Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Fazilka Visit by Mr. Benjamin Leclair-Paquet, an Urban Planner from University of Montreal, CANADA

Dear Fazilites,

In the month of June-07, Urban Planner Mr Benjamin Laclair Paquet, from University of Montreal, Montreal Canada visited Fazilka. He is a friend of mine. On special request, i took him to see our city and invited his suggestion to improve present urban infrastructure for future generations. He liked our "City of Hospitality" very much. He developed some beautiful conceptual plan to for Badha Lake and given his suggestion to improve present urban infrastructure of the city, like waste management, good parking policy etc..

later, he sent me a beautiful writeup about our city Fazilka and he claimed his weekend in Fazilka will be among the most important memories that I take back to Canada .Here, i am sharing the same writeup and 3-D model pictures of badha lake improvement by him.

Navdeep Asija

"Fazilka Creative" by Benjamin Leclair-Paquet

THE DAY was still young when we reached the house for refreshments. For a Canadian, the heat was almost unbearable and it was nice to step inside for some time. I am told that the monsoons don’t fall too often on Fazilka, but they came down on that day. Even if the rain mellowed the heat by a few degrees, the water lemonade that Navdeep’s Janma prepared for us was certainly appreciated. Lying in the bedroom, the only area where an air conditioner made the heat bearable, we slowly drank from our glasses while looking over the pictures we had taken over the day. Frames of the local tailor with his sewing machine, the shoemaker surrounded by leather soles, the sweets vendors tempting our palettes, the city’s barber and the junior school classroom reminded me of the few hours that had just passed. I regretted that I was too shy to ask the local architect and the Fazilka Newspaper editors to also snap their pictures. . I obviously still remembered our day clearly, but I was scared that the memories would fade away and that no print would be there to remind me of this Saturday in a town of rural Punjab called Fazilka.

An hour had passed when The Doctor arrived at Navdeep’s house. ‘’Pani?, Chai? We all hurried in the living room and drank the dude wali chai still boiling in our glasses. Six o’clock was close so we quickly gulped down the hot drinks and climbed in The Doctor’s car. A few minutes later, we had reached the first barrier of the Indo-Pakistani boarder. Cars were not allowed in the last 500 meters so we walked from there. I had read about the ceremony between the two armies in my travel books, but I never imagined that I would get to experience it first hand. The music was blasting from the Pakistan side where solders dressed in a grey kurta pajamas were mimicking the ones standing few meters before my eyes. “Attention!” shouted the sergeant – and the soldiers snaped into formation. Standing 100 meters from one another, both armies were synchronized as though they had practiced this ritual for days and nights. They went on to demonstrate their skills as if it was a battle between the two clans. Before it ended, one soldier from each country allowed his country’s flag to slither down the post. A music that could have been composed for an army film’s credit title started and outlined the importance of this last portion of the event. Once down, both soldiers rushed to fold their flag to present them before their counterpart could. Raising their knees as high as they could, the two men marched away in a theatrical stride. The other soldiers followed.

The sun had almost set when we left the border zone. As we drove away, making our way through rice paddies where the sky’s reflection danced on the excess water, I saw villagers resting on tractors. The scenes of a busy day winding down made me smile. But the few bunkers hidden in this scene told a story of their own. We stopped at the War Memorial that was down the road. I went inside to sign the visitor’s book, but it was not there. On the walls stood pictures of some of the soldiers lost during the Indian-Pakistani War.
for a while, absorbing the weight of the lost lives. With a heavy heart, we climbed back in the car.

Our next stop was in front of a farm. A man wearing a lovely pressed shirt was waiting. Navdeep hopped out of the car and touched the man’s shoes. They chatted for a minute before the older man invited me to visit the land that was behind him. I think he was pleased to show a foreign visitor his vast farm, but it was I who felt lucky to have an opportunity to be shown his land. The golden pen sticking out of his pocket was a clue that he was the owner of the farm, but it was the pride with which he showed me around that gave it away. He explained me the origin of the kinnu fruits and walked me through the farm. The rains had made the farm muddy, and the man required new shoes, as the fine brown leather ones that he was wearing were not suitable to walk around.

The installations were very impressive - by any standards. Four solar panels powered the drip-by-drip irrigation system installed for the papaya trees. A large basin assured that no water was to be wasted or used at the wrong time on the farm. After some walking through the boggy paths, we headed back to
the car and reached the center of Fazilka. We stopped to grab refreshments and snacks before we headed back to the farm to use the small pool that had caught the corner of our eyes as we visited the man’s orchard. The night had fallen over the northern sky and the sun had taken most of the heat to bed, only bright stars lit our swim. Seeing so many stars in one single night made me realise me how far we were from Delhi – even if only 350 kilometers were standing between the two cities.

It was 10 o’clock when we realized how fast the time had flown by. We hurried to get going and reach a dinner some kilometers down the main road. The place was really more of a truck stop. But my hosts assured me that it was one of their favorites. The sugar cane field near by was releasing a strong smell but we were so hungry, we quickly came to put it past us. My friends were right, the restaurant’s fare was delicious, the best vegetarian mean I had eaten so far! After we finished our last drop of lassi we headed out. The Doctor dropped us home but we did not stay there for long. Instead, we walked to the end of the lane to join the wedding to which Navdeep’s family had been invited. I had only seen Indian weddings in Bollywood movies, and I was very excited to be invited to one.
As we got closer to the sound of the music we could see the lights sticking out from the sleeping city. The wedding was exactly how I expected it, just like in the movies! Over five hundred people were gathered around a vast garden decorated with round tables dressed in white and yellow clothes. As a belly dancer was moving to some remix of traditional Indian music on one stage, the bridegroom stood on a dais just next to it. Dressed in fine golden and burgundy fabrics, he was still waiting for the bride to fill the seat just next to him. As soon as the beautiful bride came into view, the crowd was silenced. She looked very elegant, almost like royalty, as she took her seat beside the groom.

My weekend in Fazilka will be among the most important memories that I take back to Canada. Thanks to the hospitality of my friend Navdeep, I was able to see a part of India few visitors can see. Thank you to everyone who showed me a special and enjoyable time in this wonderful town so rarely mentioned in travel books
Benjamin Leclair-Paquet

1 comment:

Aparna Bhatnagar said...

hi... i'm aparna bhatnagar from gujarat.
I would like to contact the authors of this blog.