Life and death of a baron

FP

At Avantika Colony, retired school teacher Suresh Kumar Mehrotra remembers Ponty as the boy who stunned him with his geometry diagrams. "I taught them mathematics in class VIII-A and would offer to help him with his geometry because of his handicap. He would refuse, in turn asking me, 'Who'll help me in my exams?' He cleared his class X with IInd class. That was considered very good in those days," he says.

Mehrotra says he remembers Ponty because he stood out among the others—the sardar boy with a stump for a hand and an amazing grit. "He even came home for tuitions after school hours, riding a Luna, his severed left hand resting on the Luna handle." Mehrotra says he lost touch with his student after the family moved to Delhi, but says Ponty would have remembered him if only he had called him. He had saved Ponty's number on his cellphone but never made that call.

The spread

After Ponty moved to Delhi, the group renamed itself Wave Inc and diversified into sugar manufacturing, distilleries, paper mills, real estate and multiplexes and even film distribution. Though no precise estimate of the business's worth is known, it is said to run into thousands of crores. While Ponty has been quoted as saying that his son Manpreet 'Monty' Singh Chadha, joint MD of the company, is the brain behind its operations, it is no secret that it was Ponty and his ability to steamroll any opposition that came his way that spurred the group on.

Meanwhile, he continued to spread his wings—from eastern Uttar Pradesh to Punjab. Like in Moradabad, he would start by taking control of the liquor trade before moving on to real estate and other businesses. Several liquor satraps had their hold over eastern UP till Ponty took control in 2007.

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