The all consuming aspiration of large numbers of Punjabis to settle permanently abroad can sometimes assume bizarre forms.
One such is the sight at the main sanctum of Gurdwara Sant Baba Nihal Singh Ji Shaheedan in Talhan, a small settlement 10 km east of Jalandhar, which looks like a child’s nursery. That too of a child obsessed with aviation. It is littered with dozens of toy aeroplanes of various sizes and colours.
The planes are all devotees’ offerings. They offer them in the hope that the Lord will bless their efforts to board one such flight and get away from India for good. It works, many devotees insist.
Exactly a year ago, when she first applied for an American visa, Rajwinder Kaur, 27, faced all kinds of difficulties.
She offered a toy plane at gurudwara and, lo and behold, two months later, her visa was cleared.
“She has been living in the US for 10 months now,” said her brother Daljit Singh, resident of Talhan.
The family had an Akhand Path (recitation of the holy Guru Granth Sahib) conducted at the gurdwara a few weeks ago to thank the lord.
Similar was the case of Jagjit Singh who had a work permit to live in Britain, but wanted to emigrate to the US.
“His passport was inadvertantly damaged by his little daughter,” said his father Gurmail Singh of village Ghai Nagar.
“When he applied for a US visa with his new passport, he was turned down. But we offered a toy plane at the gurudwara and the embassy reversed its decision. He is now settled in Miami.”
Around 40 such planes are offered at the gurudwara every week. “We don't approve of such superstition, but the devotees’ faith is so strong that we allow them,” said gurudwara manager Balvir Singh.
Several shops have sprung up in the vicinity which sell these toys, greatly overpriced at Rs 125 to Rs 450 each, depending on size.