Monthly Archives: December 2012

Kids and Couture

20121117_JSG_01_Fille Photo--Kids fashion Line by a Delhi-based brand

For her elder brother’s wedding, Sneha wore a lehenga in brocade and net, teamed with sparkling heels, and completed the look with a high hair bun studded with glitzy hair accessories. All of 12, Sneha was satisfied with her look but wished she had gone for a halter neck instead of the plain square one.

During the sale season in August, it wasn’t only her mother but also 11-year-old Pallavi making a run for the malls after school hours to buy the pastel denim and frilled skirt she had laid her eyes on for long.

Sneha and Pallavi, both in secondary school, speak of a growing tribe of kids who show a fashion consciousness much above their age and boast of an affluent closet as stocked with fashionable clothes and accessories that perhaps their mums do.

Mother-daughter duo at a fashion show in Ludhiana

Mother-daughter duo at a fashion show in Ludhiana

Kids fashion is growing in the city is a big way, and fashion houses are going all out to woo this clientele that is anything but small.

The trend is evident from the number of such stores opened in the city of late. While 612 Ivy League, a Chandigarh-based apparel brand for “tweens” (roughly between the age of 6 and 12) opened in Westend Mall early this year, another kids brand from Delhi Lil’ Diva opened shop in MBD Neopolis this week. Homegrown clothing brand Duke, though manufacturing kids apparel for four decades, is all set to open exclusive stores for children wear for the first time shortly. The brand also revamped its kids collection a few years ago and introduced a special ‘smart fit’ line for the pint-sized. “Gone are the days when kids wore ill-fitted or loose clothes for the concern that they would soon outgrow the size. Kids clothing has evolved into an independent market now,” says brand director Kuntal Jain, while observing a 25% annual growth in the market for kids wear over the last couple of years. “Our kids collections are now inspired by European cuts and styles, to suit the taste of the children here,” adds Jain.

Established brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, United Colours of Benetton and Levi’s too keep a considerable stock of kids wear and renew the collection each season. Niche brands such as Lilliput and Catmoss are already up and running in the city.

Wooing kids don’t just limit to stocking up on kids wear and offering them multiple options, but incorporates savvy marketing strategies adopted by fashion houses. International kids apparel brand Unikid (that has four stores in the city) for instance launched a glossy six-page newsletter last year to connect with its young clientele. Unikid Times as it was called contained rich readable content such as health tips for kids and mothers along with offering a catalogue splashed with attractive colourful photos. For a better brand connect, the newsletter also gave an insight and a feel of the brand, its journey and aspirations. The idea was a success and the brand plans to come out with such newsletters every six months now, says brand director Heena Nayar, noting that the kids market in India is huge and fast growing. “Since our launch in 2008, we have been witnessing a growth of 15-18% annually, and nationally have grown from six exclusive stores four years ago to 30 now,” she says.

20121117_JSG_03_Fille Photo--Kids fashion Line by a Delhi-based brand

The marketing strategies include luring kids with attractive add-on offers. How about dressing up the girl and her Barbie in the same clothes? Lil’ Diva gives that option. Dealing exclusively in girls wear, with the range beginning at Rs 2000 and going up to Rs 6000-Rs 7000 for the readymade clothes, the store also customizes clothes for kids. “Show us a magazine, a photograph or suggest a look and we can create it. We have the material and designers ready,” says brand director Gurbani Arora. Such customized clothes usually cost an upwards of Rs 15000, and the price may shoot up if a matching bag, pair of shoes and accessories are bought from the store. Further, the rich interiors at the store done in ivory, pink and gold, featuring flowers and crystals as well as a chic trial room, add to the appeal of the brand and lures in little customers.

For boys fashion too, fashion houses such as Vasari offer myriad options in fabrics, cuts and styles. A miniature sherwani, suit or kurta pajama, anything can be created for your little man, with the price matching that of an adult’s piece.

The local fashion designers note that the trend of similar dress sported by mother-daughter duo has caught up in a big way. “Around a decade ago, a frock for girls and a shirt and pant for boys was the final thing. Today neither the parents nor the kids would settle for this arrangement. Clothes for kids are now planned and designed well before the wedding or parties. And mother-daughter duo wanting similar lehenga, shararas, evening gowns, short suits, Anarkali suits or Achkans in similar cut and colours is a rage,” observes designer Sonu Gandhi, who, in her collection showcased at a local fashion show recently, walked mother-daughter duos on the ramp sporting similar wear. Sharing an interesting anecdote, Sonu says a harried client visited her recently, requesting a lavish piece for her daughter to be designed in two days. The reason? The barely 13-year-old apparently was upset with the lehenga bought for her.

