Recently for some strange reason a two-worded nomenclature — Punjabi Sensibility — has sprung up many a time during conversations. One really does not know what exactly it stands for, but since it is doing the social rounds, exploring what constitutes ‘Punjabi sensibility’ might not be a bad idea.
Is it an oxymoron to sensibility? Or is it a genre in itself, having resulted from the political, social, cultural and religious circumstances of the region.
Sensibility, as per its dictionary meaning is, “the ability to appreciate and respond to complex emotional or aesthetic influences”.
Now, try adding ‘Punjabi’ to it and sensibility gets this crazy electric shock, and it swirls into the ability to appreciate and respond...blah...blah.... the Punjabi style.
For instance, ‘bomb’ and ‘terrorism’, post-9/11, are words that you seriously abstain from when in airplanes or at airports.
“Bhaji kiddi bumb airhostess ya,” blurted my co-passenger on a flight from London to Los Angeles. Man, use any other word (hot, sexy…), but not the ‘B’ word, I muttered to myself.
I also kept looking outside the plane window to see just in case the pilot took a U-turn!
During his visit to India last year, I happened to take the great marathoner Fauja Singh to a friend’s wedding. This friend was getting married to his colleague, a white American lady. The first question that Fauja asked after blessing the couple was, “Is this blonde from England or America?”
Regaining his composure after being taken aback by the question, my friend replied, “Babaji America.”
“Then it’s fine, because American blondes are more compatible with Punjabi men than the blondes from England,” replied Fauja.
Babaji tussi great ho!
Talk about weddings, and the Punjabi ‘big bang’ theory flashes through my mind. Yeah, the one that makes you wonder why a Punjabi uses a firearm when in celebration mode, when the world uses crackers for the same.
For instance, the banquet halls in Punjab, rather than having excerpts on the fine–art of marriage, have warning notes such as ‘use of firearms is not permitted in the premises’.
But then Punjabian di sensibility vakhri! To term Punjabi sensibility as ‘insensitivity’ will not be prudent since the Punjabi response to birth, marriage, death and other abstract notions such as migration, travel success and food is simply Punjabi by nature. No holds barred.
Now picture this. We are at a cremation ground, and women from the village are wailing at the top of their voice. A group of young men walks in and on seeing the women crying profusely, one of them remarks aloud, “Oh! Ethey taan sab de kutte fail hain.”
That I had to stuff a handkerchief in my mouth to hold back my laughter is a confession I want to make. You would agree that Punjabis are awful when it comes to using the politically correct words to address people of different origins, or special people. All people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are bhaiyas and South of India, Madrasis.
The other day, I was with a friend who hailed from UP and this fellow in his office, without realising the sensibility involved, went on a verbal diarrhoea, complaining how inefficient was the “bhaiya” labour from UP. Or the faux pas my dear friend Manpreet Badal made while releasing my first book, Sikhs Unlimited in 2007.
While trying to emphasise the point that a majority of Punjabis who migrated to western countries ended up doing labour whereas those from South India became techies, Manpreet said, his heart “pains when he sees Punjabis not working as hard as the Madrasis”.
Oops! That was a blooper, everyone thought. The other day, I had some foreign guests who were shocked out of their wits when a friend of mine boasted about being escorted through a VIP route to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the Golden Temple. “OMG,” said one of my guests, stunned by my friend’s sensibility towards God. “Oh ji, it takes one full day otherwise. And, God understands,” was my friend’s quick reply.
Sensibility or no sensibility, but if you take away balle balle, chak de and burrah from a Punjabi, the world will become one heck of a boring place.
Punjabi by nature is a fortnightly column. The columnist is a Punjab-based author and journalist.