Saturday, October 10, 2009

Everything is Bigger in Punjab

Having limited my travels around India only to its quicksand metropolises and the wild mountains of the Northeast, I jumped at the offer of attending a Round Square Conference in Nabha, Punjab. Though I was slightly disappointed about missing the Golden Temple – the pride of Punjab – and strolling down the bustling streets of Chandigarh as I had dreamed of doing after watching the romantic Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (”there is an extraordinary love story in every ordinary jodi”), I was still glad that I would at least be adding another state to my “List of Indian States that I have Been To or Passed Through”. Besides, Punjab is said to harbour good-looking mundas and I was eager to have that belief-standing-on-shaky-grounds confirmed.

Alas, it was not to be, I suppose, for when I crossed Haryana and her fancy new government offices and got onto the national highway squashed between the succulent sugarcane fields of Punjab, I had not the chance to lay my eyes upon a single borderline attractive munda. I gave up the search then and there. I was mildly interested in the beginning to start with. Moreover, the men and women of Punjab were sword-wielding and religion-crazy warriors once upon a time. Not my crowd, thanks.

Sticking my face to the dusty window of the claustrophobic car, I watched as verdant fields passed me by, as men in salmon-pink and mustard-yellow turbans roared by in motorcycles, as fattened water buffaloes yawned as if to almost swallow the blinding sun, as children scurried surreptitiously out of school gates left ajar. And I felt something swelling inside me. Something different: it was not the sweat sticking to my shirt; neither was it the dry, static heat that made my hair stand on its end; and it certainly wasn’t Rupal the Driver’s covert glances at my thighs. It was an Eureka! feeling, more like, as I had just discovered what makes this colossal state so different from the rest of India: everything is bigger in Punjab!

Everything is bigger. From the designer billboards dotting the smooth roads to the freshly painted milestones; from the salivating mongrels spreading rabies to the technicoloured trucks, the kings of the road; from the rambunctious kudis with ample derrieres to the squealing pigs swathed in layers of grime and mud at the butcher’s. Hell, even their vegetables were fat and juicy!

Still gaping like a loonybin at the overwhelming size of everything in front of my eyes, I asked Rupal the Driver the question that was foremost in my mind, “Saabji, sab cheez itna bada kaise hain Punjab mein?” At this, Rupal the Driver bellowed with laughter – at my poor Hindi or the question, I know not which – and said, “Madamji, because everything is smaller in Assam!”

I instantly fell into a sullen slumber.

pure punjabi

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