20121117_JSG_02_Fille Photo--Kids and mother fashion show

Sonu also notes that the confidence and gleam in the eyes of little girls while giving measurements for the dress taken even her by surprise.

The trend may be debatable. While kids are becoming more assertive of their choices, parents are going out of their way to accommodate the dreams and desires of their young ones. Shipra Jain, a mother of two girls aged one and six, observes that while kids are demanding more given the increased exposure to fashion, the parents are more than happy to indulge them than ever before. “We have nuclear families and one or two kids, so the spending power on each becomes more,” she says. On the other hand, Dr Arun Sood, Senior Consultant with Department of Psychiatry at Christian Medical College and Hospital strongly disapproves of this increased indulgence. “Competition among parents has increased and unfortunately they are letting it take its toll on kids who have now become an accessory to flaunt. Indulging a child to this extent makes him or her vulnerable to societal pressures. Those who are running businesses will deploy strategies to sell their wares, but it is the duty of the parent to shield their kids from such influences,” she opines.

Beautician Indira Ahluwalia, who has been in the trade for nearly three decades, shares her discomfort with this young clientele. “Parents come to us and ask for a specific bun or plait to be sported by their 10 year olds. I agree the kids look cute but some of them end up looking ten years above their age. I would prefer if the young ones looked their age,” she says.

But fashion finds as well as creates its followers, for parents aren’t complaining. “My child becomes happy when she is wearing a nice cloth. It gives her confidence. She is happy, and so I am happy too,” says Sangita Marwaha, a mother of a nine-year-old.

Statistics

In a study published last year, Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry found that the kids apparel market in India is growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 20 and is likely to reach Rs. 80,000 crore by 2015 from the current level of about Rs 38,000 crore. Higher economic growth, higher disposable income for parents, rising media exposure and growing brand awareness have led to the rapid growth.

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City Takes to Streets for Delhi Gang-rape Victim

Candle March in City

Candle March in City

Even as the protests in New Delhi are spinning out of the police’s control while the health condition of the victim remains critical, angry voices in Ludhiana against the brutal gang rape in nation’s capital got even louder on Sunday. What brought the city again to the streets was also the anger against the physical assault by police on peaceful protestors in Delhi asking for a speedy justice to the rape victim.

“It’s a shame how public is maltreated by the administration while the culprits continue to live in safe havens,” said an alarmed Sangita Bhatia who took part in a candle march in city in evening.

Denizens spiritedly condemning the heinous act and demanding severe punishment for the culprits could be seen in action at various places in city. In the busy Sarabha nagar market, a number of members of a non-government organization expressed their solidarity with the victim through a signature campaign. Visitors to the market could be seen writing their messages to the victim and the government along with their signature. “We will send this to the government in Delhi to tell them what people want with those criminals!” said a representative of Helping Hands Club. “Hang them” and “Castrate the culprits” were some of the angry reactions.

Candle March

At around 5 pm, hundreds of students of PCTE College, Badhowal, gathered in the market and performed a skit inciting people to “wake up from sleep and act”.  “What happened to the poor Delhi girl could happen to any of us. It is time to break silence and take to streets in protest. We want our women to be safe,” said a student at the end of the short play. The skit was followed by a peaceful candle march in the market where visitors to the market too joined in, brandishing placards that said “we want justice” and “save us from rape.”

A group of students belonging to various schools and colleges took out a separate candle march near Durga Mata temple, Bharat Nagar Chowk. “The incident has shocked all of us. It is high time when safety to women becomes the administration’s priority,” said Veena Sidhu, a 12th class student who lives near Jalandhar Bypass.

In another protest, Civilian Society of Human Rights organized a candle march at 6 beginning from Kidwai Nagar to CMC Chowk in protest against the police’s lathi charge on protestors in Delhi.

Working Women in Shock

The shocking Delhi rape case has spread a wave of terror among the city girls who go out to work and travel late in the evening. Nisha, who works as a store attendant at a women’s accessories outlet in Westend Mall, said she has been in a state of panic ever since the news reached her through the television. “I leave around 9 15 pm and take an auto till Aarti Chowk from where my brother comes to pick me up. Even in summers it gets dark by this time so winters are definitely a concern. But I have no option but to adhere to my work hours and risk my safety daily,” she said. Nisha shared that she feels scared but is neither aware of any women helpline in city nor carries an emergency help such as a pepper spray along.

