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Poet, Singer, and Activist

Lohri Message 2013: Is Punjabi a Dying Language? It may well be!

Posted by on Jan 15, 2013 in Discussion | 0 comments

Lohri 4In view of the intense debate started about the future of one of the most ancient languages and associated cultures i.e. Punjabi and Punjabiat  and as a concerned citizen who watches this debate closely, I wrote an article titled, “Is Punjabi a Dying Language? and posted it on April 2, 2012. As usual I received some very interesting comments. One of the most recent comments that I received in the new year a few days ago was by Jehanzeb Mahar from Pakistan and I quote, “A few months ago, in Pakistan, parliamentarians from Sindh forwarded a bill calling for giving the status of national language to Punjabi, Sindhi, Pushto and Balochi, to a parliamentary committee. Amazingly, the members from Punjab, alongwith Urdu members, came out to be the most vocal opponents of the bill. So, the bill was rejected and couldn’t even be presented in the parliament for voting.” Vow! You should read that again and ponder!!
The question arises if the goodwill is any better on the eastern border of the Indus Valley?

Tradition has it that all Punjabis celebrate Lohri as a festival in their own ways, families get together and exchange good wishes. Not intending to water down the jubilations, I wonder how many of us really know the sober history behind it all. Reflecting on this and to bring it to the forefront of all concerned Punjabis living at home or in the Diaspora, I thought it appropriate to publish again the article as well as my Punjabi poem, ” Ma Boli Punjabie Tera Kon Vichara”, which I had written and posted on the website. Celebrating this ‘Lohri’ will not be complete unless it rekindles the spirit of ‘Dulla Bhatti’ of yesteryears who laid down his life saving the honor of a daughter of Punjab. From the ongoing it appears now the honor of Punjabi Ma is at stake!

On this note I leave you with the links to read my article as well as my poem and ponder :


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The Election Results Are In: The People of Punjab (PP) Make History in Punjab. Sort of.

Posted by on Mar 12, 2012 in Discussion | 0 comments

Punjab Elections 2012The results are in. Time for speculation, guesswork, grandiose speeches and political rallies are all over.  Never easier said than done. Time to get to work and make it happen!

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!

I’ve blogged about my views on this subject in the past: Just a week or so ago, I wrote “Known for making history Will Punjab make it on March 6? Prior to that I wrote two other blogs: On  January 10, 2012  titled ‘Election 2012: Land of Milk and Honey vs. Land of Drug Rivers‘ in which I tried to draw a parallel between the elections scheduled to be held in America vs. Punjab and last August, I wrote ‘Irony of Punjabis and our 2012 Election (Part 1 & 2). I also created a video of our Radio discussion covering Manpreet Badal’s visit to Californnia in which his Peoples Party of Punjab (PPP) was seen as a breath of fresh air. At the end of this Radio show, summing up my own feelings, I also sang a poem ‘Asee-n Pahruu Bne Saan. . . ‘ as part 2. Here it is below for your viewing:

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?


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Known for making history Will Punjab make it on March 6?

Posted by on Mar 3, 2012 in Discussion | 0 comments

Punjab Elections 2012It is Election Result Time again!
I wrote a blog on January 10, 2012 under the title ‘Election 2012: Land of Milk and Honey vs. Land of Drug Rivers’ in which I tried to draw a parallel between the elections scheduled to be held in America vs. Punjab. Prior to that I wrote another blog on Aug 15, 2011, titled ’Irony of Punjabis and our 2012 Election (Part 1 & 2). I also created a video of our Radio discussion covering Manpreet Badal’s visit to Californnia in which his  Peoples Party of Punjab (PPP) was seen as a breath of fresh air. At the end of this Radio show, summing up my own feelings, I also sang a poem ‘Asin Pahruu Bne Saan. . .  ‘ as part 2. And now this! When all is said and done about the elections and the chickens have come home to roost so to speak; All eyes and ears in Punjab are set on March 6.

Historically Punjab is known to have sprung surprises and make history at critical junctures. Will Punjab make it on March 6? Hearing a deafening silence not heard of before amongst politicians, media and Pundits of sorts, in all likelihood it appears that it will. If it did then the PP (People of Punjab), the PPP and the CEOP (Chief Electoral Officer Punjab) in that order ought to be appropriately recognized and congratulated!

First the PP ie the people of Punjab for actually making it. Then the PPP for being there. And finally for stemming the tide of drug/money river however briefly, the Chief Electoral Officer Punjab (CEOP) for bearing it out and being a witness. By some accounts during the election months, the so called ‘aam admi’ in Punjab appear to have enjoyed a better law and order and quality of life under the CEOP’s brief rule than the two chief ministers of both big parties combined.  Returning to the subject: How come the politicians known for being so very outspoken are scared to death to utter a word this time? Instead of their chest beating ritual and premature victory dance so disruptively familiar on these occasions in the past, this time they are waiting for March 6 worrying over the poll outcome almost with sealed lips and by tightly holding their breath . If nothing else, this 2012 election will go down in Punjab’s history as an election to be taken as a serious business it desrves to be. No more no less!

In order to make a history in my opinion however, it is not as important how much the PPP has to gain as it has nothing to lose; whether it is the seats that it wins or the vote share that it gets. To make history one would think, it is enough for the trio to shake up the musical chairs governing Punjab since 1952 with enough vote percentage to give it a jolt making both the big parties sit up. The idea being when you could not figure out the right answer sitting down, the conventional wisdom Punjabis always admire, would be to make you sit up in the classroom untill and unless you get it right. And wouldn’t that be a step towards making a history to get it right? Right! What do you think? As always I would greately apprecite your thoughts.

For linking it with my previous blogs on the same subject check it out at :



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Election 2012: Land of Milk and Honey vs. Land of Drug Rivers

Posted by on Jan 10, 2012 in Discussion | 0 comments

Punjab Elections 2012It is Election Time again!

While lines are being drawn here in America, the land of milk and honey, the battle has already begun back home in Punjab, where drugs flow in otherwise drying rivers. The drug problem that has been ravaging through Punjab is no longer something that can be swept under the carpet. It used to be a running joke in India that a housewife in Punnjab has to walk longer to buy the mirch-masala for her kitchen than for her son to get his alcohol or hard drugs delivered at home. What is interesting is while there are so many other ailments such as indebtedness, failed education system, law and order, mass unemployment amongst educated youth, human rights, corruption to name a few, which are dragging Punjab down, the same politicians who ignored the rising drug problem in Punjab for more than a decade, are now crying out loud to declare it as their top priority. It used to be that Punjabi politicians seeking funding from NRIs would talk about Punjab in romantic terms. Now, almost every politician tells us here that Punjab is in the Tube.

I don’t blindly endorse any particular party, but it invigorates me to see any chance of hope. Before Obama had even won the primaries back in 2007, I was so moved by the breath of fresh air he symbolized to the political landscape of American politics, that I wrote and sang a poem called “Obama de Naa’, which my son Navdeep S. Dhillon helped me to make it into a video slideshow and posted on you tube.

The only candidate from Punjab I had the oportunity to listen to live was Manpreet Badal.  Similar to my feelings on Obama before the primaries, I have great hope for Manpreet’s vision of Punjab and what he represents to the people of Punjab: HOPE!

First : Read my post, ‘Irony of Punjabis and our 2012 Election Part 1, and Part 2

And please also take a moment to listen to two poems: the first one I wrote back in 2008 before Obama had even won the Primaries, and the second one is taken from a radio show I co-host when I sang a poem as I see it, on what Manpreet Badal represents. As always, feel free to leave me a comment either on my YouTube Channel, down below, or on FaceBook, and I will be sure to respond!

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Punjab is in the Tube!

Posted by on Jan 10, 2011 in Discussion | 2 comments

A Relic of the Past: The Persian WheelA few days back I was invited by one of my friends to attend a dinner party he helped arrange to honor a promising legislator from Punjab. The dinner party took place in Fresno the uncrowned capital of California. Fresnans of the Punjabi community are unique in welcoming politicians of all parties with equal zeal and affection. Although weary of unkept promises to the NRIs by visiting politicians from Punjab in the past and not so good news from near and dear ones back home, they still appear to be ever so anxious to hear any leader big or small, in power or in an opposition party from Punjab tell them what he or she has to say. They love to share their concerns and ask questions in the hope of learning something positive or expecting something new. Any news giving them the hope that Punjab is not going down the tube.
Over the years, I have attended many such gatherings, and the questions posed this time were ones I have often heard over and over covering topics from rude treatment meted out by the Indian Consul General office in San Francisco for getting visas, rampant corruption, brain drain by mass exodus of youth in hopelessness leaving Punjab by whatever means; drugs, unemployment, farmer indebtedness and suicides, safety of NRI life and property in Punjab, and everything in between.

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