Punjab might not be hosting the NRI Sammelan this winter, but that hasn’t stopped my overseas kin from returning to their motherland for the year-end trip. Their issues remain the same – insecurity about their property, the urgent need for cheaper dental treatment, and frantic shopping for suits-and-dupattas, vests-and-briefs, pots-and-pans. They continue to complain about corruption, red tape and Aswachh Bharat. Ever grateful to them for gifting me ‘Made in China’ items, I have a few tips that can save them from land-grab and other inconveniences. Here they come:
Avoid taxi service while travelling within Progressive Punjab. Hire a car and drive it yourself. Yes, this will be a Herculean task, considering the bumpy roads and chaotic traffic, but you’ll manage to keep awaythe shady taxi drivers – who usually work as spies for the anti-social network.
Never trust locals who roll out the red carpet for you. Their honey-dripping hospitality is often a ploy to woo you and gobble up your jaddi-pushti jameen. Prefer the people who barely offer you a cup of tea. Such fellows don’t give a damn whether you live in Am-reeka or Ca-nay-da. Suppress your ego and win their confidence by expressing how much you miss Punjab di mitti and how tough’s life in the West. The clinching argument: frankly say that you didn’t bring anything for them as everything’s available right here in India. This will make their swadeshi chest expand to 56 inches and you’ll get all the help you want.
During those customary visits to the tehsil office, look desi. Wear something ethnic rather than Fcuk jeans and Tommy H T-shirts. Leave the gaudy gold chains at home. This will help you mingle with the crowd and not attract the attention of land sharks and touts. Reel off ancient words such as jamabandi, mukhtarnama and jumla mushtarka malkan as if you learnt these in kindergarten. Cut out the ‘yeah-yeahs’ and the ‘olrights’. They are a dead give-away and an open invitation to property wheeler-dealers.
Whenever you enter a police station, always use the higher rank to address the cops. Call the head constable ‘inspector saab’ and the inspector ‘DSP saab’. Congratulate them for having arrested four terrorists in four days. Tell them that you have a high opinion of the Punjab police and a low opinion of Khalistan. This will make them feel good and proud, and you might get a patient ear for your complaint.
Never reveal your travel schedule to revenue/police officials. Even if you are in India for just four weeks, tell them you’ll go back not before six months as your sons are there to look after your humble grocery store (don’t utter a word about your gas stations or restaurants, as these will make the officials’ mouths water).
Play the good Samaritan. Donate bicycles to girl students of your pind, preferably those models which don’t have photos of a smiling chief minister. Endear yourself to the villagers by holding kabaddi tournaments and de-addiction camps. Give a hard-hitting speech on nasha-mukti, but don’t tell the audience that your own kids go high on grass once in a while.
In case all these methods come a cropper, take a double pledge with your hand raised above an unlit candle: One, you’ll never return to India; and two, you’ll never read my column again.