The world might be called a global village, but sociologists claim that in fact, inter-cultural differences are only escalating. In a society that is witnessing increasing hate crimes, especially against turbaned Punjabis on foreign grounds, the efforts of global visionaries such as Davinder Singh Chhina become significant.
Calling himself a ‘cultural activist’, Chhina is the director of Punjab Cultural Promotion Council (PCPC), an organisation that he created almost a decade ago to propagate a multicultural Punjab globally. As a result of Chhina’s worldwide networking, Punjab’s folk songs, folk music, folk dances and folkloric traditions have travelled to as many as 80 world folk festivals and international conferences in Europe, South Korea, Australia and many other countries.
In fact, Chhina’s inspiration had come from his visit to Australia in 2000, he tells us, when he explored multiculturalism there. “I was impressed with the concept of promoting Punjabi culture and heritage on a global level, especially since our state has a rich heritage,” he recalls.
Chhina, who is a doctorate in media studies and human rights, has been working as a lecturer at a government In-Service Training Centre (ISTC) in his hometown Ludhiana, for the last 15 years.
Providing further details about his work, Chhina adds, “We undertake voluntary efforts for international educational and cultural exchange programmes to propagate the Sikh way of life amongst the world’s diverse cultures. By doing so, we also contribute to UNESCO’s Culture of Peace Project.
So, when we interact with the world media abroad, we educate them about Punjab’s folklore, Sikh martial arts, folk instruments such as dhol and chimta and about Punjabi hospitality. Not just that, we sport colourful turbans to clear their misconceptions about the Sikh identity and let them know that turban is a symbol of peace.” Chhina’s council was also recognised as the Global Alliance Partner of UNESCO for cultural diversity in 2005.
Apart from taking Punjabi culture abroad, Chhina is credited with initiating the Amritsar International Folk Festival in 2006, in which folk groups and sports organisations from countries such as Denmark, Slovakia, Czeck Republic and others visit Punjab and learn of its special customs and people. “The Punjab Multicultural Fest and Hamdard International Fest (started in Kapurthala) are also making an impact in our quest.
When I call these foreign delegates to India, I make sure they are taken to Harmandar Sahib in Amritsar, from where they take the message of peace and brotherhood along,” says the 45-year-old.
The man laments that Punjab has ignorantly sidelined tourism and foregone a lucrative way to build on the economy. “We did not preserve our heritage the way others did, neither have we learnt to present it the right way. But for this, the authorities and wealthy Punjabis need to come forward to organise international festivals.”
Chhina also adds that the Punjabi youth settled abroad are enthusiastic about representing their culture, which isn’t the case here. “Voluntary services are missing in Punjab. Youngsters should create such councils; it is every Punjabi’s duty.”