OUTSIDE THE entrance to Pawan Kumar Bansal’s home in Sector 28, two Nek Chand sculptures greet visitors. Aficionados recognise them immediately as his work. The sculptures are made cement and broken tiles in various colours. Inside, there are two more Nek Chand sculptures. Bansal also has another memento — a red rock of an unusual form — gifted by Nek Chand which is showcased in a special corner of his garden. “I am fortunate to own works created by the genius, each piece bearing his signature stamp and style and these remind us of him every day,” reflects Bansal, former Chandigarh MP and ex-minister of railways.
Bansal’s association with Nek Chand goes back to the early 1970s when the latter had just started work at the Rock Garden. At that time, Bansal was practising in the High Court and, in the afternoon, he and some colleagues carried their tiffins to the still-in-the-making garden to have lunch. “It was his workplace back then. It hadn’t been sanctioned or opened. We only knew that somebody, who was in the government, was working on something and met him once or twice. That was the time I initially began to know him and we had no idea that this would become such a masterpiece,” recalls Bansal.
Shortly after, Bansal learnt that the administration was considering demolishing the entire work as it was not regarded as a legitimate piece of construction. So, a group of people, citizens of Chandigarh decided to support Nek Chand and his work, planning and initiating action against the authorities, putting forth the point that the work was not a construction, but a landscaping effort. “I was a part of that group or committee and it was then that I began to know him on a personal level. Eventually, our efforts paid off and there was no demolition drive and the space was declared a tourist spot,” adds Bansal.
Once he joined active politics, whenever a VIP visited Chandigarh from other places, Bansal took the dignitary for a complete tour of the Rock Garden, where they would meet Nek Chand, who would personally show them the entire space, talking about its various elements, materials, history.
After Bansal was elected MP from Chandigarh in 1991, he continued to interact with Nek Chand as a participant in the development of the Rock Garden and its various phases. Nek Chand gifted some of his creations to Bansal in the early 2000s. The gifts were not meant for anyone special, said Bansal, and given by their creator impulsively. “He loved to share his art with his loved ones. Nek Chand will continue to live forever through his art as he single-handedly, with his sheer ingenuity and hard work, created the Rock Garden, which is unique in the entire world. It is a work that shows us how one small idea can be turned into something so majestic and is an inspiration for all,” adds Bansal.