That larger story smacks of cultural decay to the Ludhianvi who remembers a different city. Jagdev Singh Jassowal, cultural activist and a former politician, who settled in Ludhiana in 1968 says, “The Ludhianvi has lost his identity. He is now known by his house number. The Punjabi knows how to create history but not preserve it. They don’t care about their legacy. Only money has become the measure of a man.”
Says Gurbhajan Singh Gill, a writer, “There are many Ludhianas. There is the Singapore- travelling, Audi-driving Ludhianvi, but there is also the migrant Ludhianvi from Bihar who lives daily in the tyranny of small petty jobs, cobbling enough to stay alive. And then there is also the Bombay-like Ludhiana of organised crime.”
The city was also once Punjab’s educational hub, one of the first to set up colleges. But a single-minded focus on the bottom-line has insidiously eroded any meaningful education that empowers. SN Sewak, former Head of the English Department at Punjab Agricultural University, says that things are not very pleasant for the young Ludhianvi. “A management graduate now can’t find a job that pays Rs 5,000! There is now no connection between educational expansion and economic prosperity.” The young as a result want to flee the city. “Australia and New Zealand have become the promised lands,” he says. Unlike the flight of capital that Ludhiana once experienced, there has been a recent influx of new money. Developers flocked to Ludhiana to build malls and condominiums after Noida and Gurgaon were saturated. Thus began Ludhiana’s dalliance with glitzy retail outlets. A dalliance mirrored in some Ludhianvis’ enthusiasm for their changing city.
Amit Kothari, a 31-yearold industrialist says, “Kids in Ludhiana now have so many options. There are multiplexes and malls with gaming zones. When I attend my daughter’s annual day function, I am amazed to see the exposure my kids are getting. I didn’t have that.” Amit’s sixyear- old daughter attends the Satpal Mittal School, one of a handful of expensive Ludhiana schools. Abhishek Singhi, a 22-year-old MBA student talks of another trend in education, “Among the business class, increasingly, kids study in Ludhiana only till Class 7. Then they are off to boarding schools like Mayo and Sanawar.”
‘Geri maroing’ is Ludhiana’s own courtship ritual. Boys in cars, windows rolled down, music blaring, circling markets
SINGHI USEFULLY describes Ludhiana’s urban courtship ritual — geri maroing — boys in cars, windows rolled down and music blaring, circle the markets for hours. There are Facebook groups for geri maroing, with even suggested routes. For Sewak, the new money has aggravated a latent Punjabi quality to ‘show off’. He says, “The upper-middle classes have become total consumerists and the middle classes are trying to imitate their buying craze.” Singhi also tries to explain the big fat Ludhianvi weddings, “No one sees your investments. They are invisible, but a wedding the world sees.”
Even Kothari, self-confessed fan of his mutating hometown, admits, “It’s become a tera baap kaun city.” About Sahir Ludhianvi, the city’s famous poet, he says, “I grew up here and I don’t know anything about him. Trust me, no one here knows anything about that stuff.”