To any random bystander, the site of me and my friends trampling through the green lawn and to the west wall under the moonlight would have seemed like a bunch of college students out to cause some trouble. I wish I could deny that and say that it was something else. Except that was exactly what it was. Trouble. Albeit not the usual sort but still big troublesome trouble. The next morning if a random stranger would have seen the west wall , they would have realized that the students were indeed successful for the wall was no longer plain but covered in a mosaic of colors and shapes. The wall was covered in a breathtaking piece of art. The type of art which has forever been associated with renegades. The type of art which shakes things up and causes change. Graffiti.
Our inspiration behind this was the creator of the famous Chandigarh Rock Garden – Nek Chand. Chandigarh Rock Garden was started secretly by this awesome man in his spare time. He collected the raw materials from the demolition sites around the city to build his divine kingdom of Sukhrani. The land was a forest buffer that nothing could be built on. His work was ethereal but still illegal and Nek was able to hide it for 18 years. Our story was somewhat similar but we could not hide our piece of art from the authorities for even 18 hours.
Sukhrani, now the Chandigarh Rock garden was discovered by the authorities in 1975. The Great Wall which was our creation, at 7:30 in the morning. Nek’s work was in the danger of getting demolished but the beauty of the work forced the authorities to make it a public area. Nek was given a salary and 50 workers to concentrate full time to complete his somewhat obtuse but still stunning masterpiece. This is how the Chandigarh Rock Garden was born. In our case we were given a nasty round of scolding from the authorities and secret smug grins from the students.
The layout of the Chandigarh Rock Garden is based on the fantasy of a lost kingdom. One has to pass through several doorways, streets, vestibules, lanes, each opening into a new array of courtyards and chambers. The fourteen chambers, durbar or the main court, swimming pool for the queen, water falls, open air theatre, a village, mountains, over bridges, pavilions are the major highlights of the garden. It all sings of an era which never existed but is still gone by. Something which never was but today still echoes of something forgotten. Something real but at the same time otherworldly. Something surreal.
Edward James was another inspiration behind our act.. He created Las Pozas in Mexico which has a perfect setting of surreal sculptures. He wanted a Garden of Eden set up for his garden and saw Mexico as a very romantic location , thus fit for his creation.The peculiar thing about this Garden is that it is filled with quirky sculptures that look almost unfinished. The gardens are buried deep in the jungle with sculptures emerging from the undergrowth along a network of different pathways. The spiral staircases lead to nowhere and the concrete structures look like ruins of a kingdom ravaged by the tides of time. James spent 20 years of his life building this garden but it was only half built by the time he died. The jungles in the hills of Sierre Madre have enveloped many structures of the garden in its green bosom which just increases the haunted echoes of a city lost in time. There was a time when James asked the cook to make a banquet for the exotic animals. Walking through this labyrinth of trees , inhaling the sillage one can almost hear a whimsical, wild song in the air whispering a tristful tracenda just like eden is supposed to do. It is like Milton’s lost paradise all over again.
“They, looking back, all the eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,
Waved over by that flaming brand, the gate
With dreadful faces thronged and fiery arms:
Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon;
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide;
They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.”
― John Milton, Lost Paradise
All the above parks tell the tales of lands so mysterious that one is inclined to assume that they are galaxies away or simply reside in the dreams of a clod-walker. But they do exist. Our graffiti may not have the same beauty of the Chandigarh rock garden or the haunted timelessness of the garden of eden but it sure does speak. It speaks of students trampling across green grass under moonlight. It speaks of us.