In the India Today Special Issue on the Best and Worst States of India, there’s a guest column by a Market Strategy consultant called Rama Bijapurkar. I can’t seem to locate the online version anywhere, but you can try your luck on www.indiatoday.com.

Anyway, the article discusses how Indian small towns are catching up with metros at a blistering speed.

That was just the article. I’ve been noticing it for the past two years. Patiala is going wild. There’s a dynamism here that you don’t see in Delhi- at least, not in the established markets like South Ex or Greater Kailash. Sure, people in the previously mid-level markets like Green Park are tearing down their old shops and building new ones, but it doesn’t compare to Patiala.

The thing about Patiala is that people here will do something, fail at it, do something again, fail at it again, and keep doing something new until they get it right. This may be due to the fact that most of them are Sardars, and have a historical tradition of rushing in to battlefields without planning and preparation. Then again, it may not.

Take, for example, this one place about half a kilometre down the road from the college gates.

In the first semester, it was a Domino’s Pizza- a sit-down Domino’s pizza!- which folded up after about six months. Six months after folding up it was reincarnated as an NIIT franchise. The NIIT franchise never took off, what with the tech meltdown, so now it’s a Ford Dealership. It’ll probably be something different- a call centre, perhaps- by the time I graduate next year.

Down the road from that, there are a bunch of PCOs which have indulged in price wars until you now get photocopies at 50 paise a sheet- equivalent to 1 USD for 74 sheets. There’s a Chinese restaurant, a mini-mall, and a Reliance WebWorld. And that’s just one road. In just one town. And $deity knows, Patiala’s no comparison to Ludhiana.

On the other hand, Patiala and other small towns might be growing up much faster than Delhi as far as economic development is concerned, but Delhi finally seems to be getting its act together where the softer sides of life are concerned.

The air is cleaner, the traffic moves faster, and road rage notwithstanding, is really more disciplined than in Punjab. It’s got a ways to go before it hits international standards, but I think we’re getting there. Delhi’s going to be a very good place to live.

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