THE BRIGHT winter sun fills up the lovely garden of Brigadier Sahib Singh Virdi and his wife Raminder Virdi in Sector 10, Chandigarh. Among the colourful blooms and rows of green plants, four works of Nek Chand stand out in the garden. Two ducks sit pretty near the swing and two sculptures, holding flower pots, by the creator of the Rock Garden, find a place of prominence here.
One of the earliest settlers of the sector, Brig Virdi recalls the special moments of the inception of the city, how not many believed that Chandigarh could ever be a developed city with inhabitants, the people who made this Chandigarh possible, gave it its identity and worked towards its development and progress.
One person Brig Virdi talks about with both respect and fondness is Nek Chand. “These works are absolutely original, created by Nek Chand in the nascent stages of the making of the Rock Garden and were gifted to us by Dr SS Bhatti. You can clearly see the beauty of these, made with just waste materials, which has been used so artistically. I had a chance to meet Nek Chand many times and also saw him at work, with the essence of his creativity being using discarded materials that he found and collected from the river, tailors, etc. The result – works which are timeless in beauty and detail,” says Brig Virdi.
Bangles, pieces of cloth, concrete, tiles, the works, adds Brig Virdi, have a soul, with each element in the sculptures carefully thought of, including the expressions and structure.
“In the Rock Garden and the works of Nek Chand, we can see the history of Punjab, as in the villages, we grew up with clay toys, which were made by us using material that was available there. Clay would be transformed into terracotta and we would have toys which were works of art. Nek Chand grew up in this environment and carried the experiences of his childhood with him, bit by bit recreating the past in the form of art that we see and appreciate today,” adds Brig Virdi.
The simplicity, use of basic materials, an honest, tireless and committed approach to work and single-minded devotion to fulfil a dream are the qualities Brig Virdi admires in Nek Chand. “A lot has been lost and the need is to preserve and protect our legacy and also respect it.”