Working in the same mall, Hardeep Kaur (name changed), who attends customers at a garment store, said she would prefer if her work hours are reduced or adjusted in winters so she can leave early, say 6 pm. “I leave around 9 30 pm. I have experienced several incidents of eve teasing on my way home near Jalandhar Bypass. A few months ago, a drunken man who stepped into the auto tried to misbehave with me. I was glad the auto driver asked that man to get out of his vehicle,” she said, sharing that her home is a 10-minute walk from where the auto drops her. Amandeep said she would like to carry a small weapon in case of emergency such as a swiss knife but the mall authorities don’t allow it.

Commenting on the late working hours of women and little safety provided to them by the company, manager of a gift store on Ferozepur Road lamented that despite the best efforts of the team, the time of leaving the store crosses 6 30 pm daily. “We know the women aren’t safe when they go home. But perhaps every company follows the policy of expecting its employees to take care of their own selves or leave the job,” he said, without wanting to be named.

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Dil Kabaddi!

A team practising at Guru Nanak Dev Stadium, Ludhiana


A team practising at Guru Nanak Dev Stadium, Ludhiana

Kabaddi World Cup 2012, which concluded in Ludhiana on December 15, put spotlight not just on the rural sport but also its increasing global appeal. The third edition saw a surge in both the prize money and the number of participating teams from across the world. The annual event may have begun with a men-only tag in 2010, but its latest avatar saw women, NRIs and foreigners, happily storming the male bastion, making the most of their Punjab visit and being game for more.

Guru Nanak Dev Stadium, Ludhiana, had been buzzing with unusual activity since December beginning. Girls in blonde hair, sporting shorts and vests, tattooed and pierced could be seen at all times in the ground, playfully pushing and shoving each other, indulging in mock wrestling and repeating ‘kabaddi kabaddi’ in their foreign accents. Members of the six foreign teams that were here in Punjab for the third World Kabaddi Cup, the girls had been polishing their skills at this Indian sport which they were introduced to only a couple of months ago.

A member of women Denmark team at haveli restaurant, Jalandhar

Stationed in Ludhiana, the teams traveled all over Punjab for the matches and, of course, lapped up the various flavours the state has to offer.

From thronging the local markets to be greeted with awe by the locallites, from relishing the local chicken to choking on the traffic and pollution, from wondering about India to experiencing it first-hand, all said they had a time memorable.

Malaysian team with singer Inderjeet Nikku

Women in Kabaddi Cup

This annual 15-day tournament that is the Kabaddi World Cup, started in 2010 and hosted by the Punjab Government, began with a men-only participation. Women teams made a debut last year with teams from USA, UK, Canada, Turkmenistan and India vying for a prize money of 25 lakhs. This year has seen a surge in both the moolah and the number of participating teams. While women teams from Malaysia and Denmark are an addition to the event, the cash prize has doubled to 50 lakhs. The participation prize toohas soared from 10 lakhs to 15 lakhs.

A member of Women Denmark team at Golden Temple, Amritsar

A member of Women Denmark team at Golden Temple, Amritsar

Their Backgrounds

While these sportswomen certainly added glamour to the event, most of them had played anything in their sporting career but Kabaddi. Handball, Baseball, Football, Vollyball, Rugby, Soccer and even Gymnastics – many were pro at these sports but insisted Kabaddi is no different. “Kabaddi is a combination of ‘Faanglaye’ (Danish word for the local game of Pakdam Pakdi), wrestling and American football,” came the curious definition from Marie Orum of Denmark. “It’s a test of physical and mental strength. Lifting the opponent and smashing on the ground is no big deal. Repeating kabaddi kabaddi… is a challenge,” observed Lvova Yevgeniya, a team member from Turkmenistan.

Adding to the variety of the motley players, some were not even sportspeople. The team from Denmark, for instance, comprised two members who are students of law.

There were more surprises in store. The team from Canada, for instance, stood out for the fact that it comprised three mother-daughter duo! Interestingly, the pairs were all NRIs with the mothers part of yesteryear Punjab Women Kabaddi team. Narinder Kaur Gill (48) with daughter Navreet Gill (15); Lakhbir Kaur Khangoora (40) with daughter Gunvir Kaur Khangoora (16) and Harpreet Kaur Randhawa (35) with daughter Harleen Kaur Randhawa () said they were a centre of attention owing to the curious combination.

