Most of my contemporaries have grown up humming 'Hamara Bajaj', the famous jingle from the brand's popular ad. I had my own version of it, 'Hamara Chandigarh', that too long before the city was glorified in Punjabi songs. While in school, my every reference to the city used to begin with the prefix 'Hamara'. I am no legal heir to Le Corbusier, rather a self-proclaimed proprietor of the title.
It was not love at first sight. I was simply in awe of the splendid city, its astute architecture, picture-perfect landscape with a silhouette of Shivaliks in the backdrop, regal pathways adorned by majestic gulmohar, everything right out of a fairy tale. The obsession with Chandigarh began when my family moved to Ludhiana. The relocation made me gravely miss the clean and green environs of City Beautiful.
The transition was disconcerting for me. The sight of industries billowing smoke from tall chimneys, haphazard construction, potholed roads, congested marketplace, chaotic traffic and a sea of people everywhere made me homesick for Chandigarh. I started comparing the two cities at every instance possible. Before I realised, the vanity of my fascination had made me a laughing stock among my peers. I was at the receiving end of satires beginning with 'Tumhare Chandigarh main'. Nevertheless, I stuck to my leitmotif for long.
Now two decades later, I have willingly relinquished my proprietorship over Chandigarh, though I still love the city. With the passage of time, Ludhiana not only accepted me unconditionally but also bestowed beautiful memories on me. I realised that drawing parallels between the two cities is uncalled for. Chandigarh is a young damsel, meticulously conceived post-Independence, while Ludhiana is the veteran successor to the historical legacy of the Lodhi dynasty. Since its inception, the city has bravely withstood numerous invasions but still made a niche for itself as the Manchester of India.
Today, Ludhiana is a major industrial hub of the north, be it bicycles, tractor parts, auto parts, sewing machines, hand tools, industrial equipment, woollen apparels or agricultural implements. It provides fair employment opportunities to one and all.
Having counted the merits, I am not turning a blind eye to the demerits. But then, a city is not all about its topography only but also about its dwellers. Our actions determine its fortune. A little effort on our part can gradually transform its bane into boon. Ludhiana has not been prejudiced towards me, now it's my turn to prove worthy of its affection. Only then I can proudly reclaim the prefix 'Hamara Ludhiana'.