The Volunteer Program at Chandigarh has been suspended indefinitely. Please see HERE for more information.
What to wear
Basically you need two sets of clothes: one for work and one for events, ceremonies and evenings out. For work, old clothes, e.g. old jeans or sportswear, old shirt, sweatshirt or cardigan, hat to protect against heat and dust, rubber gloves, old sports shoes or boots. Comfortable shoes are a must because the Rock Garden is rocky and you will be doing some clambering over walls. It is cool in the morning and evening and can be hot at midday.
For a slightly more formal set of clothes for visits and events: trousers or, for women something like Punjabi dress – a kind of long shirt/skirt worn with light trousers, and a shirt, a sweater and a jacket. A scarf is useful for keeping warm or avoiding dust.
Pyjamas are useful.
It is generally not accepted for adults to wear short trousers [except professional sports players], or short skirts or reveal much skin. Doing so will bring unwanted attention.
Do not bring luxury items, clothes that need dry cleaning, or items you would be upset to see damaged.
Nearest shops and restaurants are Sector 9 Old Market, 20 minutes walk from the Rock Garden or 10 minutes by auto rickshaw, including post office, groceries, fruit and veg., phone shops, tailors, barbers, bakery, ironmongers and chemists. Eat local food – dhal, chapatti, samosa – for around Rs.80. Eat a luxury club sandwich for Rs.400.
Banks and ATMs and travel agents at Sector 9 New Market, 5 minutes from
Main shopping area in Chandigarh at Sector 17 including book stores, brand goods, traditional clothing, cameras, souvenirs, tourist info, cinema. 20 minutes by auto rickshaw or by bus from Rock Garden.
Sector 17 also has these well known eating places:
Sindhi’s – sweets and snacks downstairs, upstairs snacks and meals including local specialities. Popular and very good.
Indian Coffee House – large snacks, reasonable prices.
Sagar Ratna – mainly South Indian meals and snacks of high quality.
There are also western restaurants. Check this website:
Other areas of Chandigarh have shops and restaurants, for example, a large, cheap, market in Sector 19, and various restaurants in Sector 26, including Bikanervala, SCO-60, Sector 26 for beautiful traditional sweets.
Phones, Internet, Electric Goods
Sim cards or cheap second hand phones and buy pre-paid phone cards can be bought. These need applications with photos and copies of passport pages including Indian visa and contact address on last page. International calls can also be made from phone shops or booths in Sector 9 and the bus station in Sector 17 and elsewhere.
There is an internet café near the Indian Coffee House in Sector 17, and on the Panjab University campus, Sector 14/25.
The voltage is 220; Indian plugs are two pin and round. Adapters can be bought in Chandigarh.
Food and Drink
Food in Chandigarh is spicy and delicious. Basic items are dhal (spicy stewed lentils) and chapatti (thin, flat, round bread). Sabji is vegetable, usually cooked as a dry curry. Dahi (yogurt or curd) is essential to protect your stomach against hot spices. Plain rice is pawal. Chai is ubiquitous and made of five things: pani (water), dood (milk, usually powdered), chai (tea leaves), pani (water), and adrak (ginger, crushed). Black tea can be made without sugar, though this is like asking a British person for a sandwich except without the bread or any butter. These items make the basic volunteer diet at the Rock Garden. Meat is not served. Alcohol is not served. Alcoholic drinks are widely disapproved in India though Chandigarh has many shops, restaurants and hotels that serve alcohol.
Traditional local breakfast is parantha, a flat, round bread, filled with potato (aloo) or cheese (paneer) or vegetables.
Volunteers may want to buy bread to make toast, and eggs to fry or boil for breakfast, or coffee powder – all available locally. Local honey, marmalade and jams are excellent – look for the brand made by happy mountain women. Widely available fruits include bananas, kinu – a type of orange, grapes, apples, and, for something more exotic, physalis.
Local cuisine includes dishes made with chick peas and tomatoes. Grilled meat, especially chicken, is common. Various fresh chutneys made with tomatoes, chillies, coriander, onions and other items are popular.
Books and Raw Vision issues about the Rock Garden and Nek Chand are mentioned on the About Nek Chand section of this website.
Chetan Bhagat is probably India’s most popular contemporary writer and his novel Two States is about the romance and marriage of a man with a Punjab family background (strongly linked to Chandigarh) and a woman from the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Fun, and easy to read, it gives many insights into Punjab weddings, families, food and culture. Bhagat has written several other successful novels, including One Night @ the Call Centre, which gives a hilarious account of young Indians on the receiving end of help lines for Western consumers. Both have been made into movies.
Rudyard Kipling’s Kim is a colourful adventure set at the end of the 19th Century in the broad area northwest India and Pakistan by a writer who loved the place and its people. Mention is made of many local areas.
Bollywood movie music can be heard everywhere in the Chandigarh. A hit movie of 2012 was Rock Star with songs such as Tum Ho and Sheher Mein. Check this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcIsOnNOlEQ
At weddings and similar functions you may hear traditional music but there will also be Punjabi dance music. A popular young Punjabi singer is Mika. To become everybody’s friend at wedding parties, practice waving your arms in the air while listening to Mika’s Pure Punjabi:
Things to Bring
Small torch for moving around the Rock Garden in the evening – there are few lights. Small bag to carry camera, water, etc. while working. Plastic carrier bags are useful for many things. Camping knife may be useful. A flask or reusable bottle for drinks. Mosaic or tile cutters, if appropriate. Small trowel for weeding or sculpting. Protective gloves. Graffiti removing liquid, perhaps. Soap for washing clothes.
Also, copies of important documents including passport: (1) main ID page, (2) Indian visa, (3) address/contact page. Small passport photos. Name cards are widely used in India.
Any favourite snacks or food items.
ATMs can be used in Chandigarh to get Indian rupees. Travelers Checks are a safe back up and can be exchanged at banks with passport, as can UK £ and US $.
You need to be relatively fit and healthy. Please consult your own doctor. Wash and dry your hands before eating anything. Carry your own small soap and small towel, as many Indian people do. Bring supplies of any medicine you usually take. Also useful: aspirin/paracetamol, anti diarrhoea tablets, upset stomach tablets, band aids and antiseptic cream, sun cream. Water purifying tablets are useful for a month’s stay but should not be used long-term. Illness may come from drinking unpurified or unfiltered water, but the far more likely route is through bacteria or virus passed hand to mouth.
Costs and Contact --- >