Friday, December 03, 2004

balle balle, bulla shah, and how punjabiyat will save us all....

I read the news today, oh boy....
Actually yesterday.

The Chief Minsiter of Pakistani Punjab, Chaudhary Pervaiz Elahi, was in Amritsar for the World Punjabi Day Celebrations.
On the drive from the airport to the Golden Temple, the road was lined by cheering children waving flags of India and Pakistan, and college students dancing the bhangra on roundabouts.
Pervaiz Elahi was hailed as a true 'Punjab da Puttar'....

An edit page article in the Indian Express called the 'Balle Balle Bridge' noted

Punjab, Punjabi and Punjabiyat may achieve what the foreign offices in India and Pakistan cannot

Could Punjabi provide the idiom to rescue India-Pakistan relations from the leaden grip of diplomatic jargon? Could joint celebrations of Punjabiyat catalyse a breakthrough that’s eluded decades of confidence-building measures? This week, as artistes and sportspersons from East and West Punjab congregate in Patiala to “revive the spirit of Punjab, Punjabi and Punjabiyat”, a qualitative change is tantalisingly within sight. Border crossings are of course always good news. They add depth to dialogue conducted by the political class, and expand public ownership of the peace process. Punjab as the site of engagement, however, is particularly interesting. For so long memories of 1947 — of those mass migrations and senseless violence — have sustained demonic projections of the Other. They have provided a subtext to bilateral suspicion that the Other is out to settle scores. With the people of the bifurcated state now reclaiming a shared Punjabiyat, the source of so much inherited animus will hopefully run dry.

What i find strange is how easily the Balle Balle Bridge is being constucted. Considering that an integral element of this Punjabiyat - now, for peace - has been the macho masculine posturing that has characterised the standoff between the countries. Think Sunny Deol in Gadar, where as love struck truck-driver Tara Singh, he wipes out the Pakistani Army barehanded. Or well, on the Pakistani Side, the hugely popular Maula Jatt, a Punjabi action flick which reportedly makes Rambo look like Bambi... It's this bellicose macho Punjabiyat, rapidly becoming the national mainstream in both India and Pakistan, which has pumped up the cultural hatred for so many years... Think the guuards on both sides at the Wagah ceremonies. Think the road rage in Delhi...

... And now Balle Balle saves the day...

As Monica said, when I read yesterday's news out to her, So basically if Gandhi had just learned to do the Bhangra instead of fasting, Partition wouldn't have happened.

Dandi to Dandi-ya, to Bhangra....
A syncopated Gandhi dancing to the tune of Sunny Deol mouthing 'Punjabi!'

...This is a Disneyland Peace.

The real basis for peace, the real 'Punjabiyat'... for want of a better word, is perhaps seen in a video airing on musical channels these days, reinterpreting the words of a Punjabi ' Muslim' Sufi saint from the eighteenth century, as sung by a young Sikh singer, Rabbi Shergill. A song which acheived imense popularity on the other side of the border a few years ago when sung by the Pakistani band, Junoon.

Bulleh! ki jaana maen kaun Bulleh! to me, I am not known


Na maen momin vich maseet aan
Na maen vich kufar diyan reet aan
Na maen paakaan vich paleet aan
Na maen moosa na pharaun.

Bulleh! ki jaana maen kaun

Na maen andar ved kitaab aan,
Na vich bhangaan na sharaab aan
Na vich rindaan masat kharaab aan
Na vich jaagan na vich saun.

Bulleh! ki jaana maen kaun.

Na vich shaadi na ghamnaaki
Na maen vich paleeti paaki
Na maen aabi na maen khaki
Na maen aatish na maen paun

Bulleh!, ki jaana maen kaun

Na maen arabi na lahori
Na maen hindi shehar nagauri
Na hindu na turak peshawri
Na maen rehnda vich nadaun

Bulla, ki jaana maen kaun

Na maen bheth mazhab da paaya
Ne maen aadam havva jaaya
Na maen apna naam dharaaya
Na vich baitthan na vich bhaun

Bulleh , ki jaana maen kaun

Avval aakhir aap nu jaana
Na koi dooja hor pehchaana
Maethon hor na koi siyaana
Bulla! ooh khadda hai kaun

Bulla, ki jaana maen kaun


Not a believer inside the mosque, am I
Nor a pagan disciple of false rites
Not the pure amongst the impure
Neither Moses, nor the Pharoh

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

Not in the holy Vedas, am I
Nor in opium, neither in wine
Not in the drunkard`s intoxicated craze
Niether awake, nor in a sleeping daze

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

In happiness nor in sorrow, am I
Neither clean, nor a filthy mire
Not from water, nor from earth
Neither fire, nor from air, is my birth

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

Not an Arab, nor Lahori
Neither Hindi, nor Nagauri
Hindu, Turk (Muslim), nor Peshawari
Nor do I live in Nadaun

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

Secrets of religion, I have not known
From Adam and Eve, I am not born
I am not the name I assume
Not in stillness, nor on the move

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

I am the first, I am the last
None other, have I ever known
I am the wisest of them all
Bulleh! do I stand alone?

Bulleh! to me, I am not known


--- x ---

The song remains the same.
Sung by Pakistani Muslims, sung by an Indian Sikh.
I am Bullah. But then so are you.
I, Bullah, do not know who I am.
I do know what I am not, what my identity cannot be essentialized as.
I am not a mosque going Muslim, yet i hang out at the tombs of Muslim holy men.
I am not a Hindu, whatever my name might suggest to you, though i know my Sanskrit shlokas, and I belive in the sacredness of the Narmada river.
I have lived in Bangkok, Lucknow, Cochin, Delhi. None of them defines who I am.
I am an Indian, but I love a city across the border - Lahore.
I love the Punjabi of Bulle Shah, of Junoon, of Rabbi Shergill, and yet I object to being essentialised as Punjabi.

For it is not Punjabi and Punjabiyat that wills save us, but the ability to look beyond the borders - of nation, of region, of self - borders that prevent us from living but for which we are willing to die.

Only then, as Bulle/Bullah Shah once wrote - Ho gayi teri balle balle. Ho jaayegi balle bale....


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