The team from Malaysia curiously comprised all Punjabis. “They are all members of Shaan-e-Punjab Sports Club there and most members moved to Malaysia only three or four years ago,” shared coach Gurdeep Singh Bitti. Quite familiar with the game, the team reached the finals along with India.

Interestingly, four members from the US – Guramrit Harry, Samantha, Triana (who has now changed her name to Gurshikhar) and Natalia (who has now changed her name to Ramprakash) were well-familiar with Punjab as they are products of Miri Piri Academy, Amritsar.

Denmark Women team practising

The team from UK comprised six members from the Defense, including five from US military and one from the US Air Force. While Rosie Haigh, Jordan Barnard and Kellysue Leitch are engineers with the Army, Chanel Mason is a physical trainer with the Army, Mariece Othan is a Police Officer and Louise Redmond is with Air Force. Interestingly, Ashley Hunter is a farmer.

Punjab-trotting!

The teams said they enjoyed their trip to the hilt and made sure they visited the key tourist places such as Golden Temple, Viraasat-e-Khalsa, Anandpur Sahib and Chandigarh. The Denmark team, perhaps the most travelled, said they couldn’t have enough of the state’s majestic architecture. The girls, all aged less than 26, shared they bought local jewellery from the markets in Amritsar. Not to miss out on the latest movies when on the tour, the team went to watch ‘Life of Pi’ at Wave Cinemas, Westend Mall, on December 11. Most girls came from a sports school in the country and were into gymnastics and skating. After a visit to their coach Bikramjit Singh’s village Muchhal in Amritsar, Rie Hieberg requested him if she could stay in the house on her next trip to India. “I liked the village more than the city,” said she.

The team from Turkmenistan, despite in love with the local cuisine, seemed to have a tough time dealing with an all Punjabi-speaking management. “Everyone in the hotel talks in Hindi or Punjabi. We are almost using sign language to communicate,” laughed Seidova Zalina. Even as they loved the egg omlette and butter chicken, the team had one big complaint against the city. “Ludhiana is not clean,” declared Suleymanova Navgue,” sharing that the only place they visited was the local Chaura Bazaar.

Members of Denmark Team at Anandpur Sahib.

Members of Denmark Team at Anandpur Sahib.

Most enthusiastic about all things Indian seemed the team from the US that sported kurtis, churidars and bangles at all times off the ground. “We know a lot about India and its culture. We all have been buying Indian clothes, even getting them stitched from local tailors in old city, jewellery, herbal beauty products and even tea,” shares Triana Olonso.

The team also got henna patterns applied on their hands during the visit, after calling a local mehendi artist at a village they visited.

A member from the team, waiting for the bus that would take them to Amritsar on Friday, observed “that nothing is on time in India. We are always waiting for something or the other. But then, chaos is the most charming thing about India.”

Dress Issues!

The team’s local coordinators, without wanting to be named, said they constantly needed to be on their toes to provide the women security and safety. “Most of them wear tights and shorts, even to temples and Gurudwaras, to much unnecessary attention from men,” reasoned one. “But they are now particular about the way they should dress up, especially when visiting religious places. They make a point to ask for tips from us and their coaches,” added another.

Members of Women Denmark Team at CM's residence for dinner on Dec 11

Members of Women Denmark Team at CM’s residence for dinner on Dec 11

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Silk-Painter

Stretched out wooden ‘addas’ across the length of the room, colours in little bottles all around, brushes in different types and sizes strewn on the tables, and beautiful flowy silky fabrics piled up in a corner. Parneet Kaur’s room almost stumps you with the stark contrast it bears to any other medical student’s living area. While books are neatly stacked in cupboards, paints and silks command the rest of the space. However, this does not suggest that the young girl is any less of a doctor than an artist; it’s just that she has not let the creative streak in her die down amid the challenges of pursuing medical science.

Kanwardeep Kaur Shows her Friend's Silk Painting Works

Kanwardeep Kaur Shows her Friend’s Silk Painting Works

And her art? Parneet hand-paints on rich fabrics creating dandy, hypnotic art on stoles, scarfs, kurtis and kafkans. But it’s not the run-of-the-mill designs or techniques she uses that one will find on her products. The painted patterns ooze a luster that is eye-catching, and so neat that you wouldn’t feel the designs through touch (the paints she says have been painfully picked up from the various markets and wouldn’t reveal the brand). Careful, meticulous attention to detail, texture and colour combination in her motifs mark her art. Her designs? It’s mostly vintage art. Think of old roll cameras, gramophones, grandma clocks, records, typewriters and sewing machines.

