In the Majha of Punjab…

I think I am a child of Border Areas, deprived of that certain sense of belonging which comes with living in the mainland. Our world lies sequestered between the barbed wire of the enemy on one side and the picket fence of the society on the other. That vaunted culture doesn’t run in our blood, for it has been shed too often. We don’t like to waste our evenings listening to lifesaving hymns but would rather drink and dine to the glory of those who entered Valhalla from here. The rumble of tanks at Patton Nagar of Khemkaran, the clinking of grenades unpinned by Havaldar Abdul Hamid at village Assal Uttar and the sonic boom from the aircraft dogfights over Tarn Taran still reverberate in our souls. We have chosen backwardness over backing out.


There are three symbolic routines that a man will keep on exhibiting in his actions, repeating them for his whole life: reclaiming the land, rekindling the love and reliving the memories. The land he may never have owned. The love that wasn’t even realized. Memories for which there could be no precedent at all. In Majha, these primal emotions start influencing me too. I feel like putting my ear to the ground or grabbing a fistful of that red soil. I begin hearing the faint tunes of tradition, traces of culture start rushing through my veins. A notion of identity and belonging firms up, as destiny beckons me to chart my own course there.

Love Sans Gurdwaras – Chapati Mystery

Originally published by Chapati Mystery:

The latent passions of this land are steeped in love and longing. If one sees Punjab solely from the perspective of its oral traditions, local continuities and folklore, then the picture that emerges is in complete contrast to the drubbed, kitschy monochrome making its way to the mainstream. It is the unquestionable faith and conviction of its peoples, which have often subverted the rigid precepts of religion and nationalism, to create identity markers that are more organically rooted in the mythos and geography.

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Hacking Indian Journalism for Fun and Profit – Seminar

Originally published by Seminar and National Interest:

An average Indian journalist is like a teat pipette which spills more than it can suck to wreak havoc on the contemporary narrative. That is how Hunter S Thompson would have opined, if the S ever stood for Singh, which, I believe, could very well be the case. There are times when my dehorned scalp itches like anything to unleash the mendacity that I have acquired lately. I am tempted to conduct elaborate cyber-infiltration operations on these batty little boobs, exposing their gooey underbellies and scaring them so much that they run out giving a synchronised Wilhelm scream. But, of course, things like these have never fallen under my moral purview and, moreover, they require some institutional backing. I do, nonetheless, wonder if Indian journalists need to be terrorised like that, especially when they are so good at bitch-slapping each other.

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Probe caste-based segregation in gurdwaras, panel tells Punjab DGP – The Hindu

Originally published by The Hindu:

The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) has issued a notice to the Punjab Director General of Police (DGP) to investigate and reply to charges about caste-based segregation in historic gurdwaras of the State.

The NCSC notice that comes on a representation by Abroo, a socio-political initiative working for empowerment of the marginalised in Punjab, was also studied by its own Atrocities and Protection of Civil Rights Wing.

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Thinking offensively! – The Seminar Magazine

Published in the Seminar magazine:

IF one were to believe the stream of news stories emerging while the dust of 26/11 was just settling, the key functionaries from India’s security establishment were all huddled together in a crisis room of sorts, as the attack was underway, to explore retaliatory options that would send a stern message to the perpetrators. During those tense moments, one of the viable alternatives discussed was undertaking surgical strikes on the safe houses and the training camps of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD). A consensus was almost reached, up until an embarrassing realization that the conventional sources of intelligence active within Pakistan over the years didn’t have the geographical coordinates to facilitate the offensive.

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God Just Left the Gurdwara – Newslaundry

Published by Newslaundry:

A vignette of emotions, centered on a perverse ritual being practiced in a 350-year old Sikh seminary. How a search for the origins of “Chauthey Paurey Wale”, a spiritually sanctioned cussword for the low-caste Sikhs, also unearthed the true story of a folk hero, Bidhi Chand Chhina, in a village so old that it’s said to be the birthplace of Shiva. The mutiny of a renouncer that was Bidhi Chand and the lingering doubts it left about the politics of the Gurus.


THE SUN WAS BARELY OVER the yardarm, but my shopkeeper friends from Guru Bazaar had already bantered away for nearly an hour. The billowing clay oven, from the rundown corner shop across the street, spitted out Ambarsari kulche at a frantic pace, as the passers-by stopped for a quick brunch. Vendors and wayfarers from the nearby villages scouted for early trades, while the market was still waking up to the clanking of steel utensils, being rearranged on the pavements of two prominent stores.


My jaunts and jamborees in the city of Tarn Taran generally began by afternoon, but on an unusually crisp morning of December, we had gathered early at the behest of “Pardhaan” Balbir Singh. Though the slight readjustment of schedules had left everyone anxious and even imparted them with a certain sense of purpose, that group of shopkeepers couldn’t let go the customary tea, stretching the chitchat for so long—as if serious trysting would have taken away all the fun.

Pardhaan glanced at the watch and rose to fetch his bicycle.

Pukhraj ‘Sian’! Ajj tainu kujj kamm de bandeya naal milauna ai, naale o kitaab vi davauni aa!”

(We are meeting some important people today, Pukhraj “Sian”, and I have to get that book for you!)

Careening over the pedals, he addressed me affectionately in a melodic tenor exuding rural rusticity and religiosity. As every muscle on his face contorted to deliver that perfect ‘Duchenne smile’, I couldn’t help but think how Pardhaan ji had always reminded me of the popular folk singer, Pammi Bai. I was quite fond of the old man—a local milk distributor, the elected head of a small city gurdwara and, most importantly, a liberated Sikh who had time-and-again chaperoned me on the social suavities of Punjab’s countryside.
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