Udta Punjab could easily be named Ujarata (shattering or falling apart) Punjab. Many people in Punjab do not feel that things are moving in the right direction. Generally, the Haryana people are more upbeat.
By Dr. Sawraj Singh
My wife was very sad after she saw the movie Udta Punjab. I had a difficult time trying to convince her to see the movie Sultan. She said that she did not want to see another movie for a while. However, after seeing the movie Sultan, she felt good. The two movies inadvertently compare Punjab and Haryana, the two neighboring states which used to be parts of one state, joint Punjab. Things are very different in the states and the leading communities in the states (Jatt and Jat) seem to have taken completely different courses. These communities, which are genetically very close and are only separated by a semi-vowel, seem to be moving in completely opposite directions. Udta Punjab and Sultan have succeeded in fairly accurately portraying the moods and spirits in Punjab and Haryana, and in the Jatt and the Jat communities.
It is true that to dramatize or make a movie, facts are exaggerated if not stretched a little, yet the general direction of movements in the two states and the states of mind of their people, particularly of the leading communities, seems close to reality. Udta Punjab could easily be named Ujarata (shattering or falling apart) Punjab. Many people in Punjab do not feel that things are moving in the right direction. Generally, the Haryana people are more upbeat. The difference can even be felt in Ambala which is right next to Punjab and has a very large population of Punjabis. In a meeting of writers and intellectuals in Ambala, people told me that the location of Ambala was ideal; a good train would take you to Delhi in about two hours. Interestingly, about twenty years ago, I used to hear that a lot in Rajpura, which so is close to Ambala. Many times, you would hear that a good driver could take you to Delhi (by car) in about three hours. You do not hear such things in Rajpura anymore.
I feel that the main reason for the social instability and family disintegration in Punjab is the massive migration out of the state, which has reached the proportion of an exodus. One time, due to unavoidable circumstances, my wife and I had to share a taxi ride from Chandigarh to Patiala with a very impressive and graceful woman and her son. They invited us to their palatial home in a very posh colony of Patiala. The husband was a big landlord. All the time we spent together, their only son, about fifteen, talked about his excitement of soon migrating to England. My wife met a very good-looking girl in an exclusive gym in Patiala. She invited her for a cup of tea. The girl told us that she belonged to a big landlord family which owned a big farm near Patiala. She talked a lot about the history and traditions of their family. A few days later, my wife saw her walking with a boy. She introduced him to us and said that he is her younger brother (only son of the family). The first thing the boy said was that he was migrating to Canada very shortly.
The movie Sultan shows that Haryana youth feel that they can achieve a lot by staying here. However, the only future the Punjabi youth see for themselves is in migrating out of here by whatever means it takes. A Haryana girl is proud if she becomes a state-level or national-level athlete or wrestler. The quest of a Punjabi girl to migrate can reach almost desperation. A seventeen-year old girl in Patiala was talking seriously about a seventy-year old man. She said that she does not mind marrying him or having any type of relation with him if he helps her to migrate. Punjabi psyche, particularly of the leading community, seems to have become the psyche of uprooted and nomadic people. In such conditions, social stability and social and family relations become the biggest victims.
My first exposure to the Jat community was in my childhood when my father got transferred to Jind. I found Jats, particularly their women, simple, straight-forward, honest and hard-working. All of these qualities were beautifully brought out by Kangana Ranaut in her movie Tanu Weds Manu: Returns and then by Anushka Sharma and Salman Khan in their movie Sultan. I liked the movies because I could relate to the characters. However, I am not alone in liking these movies; these movies became very, very popular. Most of the people like social stability, preservation of culture, traditions, value system and family relations. In all these fields, Haryana seems to be doing much better than Punjab, and the difference is most marked in the leading communities in the two states.
Some people say that the difference in the two states is because the center favors Haryana and discriminates against Punjab. I feel this is a very complicated and multi-dimensional problem. There are economic, social, cultural and historical factors. However, in the era of Globalization, cultural factors are playing a very important role. Punjab has become the epicenter of consumerism in India. As a result of the dominance of western consumer culture, Punjab has lost its traditional culture and value system more than the other states in India. As a result of this loss, Punjab has become more unstable, and the disintegration of family and weakening of social relations is also more in Punjab compared to other states. This is adversely affecting the physical and mental health of Punjabis. A comparative study between the Jatts of Punjab and the Jats of Haryana should be undertaken by a university or some independent group.
I feel that the results of such a comparative study are going to show that while the Punjabi Jatts are more likely to lead in the ownership of consumer goods such as cars, TVs, computers, refrigerators, smart phones and tablets; the Jats of Haryana are more likely to have more stable family and social relations. The incidence of divorce and broken marriages will be less. I feel that the Jats of Haryana are healthier than the Jatts of Punjab both physically and mentally. The incidence of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes is less in Jats of Haryana. Similarly, the incidence of mental diseases, particularly anxiety and depression, is less in the Jats of Haryana. The incidence of suicide is much less in Haryana farmers than in Punjabi farmers.
I think that we need a comparative study to find out whether my impressions are correct or not. If my impressions are verified by objective findings of a comparative study, then we can conclude that having more consumer goods neither makes you happier nor more stable. In other words, economic gain with a cultural loss is a net loss.
The movies Udta Punjab and Sultan look complementary to me. One shows that the weakening of the human spirit has led to the drug tragedy in Punjab, and the other shows that if the human spirit is alive, then anything can be achieved and life becomes worthwhile. The weakening of the human spirit makes us weaker and more vulnerable to ailments such as drugs.
The question is: why has the Punjabi spirit become weak? I have my theory about this and I want to share it with my readers. I feel that the Jatts are the leading community in Punjab and they set the pace for Punjabi culture, values and way of life. The Jatts of Punjab are unique and different than any other community because they were brought into the Indian mainstream by the Sikh religion, whereas the other communities had already become part of the Indian mainstream before the origin of the Sikh religion. Therefore, the complete identity of Jatts of Punjab is Jatt-Sikh. Without the Sikh identity, they become incomplete. As long as the Sikh part in this equation of Jatt-Sikh remained dominant, the community made tremendous and almost unparalleled progress. Unfortunately, the reverse can also be true. If the Sikh part in this equation becomes recessive, then the community risks losing all of the gains it made. It will not be only this community, but the whole of Punjab and all Punjabis will suffer. A great Punjabi scholar, Professor Puran Singh, wrote that Punjab is alive because of the teachings of the Sikh Gurus: “Punjab jionda Guran de naa te.”A
Dr. Sawraj Singh, MD F.I.C.S. is the Chairman of the Washington State Network for Human Rights and Chairman of the Central Washington Coalition for Social Justice. He can be reached at email@example.com.