Parneet also does contemporary: Whatsapp layout, emojis and diet coke cans. Which means one can wear their addictions and passions up their sleeve. Her love for vintage is inherited from her grandma who, Parneet excitedly says, is quite a collector, possessing a rich stock of almost everything vintage that Parneet paints.

“My heart aches as all these things lose popularity with the masses. My art is both a tribute to the bygone era and an attempt to keep it alive,” says the 22-year-old Gurdev Nagar resident. But is she really hopeful about a market for this art out there? “Oh, I cannot paint flowers, leaves and butterflies,” comes the pat reply. She then pauses as if realizing the reality of it. “You are right. This art is quite niche and not everybody may want to flaunt a sewing machine on her dress. But I am hopeful that it’s just a matter of time before people realize their personal taste over trends, and wear what their heart appreciate,” she says.

Silk

She admits that she has begun to paint flowers, leaves and birds for market’s sake.

Parneet’s venture is quite recent, inspired by an article on silk painting she read on the Internet. Sensing the opportunity for her products during the festive season, she laboured for a month and put up an exhibition at Satluj Club on October 30-31, under the label Mid Century. She exhibited 44 pieces, in tabby silk, crepe, georgette and satin, and priced roughly between Rs 1000 and Rs 5000. Parneet did this with support from her friend and “pillar of support” Kanwardeep Kaur who has taken upon herself to promote the label.

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Arty Kick!

If fashion is all about making a statement, let your shoes do the talking. And what’s better than personalized footwear reflecting the wearer’s style and taste? Hand-painted footwear, a rage among fashionistas these days, seems to be the answer to that.

Hand-painted Shoes

Hand-painted Shoes

Sandals, juttis, shoes and flats – now come with interesting art splashed on them. Your favourite pop star, cartoon character or simply an attractive floral pattern, anything can be created on your footwear. “Painted footwear look chic, is personalized and is not just taken off the rack,” says Ragini Khurana, who bought a pair of heels with peacocks painted on them at the recently concluded exhibition Wedding Asia. While the city markets are yet to stock up on this latest item, denizens are checking them out at the various exhibitions that bring together designers from other cities.

“Art on footwear is done with fabric paints, with a chemical coating to increase the design’s durability,” informs Dinesh Verma, owner of Chandigarh-based Citizen footwear that ventured into hand-painted footwear just five months ago. “Our company is two years old now. It was while browsing through the websites of some US-based shoe companies that I came across the concept. I liked it, and introduced in my own venture after a bit of research,” adds he.

The company, like many others in the field, offers an option of customizing, which simply means you can suggest a design or ask the colours or patterns to match your dress. It can be done on suede, velvet and leather, and, depending upon the material used, starts at Rs 700-800.

Shoes

Swati Mehrotra, a Delhi-based shoe designer who recently showcased her collection in Ludhiana, observes that the trend has picked up in the markets in Delhi in the last two years and is only catching up in Punjab. “In Delhi, a number of shoe designers are doing it on order basis. Otherwise the many flea markets are offering such footwear too, of course with an inferior quality and a cheaper price,” she says, adding that she is getting an increasing number of such orders for high-end footwear.

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Kaftans

Most fashion conscious women might look down on the all-enveloping garment that is a kaftan, but this flowy Middle-Eastern costume has its takers. This is especially true for Punjab, given the proximity to Pakistan. Now, with the traders from across the border increasingly finding space in traveling exhibitions organized in the state, the garment has only grown in respect. To quote a fashion designer from Ludhiana, “most women wouldn’t mind one such piece in their wardrobe, if only for a lean day”.

Kaftans are now available in a variety of cuts, sizes and fabric. Featuring roomy drapes of silks, chiffons and satins, the garment come in both short (a little below knee) and long (ankle length) versions, and flashing delicate embroideries and embellishments. What makes kaftans instantly catchy is the burst of colours – aquamarine, topaz, turquoise and shocking pink and gold. “It works well for those with a few extra pounds, but flatters the slim frames equally well. If paired well, that is,” says a woman from Ludhiana.

Ts yesteryear style, a throwback of the 70s in the West, seems to be on an all time high. “When it comes to fashion, women are increasingly preferring comfort to trends. Taking of comfort and ease, kaftan beats every other female garment,” says a designer from the city. Kaftan, a trendier version of the figure-hiding burqa, has seen a number of incarnations over the years, made popular in slimmer, shorter and with abstract patterns at different times.

