Chandigarh

You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.
सिर्फ खड़े होकर पानी देखने से आप नदी नहीं पार कर सकते.

ChandigarhI actually grew up in a place called Abbotsford, referred to as ‘the city in the country.’  When I was going through school there I, like most of the other students, could not wait to leave.  I don’t know where that comes from, maybe it’s just a young person’s desire for adventure that they can’t wait to leave home.  Either way, I now look back and am proud to say I’m from Abbotsford.  It’s a community that taught me so much and supported me beyond.  To this day my greatest friends and mentors are still there.Picture 030 So you can imagine how excited I was to visit Chandigarh!  It (along with Fukagawa Japan) is one of Abbotsford’s sister cities.  They both have a strong agricultural economy.  Given that Abbotsford has a population of approximately 20% of South Asian decent (mostly direct from Punjab), being in Chandigarh was the closest I’ve felt to being at home since I arrived in India!  Chandigarh is one of the most clean and well thought out cities I’ve seen – it is India’s only ‘planned city’ created post-independence, and it is the capital of both Punjab and Harayana.  People are extremely polite, and many of Punjab’s senior government buildings are based there. While lunching at the Taj Hotel, I started chatting away with one of the gentleman at the table.   It turned out that he had lived in Surrey for 20 years and we knew many of the same people, and had both worked with the same conservation society in British Columbia.  He knew many of the people that I had been encouraged to meet in Punjab.  The connections were amazing!Picture 040 Everyone I spoke with had heard of Abbotsford or Surrey and seemed to hold  this fondness for Canada that was quite touching.  It was as if there were no cultural boundaries at all – only friendship.  Walking along the seafront almost feels like being back in Vancouver walking around the edge of Stanley Park.  The weather in Chandigarh was much milder than Delhi and I was so sad to leave!  While sitting in the car I couldn’t help but think of all the potential that exists between India and Canada, especially British Columbia and Punjab.  Today we seem so focused on trade with China that too little attention is being placed on developing meaningful and lasting trade relationships with India.  We are culturally compatible and have so many opportunities to work together on everything from agriculture to renewable energy to education.Picture 028 Many people from India are effectively grasping the opportunities in Canada – it’s our turn to look this way and see the opportunities here.  While we should be doing everything we can to promote Canada-India businesses, we must also support educational exchange.  Universities should be forging partnerships with Indian institutions and students should be able to study in both countries to get a better grasp on the global economy and on different cultures and ways of life.Picture 034 What has begun between Abbotsford and Chandigarh: sister cities, and the placement of a University of the Fraser Valley campus in Chandigarh is an excellent step in the right direction.  I can’t wait to come back to Punjab soon!Picture 046

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