Life and death of a baron

FP

From then on, the business grew and so did the Chadhas' social standing. A leading advocate in the city who didn't want to be quoted says, "About forty years ago, the high society in Moradabad didn't want to be associated with the Chadhas. They were derided as Kalwars (a community that is associated with the liquor trade) and sharab bechne wale. But with money came respectability. Now the situation is such that if we don't get an invite from the Chadhas for any of their family functions, we feel left out."

The Chadhas were essentially a family business, with a loose division of responsibility. Soon after Emergency, Ponty's father Kulwant is said to have effectively retired from the business and handed over the reins to his children and his brothers. While uncle Harbhajan and his family limited their business to Moradabad, Ponty spread himself out. By the 90s, Ponty had extended his hold over the liquor business in the rest of Uttar Pradesh.

The Chadha group's spectacular rise came with stories about the family's political and financial muscle, his links across political divides and of money being allegedly routed to political parties.

"Ponty was dabang and had the right mix of business acumen and luck. But while all of that may be true, he was very good to his family and his employees," says the advocate.

In 1993, Ponty and his brothers and their families moved from Moradabad to Delhi. But the happy stories stayed in Moradabad—of the family's early days in 25, Adarsh Nagar, their spectacular rise, of Ponty's love for the city. There are stories of the good deeds he did, even after he became "such a big man"—of the 43 jobs he gave out, "khade-khade", to people from Moradabad at a family wedding he attended, of the expensive Swiss chocolates and watches he sent as Diwali gifts to friends and well-wishers, of the Wave Mall he "gifted" Moradabad simply because he didn't want his home-town to be without one.

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