POEM: Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh

Assembly Building, Chandigarh; Source: Duncid (via Wikipedia)

 

The best “futuristic” can aspire to is to become retro-chic —
like the ship sets from the 60’s Star Trek.

Yet, we can’t help but try to capture tomorrow, today —
only to create today’s vision of tomorrow’s dystopia.

If Asimov wrote about a man who finished his work at a typewriter
only to catch a trans-galactic shuttle —
what hope could Le Corbusier have of finding the future?

Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh features elegant, broad boulevards —
running straight, intersected only by other broad boulevards.

Perhaps, the future has arrived:
Where else in urban India can one drive a mile
without rounding a corner to stop for livestock, playing children, or a parked truck.
One can cross Chandigarh in twelve minutes flat.
Crossing Bengaluru requires four hours,
non-inclusive of stops for gas and a hardy biryani.

But that massive tic-tac-toe grid is built
of neighborhoods constrained inside block walls.
As one speeds through town, with nary a car in sight, one wonders
where is the life?
is this still India?
have I slipped through a trans-galactic teleportation portal?

Perhaps, the future has arrived:
Where else in urban India can one see:
battleship gray unadorned by marigolds or ochre
and wonder where the windows of the future went
and whether people of the future
ever idly peer off out toward the horizon?

DAILY PHOTO: Nek Chand Mosaic Amphitheater

Taken on June 26 in Chandigarh

Taken on June 26 in Chandigarh

All made from porcelain from broken dishes, toilet bowls, wall tiles, etc. This is the Phase III open space. (Most of Nek Chand is labyrinthine.

DAILY PHOTO: A Horde in Short Shorts

Taken on June 26, 2015 at Nek Chand Rock Garden in Chandigarh

Taken on June 26, 2015 at Nek Chand Rock Garden in Chandigarh

What’s interesting about this batch of statues at Nek Chand is that nobody wears shorts in India (let alone short shorts.) If you see someone in shorts, you can be certain they’re either a tourist or part of a very specific demographic (i.e. 20 to 25 year olds of middle / upper-middle class backgrounds whose all-time favorite television show is either “Big Bang Theory” or “How I Met Your Mother.”)

Incidentally, the Nek Chand Rock Garden is the highlight of a trip to Chandigarh, and shouldn’t be missed. It’s a labyrinthine park made out of recycled materials. A lot of these materials–particularly for the early phases of the project–came from the villages that had been torn down to make room for the new city. On the order of fifty villages were razed so that India’s premier planned city could come to fruition.