My column today is a response to a slew of emails from my fellow Punjabis who repeatedly ask me what we all can do collectively that can make it look like we are standing up for our rights.
(Illustration: Daljeet Kaur Sandhu/HT)
In medical terms, ‘standing up’ would literally mean keeping the spine erect, which unfortunately is not the case with us anymore; especially given the way we have started diving for the politician’s feet.
I am at times ashamed and embarrassed to see how highly educated and accomplished men and women perform this act without even understanding the meaning behind the ritual. As a first step to stand up, Punjabis must stop this practice of playing sycophant to the politician. Not only will this realisation help getting over the permanent stoop, it will also go a long way in establishing the way we want our politicians to view us, as well as clear the air with him - that respect cannot be demanded but can only be earned through earnest work.
My second piece of advice would be that please stop idol worshiping people with more money than you. I feel sick to the gut when I see the Punjabi pride fall apart for a guy with a big car.
This sucking-up business unfortunately is reflective of the intellectual decline in the society, because of which, we have become under confident in our own abilities. To put the record straight I am not promoting arrogance, nor devaluing the value system. In fact, showing disrespect is not part of the Punjabi ethos. What I am simply proposing here is that you must give every person the respect he deserves; but flattery, pardon me, is a no, no. Rather, draw inspiration from the other fellow’s success and not awe. For a moment, just analyse where our character is headed. We are abusing the downtrodden and folding hands in front of the more powerful.
The third important thing that comes to mind is that it’s time Punjabis demanded a clean Punjab. It is just unbelievable how we are letting our elected representatives get away with giving us potholed roads, garbage, open gutters and all kinds of nonsense. And yes, let’s do our bit too, without which, we are hardly entitled to stand up.
Fourthly, I am a strong advocate of airing and expressing problems publicly. Don’t treat crucial issues as ‘none of my business’, because the system at some point is going to get you - be it through accident, rape, dacoity, cancer, medical emergency, etc, etc. A friend, who always played this ‘none of my business’ tactic, recently told me that he has been inspired by my barking nature.
Yes, bark. Remember, senior lawyer Ram Jethmalani’s famous words while responding to late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s comment, who had called him a barking dog. ‘Yes, dogs bark, but at thieves,’ Jethmalani had replied. Social media is a huge tool and all of you must become members of Twitter and Facebook to air you grievances. The catch, however, is to remain decent and within the framework of etiquette and law, because only then will you be heard.
Punjabis have a very poor track record for standing up for women causes. We will have to shun this parochial attitude towards women and give them every chance to flourish, be it in the field of business, education, politics or professional life. And my advice for the daughter-in-law is, go ahead and deliver the girl child. You will be doing Punjab a huge favour.
Punjabis, do you have the guts to say no to big fat weddings? Come on, folks. There is so much more you can do with your bank balance than blowing it away just for ‘tohr’. Consider investing your fat bank balances in educating Punjab’s youth.
The next thing Punjabis seriously need to consider is questioning the authorities about how are they dealing with the drug menace in Punjab. The substances from across the border apart, are you even aware that the chemist shops are turning killer? Create neighbourhood vigil groups that will ensure that your chemist is not handing out drugs without prescription. Now, like typical Punjabis, please do not click on the ‘none of the above’ option. As Abraham Lincoln said, ‘there is an invisible power in the unity of people’. So, stand up Punjab.
The columnist is a Punjab-based author and journalist. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.singhkhushwant.com