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"Vaddi jhaadiyan te safed daadiyan" is how Chandigarh is described, rather rudely I thought, by some of the people who live there. This was also told to me by one of the people I contacted to help me with the project. This rather evocative Punjabi description means 'large trees and white beards' . . . that's what Chandigarh is full of according to the local residents. A well planned and impeccably maintained green city for bureaucrats and retirees.
Considering I was already unsure of how to approach my Photo Essay about Chandigarh, this introduction really sent me into a spin. Especially since of all the 10 cities being covered in the project 'India 9 to 5' this is the only one I have never stayed in. Or explored. Not even once. So my unfamiliarity with the place, coupled with the rather uninspiring description of Chandigarh as a town of under-populated, tree-lined boulevards and aged retirees forced me to reinterpret the Project brief given to us. Even before I had come here I had decided that i would present the city through a series of triptychs incorporating people's portraits and photographs of their personal environs as I find the clean, orderly and rather modernistic layout of this made-to-order city wonderful to live in but rather boring to photograph.
I also wanted to explore and possibly expand the definition of 'young urban professional living in metropolitan India' to include some people who may not be young in years but are definitely youthful and modern in their approach, to their work in particular and life in general. Whereas it is true that the youth is and will be the driving force of urban India it is also true that the urban environ has allowed 'young-thinking' people to change their lives and at times be agents of change themselves.
The best part of modernisation through the growth and development of urban centres, I feel, is the availability of choices to people and the opportunity to exercise them. This is not necessarily only reflected by the growth of shopping malls, gated colonies, brand stores and other means of consumption and display but by the explosion of talent, the desire to improve and the wish to make a difference which, for me, exemplifies urbanisation and a modern outlook to life in a far more progressive way. I think the people I have featured in this Photo essay - a mix of young and not so young, women and men, exemplify these traits. And they are extremely fortunate, at the same time, to live in India's best planned and maintained city.
Copyright: Dinesh Khanna