Chandigarh, Le Corbusier, and bureaucracy

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The night before, I had arrived safely in Chandigarh and checked into the Kwality Regency, an OK hotel.

Chandigarh is the capital of the Punjab region, and a city wholly designed by Le Corbusier, the famous Bauhaus architect. So I thought I'd take a look at some of the buildings to appreciate their architecture. For this, you just have to be wandering around town, as in the old parts most of them were designed by Le Corbusier himself. This includes the bus station, the shopping district, and basic housing.

Assorted buildings in Chandigarh

Some of the architecturally more interesting buildings can be found in Sector 1, the administration sector. Here, you can visit the High Court. You can also visit the Secretariat, at least in theory. My attempt to do so became an exercise in humorous frustration and a glimpse at Indian bureaucracy.

First, I had to get a letter of support from the Chandigarh Tourist office. With that letter in hand, I approached the entrance to the Secretariat building. After passing several military guards, I handed over the letter at a visitor reception booth, to receive a permission request. With that permission request, I proceeded to the actual entrance of the building, not without being checked by every guard along the way.

At the entrance, a guard picked me up and led me to another administrative office, where they reviewed my papers once more, issued another paper, and gave me a guard as a tour guide to the building. The guard led me straight to room 22 on floor 6, where I was made to wait for some other official, who took all the papers off my hands and issued another permission, this time to continue from room 22 on floor 6 to the roof.

By then, I had not seen anything noteworthy (except for the malfunctioning elevator). On the roof, the guard asked me repeatedly whether I didn't want to have lunch; at least that's what I think he said. He was quite annoyed that I declined. Anyway, I walked around the roof a little, without seeing much of this building's architecture. Frustratedly, I decided to leave, and the guard lead me down to the admin office on the ground floor of the building, where they ran another check on my paperwork. Finally, I was free to leave, and was carefully guarded on my way out.

Along the way, at every station, they needed to see my passport, issued a new piece of paper, and made photocopies of previous papers. What had been intended to be a quick and simple visit created a whole paper trail of useless waste. Worse, I didn't get to see much of the building. Cheers to two wasted hours except for the impressive demonstration of Indian bureaucracy!

After this, I continued for the whimsical if not humorous Nek Chand Rock Garden, which I enjoyed in a relaxed way, much like the locals did.

Assorted pictures from the Nek Chand Rock Garden in Chandigarh

Not much later I decided to return to my hotel, pick up my stuff, and make it to the train station. On my way, two policemen stopped my auto-rickshaw and took a free ride with us for a while. I arrived safely at the train station and caught my train, the Kalka Shatabdi express to New Delhi.

The ride to New Delhi would have been rather uneventful if it had not been for my seat neighbor, who was dressed in the most unusual colors, used his cell phone to continuously make photos of himself, and who was quietly singing songs to himself. Once in a while he retreated to the restroom, but fortunately I don't know what he brought him there so frequently. (Nor do I want to.) I doubt he was suffering from diarrhea though.

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