Monday, June 6, 2011

Punjabi by spirit

Asawari 'Balle'
It has been a while since I visited Moga last, not counting the quick drive throughs. But for twenty conscious summers of my life, at the very least, I spent twenty two days at the ‘Sangha Farm’ on the Grand Trunk road every year. That dirt drive from the main road, the hand pump on the right of the huge metallic gates, the heavy smell of buffaloes, the red Massey Ferguson tractor parked ahead as you entered and the hot beating sun….they are all in my mitochondrial record. I rue the fact that I did not wield a handy-cam in the 1970s. Perhaps it is best this way, the memories are gilded in recall.

I would have kept records of Kalu, Bhalu, Bhutto, Lalli and Tiger, the big sized, five farm dogs. And how we fought as kids for the privilege of feeding them, six ‘rotis’ each. Tiger was the handsomest and the best behaved. The rest were trigger happy brats, barrelling towards the main road to chase off hapless cyclists. It was the morning hour roadside entertainment for us to watch the pedalling humanity build up a furious momentum so they could sail past the farm hounds safely, their feet pulled up and out of harm’s way.

Aqseer 'Hadippa'
Even though we made feeble noises about our friends visiting the cooler climes of Nainital and Mussourie during the summer holidays, while we made our dazed way across the simmering country to the farm, I am not sure I would have reminisced about the hill stations with as much nostalgia. 

What could possibly compare with the ‘dudh soda’ and ‘jalebi’ of Moga; with the lazy meander following Bebeji into the vaporous fields, plucking ‘chappan kaddu’ for dinner; with a dip in the forceful water of the tube well; with the languid nap under the ‘talli’; with the ‘haare di daal’and tandoori roti; with Papa ji’s  bedtime tales under the starlit sky; with the scalding dust storms; with a ride to the grain ‘mandi’ sitting in a trolley full of wheat…….I see the truck crystal clear in my mind’s eye, emblazoned across the sides,’S Dalip Singh Sangha s/o S Inder Singh Sangha s/o S Bhara Singh Sangha’…..a living genealogy on wheels !

A trifle wonky might describe well, some of the-er-adaptive practices on the farm. The milk was churned for butter in the washing machine! The refrigerator doubled up as Bebeji’s wardrobe during the all too frequent, low voltage phases. Everyone stuffed their slippers under the mattresses at night, Lalli had a taste for leather and Bhallu was addicted to rubber. The cord woven cots substituted for bath screens occasionally . Wedding invites functioned well as hand held fans. Slabs of ice would last long when stuffed deep into the stacks of husk. Onions were stored, carpet like on the garage floor. Sugar came in sacks. Everything, from oil to cotton to ghee to pulses came off the soil of that land.
Aqseer Asawari in Moga
I was not born in Punjab nor did I study at Moga but there is more than a dash of its spirit in my being. The raw and warm taste of milk, straight from the udders; the stinging raspy sand on the toes; the thundering of Punjab Roadways buses; the waft of ‘kadha parshad’; the oppressive heat hanging over wet paddy fields; the full hearted beat of Punjabi folk music and the tight hugs from Bebeji…..Papaji's signature moves involved making a mess of our hair and thumping us violently on the back. He also snapped our fingers and toes out of affection and made up rhymes with mutilated forms of our names.

Not by birth, not by education nor by residence, I am certainly Punjabi by spirit. 

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