Nek Chand & Chandigargh: Vital but Uneasy Coexistence
There has often been an uneasy coexistence between the intuitive humble genius and the powerful forces of authority in Chandigarh. When Nek Chand’s magic kingdom was first discovered it should, by rights, have been destroyed. It was built illegally on government owned land, in violation of strict planning laws that protected Le Corbusier’s ‘City Beautiful’, where everything had to be a part of the great master plan. Many politicians demanded the Rock Garden’s destruction as an illegal development. Others, following public opinion and their own tolerant enlightenment, ensured that the Rock Garden became a well funded public park. Nek Chand was relieved of his duties as a government roads inspector and given a salary to continue with the expansion of the Rock Garden with the title ‘Creator-Director’. In addition the City authorities funded a force of fifty labourers to help install all his sculptures in the mosaic courtyards of the Second Phase.
Holding Hands Against Destruction
However, over the years the support from the City gradually ebbed away. Certain officials resented Nek Chand’s international fame. After all, he was a humble man from a lowly background. How could he be as important as they were? From 1988 onwards funds dried up, with even the admission money being withheld. In 1990, a road for the exclusive use of VIPs was to be built right through the middle of the Garden. Trees were cleared ready for construction and bulldozers arrived at the very walls of the Rock Garden, only to find their way barred by hundreds of children and demonstrators. A lengthy court battle ensued, eventually resulting in victory for a by now exhausted Nek Chand and giving him the security his Rock Garden needed but with little or no funding.
In 1996 Nek Chand made a tour of the USA, taking part in presentations and exhibitions on the Rock Garden theme. His one-month journey took him to Wisconsin, Chicago, Washington and Baltimore and across the nation to Los Angeles and San Francisco. On his return to Chandigarh he discovered to his horror that widespread vandalism had taken place at the Rock Garden in his absence. Furthermore, the destruction appeared to have been organised and deliberate. He found that all the staff working and caring for the Rock Garden had been removed by the Chandigarh authorities shortly after his departure, thus leaving everything completely unguarded and vulnerable to anyone who wished to cause damage.