By Sunil Kumar

The Jaipur Literature Fest this year had its share of interesting, quirky sessions. Standing in the Google Mughal tent, I listened to Nirupama Dutt elaborating on the virtues of the Punjabis. Featuring Shauna Singh Baldwin, Kishwar Desai, Navtej Serna and Ravinder Singh; the discussion did not dwell much on the real socio-economic problems of the state; Haryana or Himachal Pradesh, all of which comprise erstwhile Eastern Punjab.

Sunil Dutt cropped face Punjabi By Nature

English: Sunil Dutt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Admittedly, they were proud of the language and the rich culture of the state, but it seemed to be more of a marketing event for the authors. I doubt whether most people conform to the strait-jacketed view of the place, as each individual is remarkably different. Nirupama Dutt started to remember her conversations with the great actor Sunil Dutt and his wife Nargis. She also rightly pointed out the great pride communities including but not limited to the Bengalis and the Keralites have in their own tongue; which sometimes translates into regionalism of the worst kind.

300px Knighthood close up Punjabi By Nature

Kabir Bedi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most of the audience was also unabashedly discussing the pros and cons of the state’s influence on the country’s psyche. As practically everybody in India is aware; most songs feature a smattering of the language, resulting in an “instant noodle” version of Punjabiyat; delivered in your mindspace by the consistent smorgasbord of Bollywood’s semi-urbane population. It sometimes reduces the genuinely rich folk traditions of the state to a pale reflection; dumbed down to appeal to every Ram, Rahim and Anthony.

A lady in the crowd stood up to proudly announce that she was the daughter-in-law of the main event sponsor, DSC. She again emphasized the lack of pride Punjabis have in their own culture vis-a-vis others, as one of the world’s major literary and intellectual events was being sponsored by a majorly Punjabi firm. Kabir Bedi stood up to interject that even though the Punjabi Sikhs and the Hindus appear to have a tough exterior, they have a heart of gold. (Something to that effect)Valid point, Mr. Bedi; I partially agree with you.

Ravinder Singh dwelled more on his fascination with music including Honey Singh, and experiments with atheism. The most erudite of the lot seemed to be Navtej Serna; who was a little more measured than the others. With the kind of cultural influence the state has wielded on the country’s mindscape; it would be great if the Prime Minister and the Central Government did something constructive to improve the lot of citizens in Punjab, Haryana, HP and across the country. “Punjabi By Nature” could mean a true generosity of spirit; something that is preached a lot by everybody across the country and the world, but seldom practiced.





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