“You can work your way around with the costume to suit varied occasions. One can easily wear it on beach. Pair it with a dazzling neckpiece and tights and it fits for an evening party. One can even add a chic belt on the waist to make it more fashionable,”  adds the designer. Some say they love the garment because it takes the spotlight away from the waistline, saving all the calorie count.

Check out Aishwarya Rai’s summery and chic look in a Roberto Cavalli Kaftan at Cannes 2012 where she, for once, was not criticized by the media. Shilpa Shetty too  turned up in one at Amitabh Bachchan’s 70th birthday recently – a Tarun Tahiliani kaftan.

Aishwarya Rai in a kaftan

Shilpa Shetty in a Tarun Tahiliani kaftan

Shilpa Shetty in a Tarun Tahiliani kaftan

 

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The Old Cinemas of Ludhiana

They were the talk of the town when they came up, here and there, years ago. Like newly wed brides, they were thronged by visitors who admired their beauty. Today, they lie in total disregard with some even in ruins. These old cinema halls of the city that once gave the denizens some of their most-cherished moments are on the verge of death. While some of these dating back to pre-independence era have been demolished and given way to swanky buildings, others are a shadow of their former selves.

If video piracy had not done them enough bad, the rise of the multi-screen multiplexes have ensured they have few takers.

The city has over 20 single-screen theatres. Of these, only three – Preet Palace, Aarti and the relatively new Orient – screen new releases. Priced lower than the multiplexes with tickets ranging from as low as Rs 50 to Rs 100, they attract college-goers and a section of the society that is unwilling to spend over a thousand bucks to watch a movie with family. The comforts these theatres offer are modest compared to those in the plush multiplexes but suffice the needs of many.

Manju theatre

Manju theatre

The other old cinemas, however, are running to seeds. While Shingar alternates between screening new Bollywood and Bhojpuri film releases, many like Basant, Arora, Surjeet, Surya, Deepak, Nirmal and Sitara are dedicated patrons of Bhojpuri movies. Others like Laxmi, Society, Manju and Raikhey thrive on either old action or sleazy flicks. The prices are dirt cheap starting from as low as Rs 8 and going not above Rs 30. These screens attract huge numbers of migrant labourers from states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, for whom these theatres are perhaps the only source of entertainment.

The single-screen theatre owners rue that their revenues have fallen to just 20-25% compared to the past. And, despite the crumbling structures, plaster scraping off the walls and poor hygienic conditions, they feel reluctant for repair.

Considering that the state once boasted of the largest number of cinema houses in Northern India (176 at one time) with Ludhiana home to a big chunk, these aged structures have evidently fallen to bad times due to indifferent audience, “faulty tax policies of the government” and the general tendency to disrespect anything aged. “While the new multiplexes enjoy total tax holiday in entertainment tax to multiplexes, we struggled to pay the tax levied on us in the recent past,” says Dr Ashish Hora of Chand Cinema.

Meanwhile, multiplexes are mushrooming in various parts of the city with the current five totalling 22 screens. The ticket prices for most begin at Rs 150 for a weekend show.

History

The first cinema hall to come up in the city was Minerva build in pre-independent days and shut down years ago. The second to come up was Raikhey in 1933, which showed Alamara as their first film, and is the oldest surviving cinema hall in Ludhiana. Muslim-owned Naulakha, that was demolished last year, came next in 1938 but remained dormant until 1950. By 1957, the city had six running cinemas including Society, Kailash and Deepak. As the population grew, cinemas mushroomed in the city and soon people had more options in Society, Lakshmi, Kailash Pictures, Aarti and so on. Sangeet, which is now closed, was opened in 1975 by Namdhari Sadhu Singh as a symbol of love for music; Ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh is said to have performed here twice. Chand, the biggest theatre in the state then, opened in 1976; Shingaar too opened at the same time. These, along with Arora, had introduced the concept of multi-screens in city. Dr Ashish Hora, the grandson of Kundan Lal Hora who built the Chand cinema, says, “We had Chand and Mini-Chand with a seating space for 1300 and 400 respectively. We brought the multiplex concept years ago,” he says. The hall, situated in three acres and boasting of fine architecture from a well-known architect in Delhi, has been closed for a year now and Dr Ashish says it is under renovation. Will it go the Malhar way that was demolished to have the existing PVR in place? “No,” says Ashish. “We would not kill our theatre by turning it into a multiplex. Only the sound system, furniture and screen will be modernized and structure repaired,” he says.

