Where Jurassic Park comes to life
When not admiring the dinosaurs, have some street food, go to a war memorial, and, er, fill up your car's tank
The first thing I would recommend to everyone is to get a feel of the city. Drive around. The roads are wide and the traffic is mostly not crazy. It gives me a sense of being at home again. You can rent anything: a bicycle, a scooter, a motorcycle or a car. Some people diss Chandigarh and say it's not your typical "Indian" city, that it's too orderly, planned and geometric. They're just sticking to stereotypes they may have seen in movies and are missing the city's real life. I love Chandigarh's open spaces. They reflect its relaxed, fun-loving people. Drive around, it will make you feel like a local.
On your drive, you should stop off at the Sector 26 market, which should be easy to find. It used to be one of my favourite haunts because it serves up India's best golgappas (fried, hollow cupcakes filled with potato and tamarind water) - a snack that has to be eaten to be believed. In Mumbai, it's called paani puri in Kolkata puchka but its best version is to be found in Chandigarh. It's delicious, cheap and always surprising. After that you can then head off for some tandoori chicken, perhaps.
Take in Tank
One of the places I always went to as a teenager while playing for Punjab is what people in Chandigarh call Tank, a war memorial which has a Pakistani tank won during the 1971 war. I used to hang around the memorial a lot with my friends after cricket practice, talking about the philosophical things that teenagers do - life and left elbows mostly, or in my case, right elbows. That area is called Leisure Valley and it has a lot of things around it. It's almost 8km long, and there are tennis courts and a large museum complex near the tank. There's an art and sculpture museum and a city museum, but the one we remember most from our school days is the Natural History Museum and the dinosaur exhibits. To us that was Jurassic Park come to life.
Visit the Rock Garden
They say if you throw a rock in Chandigarh it will land in a garden. I am not sure exactly how many gardens there are, but us Chandigarh folk seem to love gardening - there are gardens full of roses, hibiscus, and one that has only scented flowers. But the most famous one is the Rock Garden. It began as the work of one man, Nek Chand, who was a road inspector when Chandigarh was being set up. He wanted to make a small garden for himself. But this is like no other garden you will find in the world. He used all kinds of waste material - broken tiles, stones, bottles, old taps, bangles, cycle tyres - to come up with a garden of sculptures, figures of people and animals, which he set up in an area that got bigger and bigger.
Get away to the hills
Chandigarh is an hour and a bit from the Shivalik range, the foothills of the great Himalayas. They are full of beautiful towns and one of my favourites is Kasauli, which has a lot of the British Raj left over in it, just an hour away from Chandigarh. There's a resort there I love, called Timber Trails, which is accessible by cable car and is a lovely place for a break. The route to this place is well marked and the roads are good. But some advice before you head off there: go to the Sector 17 market, do a bit of shopping, and fill your car's tank. The best place to get gas? Just opposite the Sector 17 market, behind Neelam Cinema, is the most trustworthy and efficient petrol station in all of Punjab - the National Service Station. It just happens to belong to me, but I'm not biased. After I've shown you around, it's only fair you go there, isn't it? And one more thing, don't break any traffic rules. Traffic cops in Chandigarh are very, very tough.
As told to Sharda Ugra
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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More in Chandigarh
Ghazal (Tel 91-172-2704448), in the shopping and entertainment hub of Sector 17, is a long-standing favourite for its dal makhni.
Visiting a gurudwara
If you visit gurudwaras, places of worship for the Sikh community, make sure you cover your head: non-Sikh men usually tie a handkerchief over their heads, while women cover their heads with a dupatta or a cloth.
Tips for Travellers
Langar is the food served in a gurudwara. It is free of cost and very tasty. You must try it, and maybe even offer to serve food to others, as many people from the Sikh community do.