Friday, August 21, 2009

Punjab Before Partition - II

In the last post, one wrote about things learnt from grandparents, and thank you to all of you who contributed your own.

This part deals with things one knows about the socio economic strucure of the time. The source is again, family and literature of the period. Some of these snippets may be true only for some regions.. like the last time, please do add whatever u know.. without thinking too much. Am hoping that someday, there will be another curious child who will google to find out what Punjab was like before partition.. and will get some information..this is to help that searcher.. and me.
  • Saanjha Chulha: This was a reality. There was a common tandoor where the women went to make "rotis" - especially for dinner. Tandoors were typically not made inside the house.

  • Silver jewelry, bright colors and salma sitaare: Were all for the Muslims. Hindu girls did not wear any of this. Sequins were called "Salmaa sitaare" - and were absolutely forbidden on the dresses of Hindu-Sikh girls. As was any form of gold -silver embellishment. This group wore Phulkari, Crochet work, and , at most, kinaari(a sort of golden border) for festive occasions. Unmarried girls were not allowed to wear any makeup or good clothes. The Sindhis wore diamond jewelry.

  • Religion based segregation: There was the Hindu-Sikh part of the village and the Muslim part of the village. The segregation was complete - there was a separate well, separate lands, separate parts of the village. Usually, even the occupations were different. They did not share food or water . Not much social contact either. However, the "caste" based panchayats are a novelty. Because of the preponderance of Sikhs , the caste system was not too pronounced. (The Sikhs, theoretically, do not believe in caste)

  • The Sindhis were the traditional money lenders in this part of the world. Because they were into moneylending and the Punjabis were into borrowing, there was little love lost between these 2 communities. however, they could do without each other and thus was born a generation of jokes about the other community.

  • Marriage with the family: It was considered scandalous to ask to see the girl before marriage. The marriages were fixed by the respective elders (always male) and were solemnised before the groom(or anyone on the groom's side) ever set eyes on the bride. As for the groom, if the elders of the house, when they go to finalise the alliance, happen to meet the boy, it is fine. There was never any demand to see the boy.

  • Multan, Jhang and Punjab: Few of us know that Multan, Jhang, Punjab and Sindh were closely related provinces, each with its own dialect. Jhangi and Multani were separate dialects, albeit related to Punjabi.

  • The Eastern Punjabis: were considered not as good looking, lazy and manipulative. It was said that Ambarsar (Amritsar) onwards, only cunning ruled, not the sweat on the brow.. and that one must not trust the "zubaan" as much.. how can one fight perceptions!! In hindsight, they appear so ridiculous, yet i wonder about our perpetually judgemental perceptions today.

  • Hard Work was revered. One who works hard, tells the truth, and does not flash his/her wealth, was considered "good."

What do you remember? Please post comments.. Thank you!


Varun said...

IMHO, the family is a much bigger source than literature. Spending hours and hours with grannies and grandpas was always entertaining and much more engaging than reading about something you're disconnected to.

That said and done, I remember my daadi telling me they had 40 families in their village. Theirs was Hindu and the rest 39 were Muslim and they all lived a symbiotic relationship, that is, uptil the partition.

When the English civil servants (administrators) used to come to the pind for inspection, she used to prepare a grand feast and then procure a huge amount from the British officials as bill :-D
And I distinctly remember her telling me that the Britishers used to love raita!!

More to come as I jog my memory for stuff.

BTW, I will be making an 'ambarsar' trip with grandmother in October. Hope to share more after that!

Balvinder Singh said...

Though my parents and grand-parents were from this side of the Punjab but they had a number of relatives and friends from the western part of today's borders. My mother used to narrate very interesting stories of how the kids of sikhs, hindus and muslims used to play together, regardless of the sagregation of their localities. Muslims invariably had big 'hookas' in their 'havelis' and these kids used to sneak in and blow out the water by pumping air with their mouth into the mouth piece of the 'hooka' and later on get nice thrashing at home when one of the kids would spill the beans to the elders. Touching of 'hookas' by sikhs is considered sacrilegious .

During the bloodshed of partition the young men used to patrol the villages at night to avoid any untoward incident and attack by rioting groups. One night my father was discharging such duty. He bumped into an old man carrying a young child on his shoulders. He asked my father that what village it was. When my father told the name of the village which was notorious for such violence he gave out a loud sigh saying "allah! eh kitthey fas giya" (Oh God, where have i got stuck). He was a muslim and by taking advantage of the darkness he was escaping from the mindless violence which was going on on both sides of the borders of the Punjab. My father reassured him of his safety and along with another friend escorted him for a long distance to the neibouring village where he joined a group of muslims going towards Pakistan.

Onkar said...

So informative and interesting. One wishes to go back to the good old times.

The Phosgene Kid said...

I'd be interested in hearing more about food traditions

How do we know said...

Hi Varun: please please jog ur memory for more.. to think that things have changed so much in just 60 years! Wll wait for lots more comments from you..

Balvinder sir: Believe it or not, i was waiting for your comment. Please do jog your memory and let us know some more.. not just now, while this post is current.. kabhi bhi.. i know that each of ur contributions will be very important for those of us who are interested in understanding Punjab of yore.. the partition was just another time.. some people were mad about killing, the others equally mad about saving..:-)

Onkar sir: :-) One would at least like to document the times that were.. and something abt the extraordinary people that belonged to that era..

Hi Phos: Food..? umm.. lots of milk based products - milk, buttermilk, curds, butter, clarified butter.. lots of non veg - basically, the kind of diet required to sustain tough physical labour.

Manasi said...

very touching posts on Punjab... your sensitivity shines thorough!

i drifted in and our of Punjab a lot over the 2 decades i spent in India before coming to US and i can say that what i learned there are staying with me till the day i die... foremost lesson for me - Jo gupte so mukte... not just with material possessions but also strategically living my life around idiots and imbeciles alike...


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