Legacy

The huge popularity of these meant that streets and intersections in the city came to be unofficially named after them. In the fifties, Cinema Road was so called due to the presence of Raikhy and Naulakha. Directions like Malhar Road, Kailash Chowk and Aarti Chowk are still popular. Legendary Raj Kapoor had visited Society cinema during the premiere of ‘Bobby’. This theatre also boasts of screening the maximum number of silver jubilee films in city. After the bomb blast at Shingar Cinema in 2007 had left the city shocked, Bhojpuri star Manoj Tiwari had visited the theatre to attend his movie’s screening. The cinema owners recall how famous dignitaries would come to watch films with their family. “I remember the time when Zail Singh came to watch a film accompanied by family. We seated him in the box provided with an attendant for service,” recalls Dr Hora.

Nostalgic Movie Buffs

It was a different movie experience altogether, recall old-timers. The movie timings were fixed and did not involve the tedious task of looking up the websites and newspapers every time, say a retired professor who stays in Agar Nagar. “We would dress up to the nines to watch a movie. While there are burgers, popcorns and colas available, hawkers selling everything from tea to break pakodas to groundnuts thronged the place during the interval when the silent hall would burst into frenzied activity. Those were the times!” he says, adding how he finds difficult to find his way around the workings of a multiplex.

The owners too attached sentimental value to their enterprise. “Idols of various Gods and a statue of Venus especially brought from Rajasthan then greets the visitors in our hall. We also had a diya burning in the hall at all hours of the day at all times of the year and I know most of the other owners too did that,” says Hora.

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Bagpipe Bands of Baddowal

For more than the past two decades, the dusty village of Baddowal, Punjab, has been the hub of pipe bands, a British colonial legacy that conjures up images of the chilly terrains of Scotland. The skirl of the bagpipes might be ridiculed in contemporary times, but these pipe bands continue to be invited from all around the state – and even beyond – to dispense their music on happy occasions, big or small. While almost every male member of the village today, roughly between the age of 20 and 50, earns his living by playing some role in a pipe band, all this stands to change as the village’s youth seems to abhor the idea of following in their fathers’ footsteps.

The fathers are more than encouraging in their decision to break out of the pipe band culture that is steeped in the village. “Study harder or you’ll be left to do nothing better than playing pipes or drums” is a school teacher’s favourite threat here. The mothers pray their sons are employed in a “proper” job and bring out the families from the life of penury they are leading.

This might surprise you, considering how colourful the whole thing about nine men in military-like uniforms, gawdy gold, embellished belts and chic turbans belching out music with bagpipers, drums and dhols has been made out to be. Signs of this obsession with pipe bands are very much visible as billboards flashing the bands’names and contacts dot almost every street. A close look at the life of the villagers, however, reveal that for most people there is little money in the profession to make.

A Bagpipe Band Playing in the 90s

A Bagpipe Band Playing in the 90s

Notably, it was in the late nineties when armymen from Baddowal cantonment began to perform privately at the local weddings or nagar kirtans. Slowly, to share this workload, they began to teach the art to the unemployed youth of the village who then formed private bands of their own. Initially there was work to be found for the few bands in place. But soon the pipe bands became a fad with almost every youth jumping into it. Rising from a mere four to five bands around twenty years ago, the number in this village – that today is home to around 5000-6000 people – touched 100 in a decade. The competition increased significantly but the demand has not kept pace.

Even when the invites keep coming, as in any business, the bulk of the revenues reach only a few people – those who own the musical instruments, uniforms and other paraphernalia, the cost of which ads up to around Rs 45,000-Rs 50,000 for a band. The “owners” of the band usually hire from the village to complete the band. While a band is booked at anything between Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 for a day in the lean season (from June to September) and Rs 6,000 to Rs 9,000 in the peak season (from April to October), the hired members get a small share in the pie – no more than Rs 250-300 a day. The work is irregular which translates into an unsteady income. “My husband gets work only twice or thrice a week. He is free on other days, wasting time in idle banter or playing cards with fellow villages. He has no other skills to bank upon either,” rues Dasri, who runs a small general store in the area, and supplements the income by taking up stitching and embroidery work.

The young is no more flocking to the trainers – who charge around Rs 15000 for the three-month course – to learn to play the instruments. HS Khalsa, employed with the Indian Army, who was part of the only pipe band in 1990 in Baddowal that pioneered the trend, says, “I used to get pupils in dozens eager to learn the art. Boys would come in groups, learn from me for three months for a couple of thousands and form their own bands. But today, I have not a single student,” says the 55-year-old.

