Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The idea of Punjabiyat

For a community that has experienced such fragmentation through the centuries, the Punjabi identity today is engaged in a remarkably active attempt at consolidation.

Malkit SinghThe moment we use the word Punjabiyat, it suggests a reference simultaneously to something that is very tangible while still elusive. This dual character opens the term to many imaginations and possibilities. Is Punjabiyat a concrete socio-political reality, a project, a movement in process, something in the making, a mere idea floated by some ivory-tower intellectuals and literary figures, a wishful dream of some Indo-Pakistani pacifists, a seductive fantasy of some Punjabi nationalists, a secular utopia envisioned by leftist nationalists, a business plan of market-seeking capitalists, or a dangerous regionalism dreaded by the nation states of India and Pakistan?

The tangibility of Punjabiyat derives from the recognition of Punjab as an area that once existed as a sovereign state, for the half-century between 1799 and 1849. In addition, it also derives from Punjabi as a language with a rich literary heritage, the Punjabi identity as a linguistic and regional one within both India and Pakistan, a transnational linguistic and cultural identity encompassing what are today Indian and Pakistani Punjabis and the global Punjabi diaspora. In this case, ‘culture’ can encompass language (especially its spoken for+m), food, dress, festivals, music, dance, humour, and rituals of happiness (relating to marriage or birth) and loss (death).

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