Land Of The Limo

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Why wait for the roads to be fixed? Ludhiana is in a hurry and only a Mercedes will do. What is going on in India’s hosiery hub, asks Samrat Chakrabarti

Home stretch Puna, son of a farmer, now part-owner of American Limo, a limo renting service
Home stretch Puna, son of a farmer, now part-owner of American Limo, a limo renting service
Photos: Shailendra Pandey

ON THE NIGHT of November 22 , some 5,000 people, among them the exquisitely dressed and elegantly propelled Ludhianvi elite, attended realtor king Gulshan Kumar’s son’s prewedding ceremony. Opulence was not restricted to the BMW-Mercedes-filled parking lot. It continued past the impressive Sphinx statue guarding the entrance, past actor Bipasha Basu welcoming the guests into a six acre plot converted by 60 artisans from around the country into a replica of the sets of the movie The Mummy. Blessing the Ludhianvi Tutankhamun’s wedding amidst roving laser light glory were 500 life-size statues of Cleopatra, Nefertiti and the Egyptian pantheon of gods, all made-to-order with Hollywood assistance. When asked how much he spent on the wedding Gulshan Kumar, said ‘peanuts’. Those ‘peanuts’ also brought the IT department knocking on his doors.

Welcome to Ludhiana – birthplace of the entrepreneurial energy that created an industrial hub fashioned out of cycles and auto parts, home to world-class hosiery and also Punjab Agricultural University, which pioneered Indian’s Green Revolution. Welcome to a city where the aspirations of the people include a limousine service to be had for Rs 20,000 a day for the baraat that wants to travel in style. How does one understand a tier-II city that is home to 600 mercedes cars, where the bride rides a limousine but gets stuck in narrow lanes leading to her in-laws? Does Ludhiana have the heart as capacious as the limousines it aspires to?

Father knows best Realtor king Gulshan Kumar with two of his seven-car fleet in front of a giant poster of his younger son
Father knows best Realtor king Gulshan Kumar with two of his seven-car fleet in front of a giant poster of his younger son

According to Manish Tiwari, the MP from Ludhiana, it’s a city of opposites, “While Ludhiana is flagged by the World Bank as the number one Indian city to start a business in, over 50 percent of its population does not have sewer systems. The story of Ludhiana goes beyond glitzy malls.”

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