This is not to say that the business is dead yet. For some like Hasda Punjab, an umbrella group of three pipe bands, has flourished significantly in the last decade. It has an office, car, online presence and even a cameo in an upcoming Punjabi film. “We are here to stay,” says the manager Kuldip Singh. Most of the others, however, are looking for alternative options.

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An Intricate Empire in Sunet

An Artisan Engaged in Embroidering a Lehenga

An Artisan Engaged in Embroidering a Lehenga

A whole new world opens up as one takes the route beyond Orient Cinema in Ludhiana leading to Sunet. As one enters the narrow lanes, an array of one-roomed workshops with men meticulously engaged in delicate embroidery can be seen on both sides of the road. Sitting cross-legged on carpeted floor, bent over wooden frames locally called ‘addas’, sharp aari (a long needle) hooks in hands, these men, mostly in their twenties, work their way on the luxurious fabrics stretched out on the frames. Wielding their tools, they create breathtakingly beautiful patterns using silk threads, beads, metal wires, Swarosvki and stones. On the pavements outside, samples of their exhibited work can be seen. This intricate empire nestled in an obscure part of the city meets many of the designers’ embroidery needs – from the state as well as abroad.

Street Lined With Workshops

Over 100 workshops are packed within a kilometer-long stretch. The number of artisans, most of them Muslims, cross a thousand. Most are migrants from Bareilly and Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, cities that already run such embroidery empires of theirown.

This market has been in existence for 20 years now. Explaining its origin, one of the oldest in the trade, 46-year-old Mohd Qamar (popular in the area as ‘Mamu’), shares that a few artisans from Shivpuri, sensing the opportunities that the new residential colonies around Sunet such as BRS

Nagar and Model Town offered, shifted base. “I was among the first ones to shift. These colonies housed the elite and upmarket boutique stores, and work flowed in regularly,” says ‘Mamu’. “There has been no looking back since,” fondly adds he, who has risen from a team of two to 22 artisans over the years, and runs two workshops.

Notably, labourers employed by such traders-cum-artisans are paid around Rs 120 for eight hours of work and Rs 350 for 14 hours of work. Day for them begin as early as seven.

sunet-3

One can simply approach these men with a fabric and a design in mind, and they’ll make it. Zardosi, phulkari, kasooti, aari, chickankari, crochet work, gotta-patti, ribbon work – they do it all. “People come with fashion magazines and ask us to copy the pattern on the sari worn by Katrina Kaif. It’s not difficult for us. One look at the pattern tells us the type of embroidery done,” says one. Most orders are for suits that fetch them anything between Rs 500 to Rs 3000 and even more, depending on the cost of the material and effort and time involved. People come for sarees, lehengas and even sandals and bags.

While the patrons to this market range from local residents to boutique owners to designer wear stores, some recall interesting stints with dignitaries from industrial and political circles. Mamu recalls having designed a lehenga for a rich client in the city, the cost of the embroidery touching Rs 2.5 lakhs – the most expensive assignment he has done till date.

A boy filing away 'aari' hooks

A boy filing away ‘aari’ hooks

Thanks to the rising demand for exquisite designer wear, there is no dearth of work here. In fact, this lucrative profession has spurred mushrooming of several other support businesses. While shops selling ‘aaris’, fabrics and embroidery material are all around, almost every house has a shuttered hall at the ground floor to rent out to these men.

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Whimsical Artist

Painter-ashok-goswami1

An artist works on a whim, not on calculation.

Ludhiana resident Ashok Goswami had a dream a few years ago that he was painting the Golden Temple of Amritsar. He

saw that as a message from the God. A class IV employee at the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation then, earning a modest Rs 1000 a month, Ashok embarked on the journey to fulfill the “God’s wish” and bought a 56 X 15 feet canvas worth Rs 48,000, the money raised from donations and his savings.

The painting, which Ashok claims is the world’s biggest painting of the revered Sikh temple, has used around Rs 4-5 lakh on over 1300 pencils, 2600 small and big brushes, and gold dust. Having survived on help from a few local patrons so far, the painting needs at least Rs five lakh more to see completion but Ashok says he has been struggling to find sponsors to finish his long-pending project. The painting, he says, is almost in its last stage.

“When I began, I was highly encouraged by people, and I assumed I would carry on with their help. But I can’t survive on compliments alone,” he says.

Apart from finances, Ashok has been facing the problem of finding a suitable space to keep the huge painting. The painting has seen many temporary homes such as Gurudwaras and schools. Today it is lying rolled over with him.

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