GODDESS SARASWATI seems to be looking Ludhiana’s way this year with the prestigious Saraswati Samman (awarded annually for outstanding Indian works of prose or poetry) going to a poet of that city, Surjit Patar.
The fact is that there is much more to Ludhiana than the butter chicken that Pankaj Mishra, of Butter Chicken in Ludhiana fame, immortalised. Punjab’s Manchester is known for its hosiery industry, its cycle factories, its business money, the agricultural university, migrant labourers who come by the thousands on trains nicknamed Bhaiyya Express, the filthy sewer that runs through the old town, and rampant pollution. Yet this familiar picture of Ludhiana misses one important aspect—the city has been home to a large number of poets in modern times, with Sahir Ludhianvi, famed Hindi film lyricist who bore the city’s name, topping the list.
MOST OF MY TRIPS to Ludhiana have been related to poetry in one way or the other, except perhaps the first one. But no, I am wrong. The first was possibly the most poetic. Instead of going into the details, I will just quote a few lines from a poem I wrote a decade and a half after visiting the city for the first time: