Hundreds of people made their way to Rock Garden on Friday as the news of the demise of its creator, Nek Chand Saini, spread. For the first time in the park’s history, entry was free as a mark of respect for its creator.
Nek Chand had not visited his small office at the Garden, where he used to spend many hours till recently, for the past two weeks.
Ansul Kumar, a junior engineer posted at the garden, said the office would be opened on Saturday after they get its keys from Nek Chand’s residence. But for those waiting to see him, the friendly man who used to spend hours inside that office till recently, won’t be there.
Gurjinder Singh, a photographer at the rock garden who worked closely with Nek Chand for nearly 15 years, said, “The air is different today. It’s sad. There is no enthusiasm among the visitors and it does not feel right. Rock garden is not the same today.”
A guard, Kulwant Jagga, said, “I have been here for the past one-and-a-half years. I have seen Nek Chand taking a walk in the park every other day. He used to come in an Ambassador car, which the administration had given him. He was strict with us. He would ask us to be alert and do our job properly. Even at 90, he was more active than any one of us are.”
Visitors from outside the city were also drawn into the sadness of the day.
“What he has built is magnificent. A guard at the ticket counter told us that Nek Chand died. It is a big loss. I wanted to meet him,” said Dimple, a resident of Delhi.
A P Jain, a resident of Madhya Pradesh, stopped at the entry point as he heard the guard talking to someone about Nek Chand’s death. “It so sad, we chose a bad day to visit.”
As soon as one of the caretakers opened a small room near the entrance displaying materials from the old store with which he had built the Rock Garden. Visitors flocked in to see what was inside. There were old sitars and hangers stuffed with bangles, old foot mats, wooden clogs, shells and broken pieces, all as good as gold for Nek Chand, the lifeblood of his creations.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines