As I had predicted, Punjab never fails. Over the heads of and leaving all of the political parties, pundits, media outlets, and the candidates themselves guessing, the People of Punjab (PP), if not the PPP, did make history of sorts on March 6, 2012. Many people have said things concerning democracy and about the people’s right to choose their government. Thomas Jefferson said, “The government you elect is the government you deserve,” and Mencken added to this idea, “People deserve the government they get, and they deserve to get it good and hard.” Someone put it even more aptly when they said, “A people deserve the government they permit.”
Now the People have spoken. Choices have been made. Beyond this, time will tell what is what!
I am not a gambling man, so I did not bet any money, but like everyone else, I also indulged in speculation on the unseen scenarios and what the outcome of the election might be. It was fortunate I am not a betting man because most of my predictions turned out to be flops! Unlike past elections, waiting for the results this time , the PPP factor had kept everyone in this game guessing with nobody confident in their predictions. There was no – as they say – “shoe in,” or assured answer. Even after the fact, confidants included, many were praying standing on one leg, or engaged in other superstition until the last ballot was in and the results were out.
What has had everyone, including myself, so riveted about this election is the fact that there was finally a third option. There were a record number of Punjabis who came out in droves to vote – 65% of Punjab’s 1.76 crore voters came to vote on Monday, with thousands lined up outside of the polling booths!
A few years back while attending the Anniversary of Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna at the late great freedom fighter’s border village of Bhakna, in district Amritsar (where I grew up), I heard a guest speaker from Bengal who said something unremarkably remarkable. In his sharp and short speech as the main speaker, he used a familiar, but rustic Punjabi metaphor in a way I had never heard from a non Punjabi before (details in the subsequent paragraphs). I cannot recall the gentleman’s name, but he was speaking Hindi-ised Punjabi in a Bengali accent, but was easily understood as he was making a perfect communicational sense with the audience. I say this because narrating someone their own story is not an easy task. He had everyone’s full attention, they were all seated and quietly listening to him without talking amongst themselves, with frequent laughs that were almost filled with tears, and ending with an enthusiastic Punjabi style applause.
The 5 year Congress rule in Punjab was ending that year. The indebtedness was rising. The farmer suicide and female faeticde numbers in Punjab peaked the highest in the country. The only rivers flowing pure and simple were the drug rivers. The Akalies were oiling their whips getting ready to snatch the musical chairs in the comming elections from the Congress which they had been alternating with them every 5 years since 1952. At one point the not so large but attentive crowd gathered in the now Govt. Higher Secondry School football grounds (formerly known as Janta High School Bhakna I graduated from in 1956) that came to pay a homage to one of their very own at his Anniversary burst into a laughter; they very well could have cried.
Addressing or redressing the irony of Punjab and Punjabis, he beamed from the make shift stage saying,”O’ Punjabio, DeshBhagto, Unn Dateo te Qaom de Rakhwalio! Hor Lokan te Trs Krn Waleo, Aapne te Aapne Bacheaa-n Te bhee Trs Kro. Kuchh Hosh Kro. Kiney Salon se Aap 100 Gandhey bhee Kha Rhe Ho aur 100 Chhittar bhee. ( note: if you are a Punjabi and haven’t heard this metaphor before, ask someone older than you what it means). Meri Mno Aur Tthore Chavl bhee Kha lieya Kro. Congress-Akali, Congress- Akali. (100 Chhittar-100 Onions). Oi Do(2) ton Agey bhee te ginti hoti haigi. Koi Teesri Dhir (Third alternative) Barey bhee Kde Socho!” In a nutshell this roughly translates that you have seen Akalies and Congress akin to a choice between eating 100 onions or receiving a 100 shoe beating over the head every 5 years and counting for too long now. Wake up and think of a third and better alternative that you deserve.
Incidently that reminds me of another Bengali brother Rabinder Nath Tagore. Having fully identified himself and sympethised with his Punjabi brethern as to what went on with them at the Jallianwalla Bagh in 1919 at Amritsar, Tagore had written a scathing letter to the then British perpetrators and in total sympathy with the brave people of Punjab he had returned his knighthood in protest when the Punjabi intellectual stallwarts of the time looked the other way.
Returning to the subject: Although the people of Punjab felt very uncomfortable and confused beyond the familiar two parties they had always known; they did atleast dare to consider a third alternative during this election even if it did not go anywhere this time. Considered a sheer coincidence by some and an unusual set of circumstance by others, the People of Punjab may have created a history of another sort. Unlike choosing to switching for 100 Chhittars midway after having enough of eating onions every 5 years and vice verse as in the past, they dared to choose to continue eating 100 onions with the SAD Alliance however bitter, all the way to the finish in this election to see if that works to remove the irony, lift the everlooming curse over Punjab and finally change their fate as has been touted since independence, to set the ‘ aam admi’ free. To empower him/her out of deprivation, ignorance and helplessness enough to stand on their own two feet and not look for freebies in the form of subsidies, atta dal or anything else at the mercy of the government. Welfare programs do have an important place in everry compassionate society no doubt but instead of keep giving its hungry people a fish the governments’ ought to enable them how to catch fish. Amin!
But would the Punjabis consider eating rice also as our Bengali brother had suggested in his speech? I wish we were all there in Bhakna to listen to him or should we all attend Baba Bhakna’s Anniversaries from now on? May be that Bengali brother come back again with another metaphor, phrase or word of wisdom from our own past to make us laugh if not put to shame! In my view that could be the beginning of remaking our history as envisaged by the Ghadrites, Bhagat Singh and the likes of all other freedom fighters!
What are your thoughts?