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HOW TO KNIT THE OVERSEAS PUNJABIS

HOW TO KNIT THE OVERSEAS PUNJABIS

Dr. Sukhdev Singh

Political boundaries of the Punjab have undergone changes many a times. The older generation still visualises a united Punjab that existed during the British rule. The region known as the land of five rivers has been a centre of "Punjabiat . After the partition of the country this Punjab was divided into two Parts the western Punjab became a part of Pakistan and the eastern Punjab became a partof z India. The existing Punjab on the Indian  side is only 13 percent of the united Punjab of the British days, though it was 38 per cent of the erstwhile province after the partition. The area of the existing the Punjab is only 1.53 per cent of the total area of the country Despite this political change, Punjab seems to have expanded rather than shrunk and it appears that besides the two Punjabs" mentioned above, two more Punjabs have taken shape: one of it is spread from Jammu Kashmir to Cape Comorin or even up to the Andaman and Nicobar islands in India, the other is spread over more than fifty countries all over the world. There is  hardly any region in  the world which is   so small but so Pervasive. Living abroad the Punjabis bring prosperity to their villages, towns, state, and the country as a whole. Wherever they go, they influence the socio-economic and socio-cultural life of the place hobnobbing into the local culture.
 The keen desire of the Punjabis  abroad to remain in touch with the Punjab is evident not cnly by the financial contribution which they have generously made available to the organisers of the World. Punjabi Conferences but also by their unmatched hospitality and affection which they have extended at various international meets. Clearly, the Punjabis abroad have a Passion for their cultural heritage and welcome the efforts made in this direction. Here are some suggestions which would go a long way in maintaining the contacts of Punjabis abroad with the Punjabi  Culture or "Punjabiat & their motherland.
 The foremost problem of the Punjabis abroad is their hunger for rich Punjabi culture since they face a cultural vacuum in an alien atmosphere. The feeling of solitariness is more in countries where Punjabis are less in number. I have myself experienced this feeling during my stay abroad particularly on the occasions of "Baisakhi"  "Lohri" ,"Dussehra", "Diwali" and other socio- religious festivals. In order- to overcome this cultural alienation it is essential that" Punjabi Cultural Centres should be set uP at Places having sizeabte Punjabi population. The Punjab Government and the Government of India should help in the establishment of these centres. Besides people living in the Punjab should send special greetings to their  hardly any  in the world which is  of Punjabis abroad with the Punjabi friend and relatives abroad on the occasions of fairs and festivals. They should also give them information Sout how to celebrate these festivals which will enlighten their children about these gay occasions. Iike wise, Punjabi cultural troupes, folk sinEers, theatre groups, and poets should be encouraged to visit these countries to entertain Punjabis living abroad. Our cultural and educational institutions should try to bridge this cultural cleft. The Punjabis living in the U.S.A., the U.K. Canada, Thailand, lndonesia, and the Phillipines etc. have constructed Gurdwaras, Temples and Mosques which also serve as cultural centres for the respective communities.
 Having spent several years outside Punjab I had the occasion to closely observe these migrants. I was in Madhya Pradesh for some time. and found several Punjabi institutions in Jabalpur which celebrate Punjabi festivals with great enthusiasm. Earlier Dussehra was celebrated in Madhya Pradesh without the burning of effigies of Ravana etc. This practice was introduced there by none other than the rollicking Punjabis. Baisakhi, an important festival of the Punjab is celebrated with great pomp and show in Mumbai. Evidently Punjabi festivals are enthusiastically celebrated with tremendous fan fare by Punjabis living in other parts of India as well as abroad.
 Educational institutions too can become catalyst between Punjabis abroad and "Punjabiat". For example, graduates from many educational institutions are serving at various places in foreign lands. If they form associations, they can establish contacts with their resPective institutions. A number of graduates of the Punjab Agricultural University are Working in the U.S.A. A few years ago, they started the American Chapter of the Punjab Agricultural University Alumni Association and today have 130 members. Iike wise, many graduates of Guru Nanak Engineering College, Ludhiana are working in North America and have formed Guru Nanak  Engineering College Overseas Alumni Associaiion. A number of medical graduates from different colleges of Punjab are working. in North America and other parts of the world. if they form similar alumni associations, they can revive links with their parent institutions" These associations can enlighten the members about the progress and problems of their Colleges, Universities which too can feel proud of their old students.
 It is essential that educational institutions in the Punjab should reserve seats for the children of Punjabis settled abroad. Although this practice creates problems for the candidates from the Punjab, yet it fulfils a legitimate demand of overseas Punjabis. Such reservation is necessary to extend educational opportunities to children of Punjabis living in foreign countries. Naturally, they have to incur greater expenses on fees and other facilities but these are still less then the expenses on education in the countries they have migrated to. Furthermore, the overseas Punjabis feel hesitant to expose their wards to a foreign culture in their tender age and are keen to give education in the Punjab itself. Adequate schools with hostel facilities should, therefore, be set up to meet their requirement. This would enable their children know various tenets of Indian Culture and appreciate it.
 A large number of Punjabi scientists, doctors, engineers, and other experts are also working in foreign countries. Whenever they happen to visit punjab they should write to proper education institution in the state which could organise their lectures and hold seminars in order to share their knowledge and experience.
 The overseas Punjabis are not aware of the striking development that has  taken place in the Punjab. It is therefore imperative that they are informed about this progress through the cultural centres. Every Punjabi is proud of the fact that against only 10 lac tons of wheat produced in the Punjab at the time of partition, the production has now reached 92 lac tons. In the same way, we produced only one lae ton of rice in 1950-51 but last year, our production of rice was rnore than 45 lac tons. Very few Punjabis know that Ludhiana has the third highest factory for manufacturing bicycles in the world.
The overseas Punjabis have  shown keen interest in remaining linked with the soil through matrimonial relations. Many Punjabi families come to the Punjab for this purpose only. Many Punjabis who have long been away from the Punjab face many problems in such matters. Matrimonial columns of daily newspapers are also a great help in this direction. Some social institutions should come forward to help and advise in this regard. lf overseas Punjabis have matrimonial relations with people in the State, they would remain linked with the land forever. Another pertinent Problem of overseas Punjabis is sustaining a contact with Punjabi language. Without this, the new generations would lose touch with the Punjab and the Punjabi Culture. The children learn the foreign language in schools and their social circles but they do not learn Punjabi if no one communicates with them in this language. lf they do not know Punjabi, they will fail to appreciate Punjabi culture. lt is not a difficult task, in fact merely a matter of firm determination that the parents use Punjabi in social and family circles there by giving children a chance to know their mother tongue and homeland. lt is a Pity that many Punjabis hesitate to sPeak to one another in their mother tongue. lf talking in a foriegn language is a sign of scholarship avoiding the use of mother tongue is a sign of intellectual slavery. Overseas Punjabis must use Punjabi in their homes if they wish to have perpetual connection with the rich culture of the Punjab. There is hardly any country in the world where people speak a foreign language at home and the Punjabis living outside the Punjab should own Punjabi which is a definite key to the treasure of the Punjab and the "Punjabiat".
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