I realized today that I only have 3 days left in Chandigarh, and there are several gardens that I had yet to visit. Originally I had intended to go to the museums of local art and history, but saw that they were not open on Monday. Plan B: The Fragrance and Hibiscus Gardens, which are conveniently located side by side in Sector 36. I hopped on my bike and headed towards the main road, which was unfortunately extremely busy; I had to navigate 3 huge roundabouts at rush hour and people were honking at me left, right and centre. There is no way I would even consider riding with my Ipod here, or having a couple of early evening mojitos then riding; you have to be completely on your game. I finally made it to the Fragrance Gardens and tried to sniff the air; not very much going on was my first impression. I parked and locked my bike and then walked inside the gates. As usual, every brown head turned in the place and all eyes were upon me as I walked towards the dalia garden. I thought, that’s strange, dalias don’t really have a scent. Regardless, their colour (albeit a bit wilted in stature) beckoned, and it was the least busy part of the park. I continued to saunter around taking pictures of the beautiful violet blossoming trees and searching for aromatic flowers. There was one small section of roses, so I approached and put my shnoze into the petals……nothing.
I then noticed a man in red, in his late 30s, waving at me from the distance. I had my glasses on so pretended not to notice and kept walking. As I circumnavigated the park, I noticed that he was always in my vicinity so I decided to switch directions. On my way back to my bike I followed a couple who were skirting the (dried up) river banks back to the entrance. Lo and behold there was Big Red (not so big as it turns out) whipping his schlong out and standing about 10 feet away. Repulsed, I picked up my pace and started heading to the entrance/exit quickly; the couple ahead of me didn’t really seem to make any sort of response to this odd scenario, which I found even more strange. They simply continued to walk hand in hand as if nothing had happened. Before reaching the gate, I turned around and saw that again he was stalking me. I shooed him off as you would a fly in the air with the back of my hand and scowled. I knew that I needed to brush up on my Punjabi/Hindi and learn some swear words. I hopped on my bike and rode across the street to the Hibiscus Gardens thinking that I could lose him there as he was on foot. He must have run because 10 minutes later there he was again, hot on my trail. I decided to call it a day and headed back towards my house on the bike; enough was enough. I was so irritated and angry, and had flashbacks to a flasher my sister and I had seen on the TTC several years ago. What we learned: never trust Ponch (as in from Chips) mirrored glasses and Adidas short nylon running shorts on a subway…..very dodgy. Back to Big Red: I fled on my bike and got back on the main road and noticed another garden, the Shanti Kurj, on my left, which was another garden I had wanted to see It looked pretty peaceful with few people there so I decided to head in for a quick stroll as my previous stroll had been abrubtly halted and I still had time to walk before class. I parked my bike and headed towards the roses which were now in full bloom, hoping that these roses smelled after the dissapointment at the so-called “Fragrance Garden”. The only aromas I got was of garbage and feces when I fled the park and had to bush wack back to the main road to avoid Big Red. Vile aromatherapy.
Again, I was stopped by a hipster who was about 20 talking on his cell phone; again mirrored glasses…..dodgy. He stopped in his tracks and said he’d like to get a photo with me. I responded with, “No English” and kept walking. Crossing a sweet little bridge I came across two men about the same age as the hipster and they started just taking my picture, without even asking. I was starting to lose my patience. I remembered what Yogiji had said about being graceful in the most ungraceful moments and tried to keep my blood temperture down. My book and my bed were sounding better by the moment and so I turned back and headed towards my bike. En route I was stopped by yet another 20 something ish guy who said, “Excuse me, can I talk to you?” My new line is: “ No English. French,” knowing that not many people from around here knows what “bonjour” means so I think I’m safe.
I was now miserable and irritaeted at the same time, and in a true moment of onomatopoeia, it started downpouring: the first real rain that I had seen since I had been here, and here I was on my bike with 15 minutes to go. I decided then and there, that I actually love the rain, particularly when it is hot and sultry out so I hummed the whole way home, soaking wet, having to wipe the raindrops from my eyes, and passing all the folk who had parked themselves under trees to avoid the rain. The only incident I had was that a guy in a car pulled over, rolled down his window and leered, “You looking nice.” I responded with, “You looking fat and you should be on the bike” and left him there running the red light. Not so graceful, but hey....I'm only human.