When it comes to Punjab, praiseworthy words on friendly hospitality come naturally to the tongue. I am sure people across the world who have visited Punjab, especially villages, must be inundated with many examples on its hospitality and what makes it so great.
Interestingly, through my career in journalism, which often gives me the opportunity to interview people from different walks of life, including actors, I have noticed that each one of them applauds the warm hearts of the people here. But, a big smile and pride shoot up on my face whenever I remember words of actor Pavan Malhotra, who said in his interview, "Punjabis' hearts are bigger than their chests."
However, the most exciting experience that touched my heart happened at a film shooting a few months ago at Ghungrana village near Ludhiana, where I had gone to interview actor Soha Ali Khan for her upcoming film on the 1984 riots. The shooting schedule in the village was mainly of about 30 nights and I got the chance for the interview on the last night.
The moment I arrived at the shooting location in the village, it was already middle of the night but it was still a grand affair. After all, the entire village, with its brimful of enthusiasm, had gathered to taste the filmmaking experience. Women and children had climbed the rooftops and many of them had also called their near and far-off relatives to show them how a film is made. With high ebullience, children were seen approaching the actors for autographs and pictures, followed by so much hustle and bustle.
But what was most special was of course the hospitality being offered by the villagers. They treated the entire film crew as no less than VIP guests. It was so inspiring to see the way men and women from different homes were coming up from time to time on the sets with homemade special paranthas, tea, lassi, hot milk and a lot more.
While I joined Soha and her galaxy of costars, all from Mumbai, my ears repeatedly heard so much praise for this hospitality. They echoed that Punjabis' hearts are blessed.
On top of that, the villagers had also thrown open their homes as resting spots for them. During one of the breaks, as I accompanied them to one home, they were left spellbound to explore the grand place and couldn't hold themselves back from saying: 'Punjabis not only have big hearts but also big homes' and then laughed over the small houses in Mumbai.
There they enjoyed traditional 'pinnis' and other delicacies served by the lady of the house.
After being seated in their living room, they began making comparisons with people of Mumbai and other big cities where people do not even know their immediate neighbours. "Where else will you be given so much love and happiness?" became a common question for all who said that if this level of kindness spreads its wings to every nook and corner of this world, the latter can turn into an amazing place to live in. One of them said, "We have observed that whenever villagers offered us something, their joy reached its zenith."
Instantly, these words brought to my tongue what someone has rightly said, "Remember that the happiest people are not getting more, but those giving more." And, they all conceded by expressing that the guest is truly like a god in Punjab. firstname.lastname@example.org
(The writer is an HT staff correspondent based in Ludhiana)