Punjab- a losing heritage

My mother hails from a village in Punjab called “Udang”, located near the Punjab- Pakistan border. While she moved away from the state of Punjab, after marrying a Sikh Army officer of Jammu & Kashmir regiment, her brothers, sisters and relatives continued to settle in areas around the village. She got married at the age of 21 yrs, and moved to different places around the country, had two kids and many years of happy married life. I have many dotted memories while growing up , of the trips we made to her ancestral home, meeting my two grand nannies, sitting on the manja, and listening to stories of  crows and mena, i remember being afraid of my grandfather, i remember his room smelling of medicines, walls hung with huge portraits of my great grand fathers dressed in sherwani’s, holding a sword…suddenly while writing these images of the chullah, the back verandah for livestock, the bricked storage rooms with hidden cats, the ferocious watch dog ( visible only through a cage), are flashing by me.

Now i wonder, why didnt i capture all of these in the camera, but then, my memory seems so fresh, maybe ill paint them someday. But, it isnt thsi i wanted to write about. Coming back to my home in Delhi, during on of those weekends when i was at home from college, my mother told me that her bhua’s ( mother’s sister) daughter’s daughter was getting married, and she was invited for the wedding. She asked me whether i was interested in coming for the weekend marriage to Punjab, Mansa.

Having nothing better to do i thought it was a good opportunity for some sight seeing, in the famous farmlands of the Great Punjab. Hence both of us packed our bags and caught a train to head for Mansa.

Since this was a impromptu trip made at the last moment, we did not manage to get good tickets, and ended up landing in a crowded compartment of a General class train.

The journey was another experience, i hope this small clip gives you an outlook! i really think Indian Railways should change their motto, probably create a new self mocking marketing strategy, but again, coming back to the story of Punjab.

As it turned out, most of my distant cousins were amazed to see my mother and self, my mother because they were meeting her after a really long time, and me because i was such a city girl! But soon they let me be with my mobile, and began their ceremonies. We were just in time to be a part of “Jaago!” 

Jaago is a typically punjabi tradition ceremony of announcing marriage in a particular household. In the villages since all the houses are attached to each other, all houses can easily be covered in a night. The women folk of the household get together and sing songs, calling out to the neighbors to come join them in their celebrations.

This is a beautiful tradition, wherein one of the ladies from the household dances with a decorated matka on her head. She is referred to as the “Jaago” of the house. I was so amazed to see women young and old actively dancing and singing bolliyans ( local short songs, mostly teasing songs) This is the culture i had grown up hearing about, and seeing it gave me happiness beyond measure. I would really like to know more about these songs sung by the women, find out about their origin, locate how they get transferred from mother to daughter, generation after generations.

The day was a long one, and finally passed by in merriment and fun. Next day was the marriage, the big day.

The bride must have spent hours dreaming of this day, and then dressing up for the day. In punjab, marriages happen in a Gurudwara, where it also gets registered. This is attended only by close family members. rest of the guests are seated at a hall where the bride and the groom receive everybody. All was well till the time the couple got married and returned to the hall. As we were walking towards the hall i hear loud music reverberating from within, upon entering, i was shocked to see what was happening before me.

There was a huge hall, with a stage, all the chairs were facing the stage. On one side sat the ladies of the both the families, and on the other sat the men. The men were primarily consumed by liquor and happily getting wasted. Whereas the women were silently watching the ongoings on the stage!

here is what i saw!

Men get pissed drunk in these weddings and dance with a special dancing troupe. These dance troupe consists of 3-4 girls who keep dancing on the stage taking turns, entertaining the drunk men. What can be called unabashed innocence is that the ladies of these very men sit and watch them act silly. Not only has this become a custom practice, but has been going on in Punjab for a very long time. you can call this a bachelor’s party for the groom organized from the bride’s family or a safeguard for the so called respected women as in their own words, they say ” We are happy that these groups come and perform, this way at least these men don’t misbehave with us after getting drunk!”

After all, why shouldn’t everybody be happy with this settlement? men are getting what they want, women care a damn, children get to dance on the stage! On a positive note, having women watch this procession somehow safeguards these women dancing on the stage , keeping the drunk men in some shame/ check! But for me i could not digest this contrast to something simple and traditional i saw last night.

The women have still held on to their tradition, while the men continue losing their virtue to the liquid poison.





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