By Rajwant Singh Chilana,
Special to The Post
This title by Colonel Jasbir Singh Khurana's focuses on Punjabi cultural heritage and documents the many everyday cultural items and 'artifacts' that comprise Punjabiyat or the essence of being Punjabi.
At the heart of the Punjabi ethos lays a humour-tinged, even sardonic pragmatism. The erosion of this cultural heritage has intensified efforts for its preservation simultaneously with our lament.
At weddings, we wonder who among us is going to sing that plaintive ditty when that old, revered aunt or grandmother is no longer with us. Looking around at our siblings and cousins, we are hard-pressed to find somebody who knows something about the countless little customs and traditions that form an integral part of the ceremony.
A brief look at its chapter headings illustrates this focus on folk culture. Out of eight chapters, six describe various Punjabi festivals, folk music and dance, romantic legends, proverbs, folk beliefs, superstitions and handicrafts.
There's a foreword by Kuldip Nayar who voices misgivings at the sorry state of Punjabi in Pakistan, where Urdu has been enforced vigorously at the expense of the local language.
He comes down heavily on the Indian Punjab too where people have 'mongrelised' the language and don't give it its due. The chapter on the people of Punjab deals with the subdivisions in the Punjabi language and is good for an interesting reading.
The appendices fill out the main body with a glossary of eminent Punjabis, songs and proverbs, sayings and ditties. By including personalities from both sides of the border, they also point to the breadth and inclusiveness of the Punjabi ethos – something which is often overlooked due to our modern day regional and national chauvinism.
For a non-Punjabi this book is a quick introduction to Punjabiyat, a dynamic part of India's vibrant national culture. For a Punjabi, what gives this book its value is its ability to pique your interest to know more about all things Punjabi — phulkari, or Waris Shah or folk music.
It reminds us about how much we don't know, or how much we've neglected to know about you.
Punjabiyat is available from Asian Publication located in Surrey. More information go to www.asianpublications.com
or call 604 597 5837.