Chandigarh, Feb 26: Gazing around with amazement at the picturesque ambience of vividly coloured balloons in the air, enchanting folk dance performances with the resonance of beating drums, Elizabeth Callaway-Bond, a Scottish tourist at the rose festival, looked mesmerised. “I had come to Chandigarh to attend a friend’s wedding”, she gleefully flaunts her ‘ Mehandi’ covered hands, “my friend, who lives in the city brought me here, promising that it would be a memorable experience.” She nods with a smile on her face and says, “I concur. The most impressive thing is that the festival is free and open for all. According to me this is one thing which makes this Rose festival better than similar events in the U.K.” She further adds with a blush on her face, “next year I will bring my ‘Pati’ along.”
The garden, always a sight of delight at this time of the year, was covered with blooming roses, planted in skilfully carved out lawns and flower beds. The flowers seemed to have painted the place in dazzling hues of red, orange, pink and yellow. The decorations with marigolds and carnations added to the beauty of the festival.
A sunny day, with a mild breeze made the weather perfect for a leisurely stroll and hence lured in thousands of people to witness the extravagance on the first day. The number increased two-folds, even in an overcast sky on the second day, as it was a Saturday. A place with such an overwhelming foot fall might not seem like the generic setting for young couples in love, but one was forced to think otherwise by looking at the crowd. The place was filled with couples walking hand in hand down the winding pathways. Just around the corner was a young couple form DAV, Sector 10. The boy had a limp in his walk and a walking stick in his hand. His lady love was quietly looking at the flower arrangements. She took a panoramic look across the place and said, “I love flowers. I come here every year and each time I feel a sense of peace.” The couple chuckles after disclosing that they had bunked their college to come to the festival.
“Khoob ladi mardani, woh to jhanshi waali raani thi”, was screaming a little girl, dressed as the lady warrior, brandishing her sword and armour. Many little princesses, baby Krishnas and baby grooms were running around the place. These kids, participating in the Rose Festival Prince and Princes Competition, were the charm of the second day of the festival. Capturing these little show stoppers in his camera was V. Mahindra, a retired government official. He is 71 and claims to have regularly visited the festival since the time of its inception. “Although the setup is almost similar every year, but still each time I find something novel and interesting to photograph. This is a paradise for amateur and professional shutterbugs.”
A group of 25 Afghanistani students, who had come to the city in an exchange programme, sponsored by the US Embassy and implemented by Asia Foundation, were keenly observing the Kite Flying Competition. The entire group, dressed in white, was hard to miss in the heterogeneous crowd. “We never have such large scale events in Afganisthan. This is all new to us. We are overwhelmed by the hospitality of the Chandigarh Administration,” said Abdul Hadi, a student from the group. They were all surprised to see the liberal atmosphere where there was no discrimination against women.
Keeping in mind the interests of the visitors, the administration had also made arrangements of food stalls, serving an array of Indian and continental cuisines, a make-shift amusement park and stalls for exhibitors.