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Turban vs Patka

chandigarh Updated: May 08, 2012 12:03 IST
Khushwant Singh
Khushwant Singh
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Turban bans never fail to spark a debate. Khushwant Singh takes on this issue and on a lighter note, tells us the secret to living past a hundred years from two sporting legends

The recent incident in Shimla where the Sikhs were offended by a school principal's act of not allowing a Sikh student to wear a turban, reminded me of an incident of my school days. I was in an Irish Brothers school in Chandigarh and my class teacher in grade tenth was an Irishman, Brother Burke.

He was a stickler for punctuality and I the opposite, hence, was quite often ticked for arriving late to school. One of the standard alibis that I had started using was that I had newly learnt how to tie a turban and it took an enormous amount of time to tie it. The truth for the late arrival however lay in the fact that I would waste crucial minutes outside Carmel Convent School gazing at the girls.

Being a highly sensitive period in Punjab, since I am referring to the year, 1989, I thought that the brother would give me some concession and I would get away with my cheeky habit. Bro. Burke did ignore my coming late to school on a few occasions, but he finally put his foot down a week later and warned me that since the turban was making me unpunctual to school, I would not be allowed to wear the turban and had to come in a patka only.

I was highly offended by the Brother's remark that how dare he disallow me from wearing a turban, a symbol of my religion. I thought of ways to rake up this issue and teach this Irish bloke a lesson. Something sensible prevailed since the brother was right, and I started coming to school on time with the turban, which he happily allowed.

The point I am trying to make is that if the recent Shimla incident or similar incidents that we keep hearing have a background such as the one that I just shared, then I would urge the Sikh advocacy groups not to get unnecessarily excited and create a hue and cry about the issue.

However, if the principal of the school has put a blanket ban on wearing turbans to school, I have no inhibition in saying that he is a very immature man, not fit to be a principal of a school. Imagine being a principal of a school in Shimla and not being aware about the culture and the customs of the Sikhs. If such a stupid rule was made in a school in Ohio, USA, I could still understand.

Punjab vs Bengal
Recently many centenarians have been making news. My attention was particularly drawn towards Indian born Briton, Fauja Singh, the 101-year-old marathon runner and the 100-year-old body builder and India's first Mr Universe, Manohar Aich, from Kolkata. What intrigued me most were the stark differences and similarities between their diets, and both vouching that their staple diets are the perfect recipes for longevity.

According to Fauja Singh, alsi di pinni, works magic for him. A few spoons of crushed pinni in the morning and he is raring to go. Aich swears by a dish called panta bhateer (rice cooked the day earlier and left to ferment by adding water). In a recent interview to an Indian weekly he said, "Panta bhateer jol, tin jowaner Bol" (the water of fermented rice can give power to three strong men) which literally means the power of the local Bacchus. Incidentally, our man Fauja is also known to have been consuming a good quantity of Bacchus in his younger days.

Fauja Singh stays miles away from rice and claims it causes gas in his body. Fauja prefers a chapatti or a slice of brown bread dipped in curd or milk, the latter being easier to eat, given his brittle teeth.

Both the sportsmen however seem to be fond of lentils and Fauja usually blends his serving with a lot of ginger. Fauja is a tea drinker and is crazy for milk shakes, whereas Aich prefers coffee and juice. However, be it rice or chapatti, the one thing to learn from both these legends is the art to eat less. Both vouch for this.

Punjabi by nature is a fortnightly column. The columnist is a Punjab-based author and journalist.