ve wasted an hour, sir! I was so sleepy when you mentioned it for the first time that your words did not register. I just love the city of Chandigarh! I am a Professor of Architecture at an American University. I know all there is to know about Chandigarh’s origins and Le Corbusier even though I have never been there. I am so glad to meet you! Tell me more about life in Chandigarh…”
Denizens of the city beautiful would easily relate to the fact that his words sounded truly musical to me, especially since my primary job those days was to promote the city! We went on chatting for the next three hours chiefly about Chandigarh and its metamorphosis that was (and is) still in the making.
Indeed, there is much to be proud about Chandigarh: the greens, the layout, the infrastructure, the services available and above all its people. There are many ‘Chandigarhians’ who have shone in their chosen fields of endeavour and have made the city proud. Residents here are largely positive, progressive and proactive human beings.
But is Chandigarh a great city yet? Perhaps not, if we compare it to great cities of the world like London, New York, Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata, Paris or Berlin. Perhaps not even if we make a comparison with other cities in India like Jaipur, Lucknow and Hyderabad. The greatness of these cities, apart from other factors, lies in their history and the legacy that they carry with them even today.
Professor H.V. Savitch, of the University of Louisville, lays down the following criteria in an article: “When we speak of greatness, we mean that a city holds a certain majesty and prominence. Achieving that status means that a city is extraordinary and distinguished in a number of very important ways.”
If we follow these terms, it is evident that Chandigarh’s greatness lies in its future. The city is still young and has the potential to be prominent in a number of ways. It is already majestic to the eye of the beholder, but it will become distinguished and extraordinary if and when its people prove to be outstanding. Whether in the field of academics or sports or industry or technology or the arts, the youth of today will discover greatness if Chandigarh provides them with the environs and the wherewithal to excel.
Smartness of various kinds or quality of governance are simply the basics that Chandigarh will need as the years roll by. Other cities too will possess these nuggets in their repertoire. What will distinguish our city from the rest will be the overall success of people young and old as they flourish in all walks of life propelled by conducive conditions that Chandigarh will doubtlessly provide to them.
The signs are already there. Whether in the corporate world, or in governance, or in sports or the arts, scintillating achievers from the city have dazzled the world with their brilliance over the years.
And as time ticks on, more and more Chandigarh-types will skyrocket to recognition and fame, thereby paving the way for their city to be classified as truly great.