As I walk into the living room, my uncle (who stays in the USA) looks at me and says “Hor penji Kiddan?”, which essentially translates to, “hey girl, how are you doing?”.
I sheepishly respond by saying “Theek thaak”. The problem with this whole scenario is that while I understood what he said to me, I didn’t have as dramatic a Punjabi response for him as I’d have liked.
Having grown up in a quintessentially Delhi Punjabi household, I have always been surrounded by grandparents who spoke to each other in Punjabi.
My conversations with them would often be a mix of Hindi, English and bit of Punjabi thrown in (which I’ve picked up from them). However, I was never taught to speak in Punjabi in the traditional sense.
Unlike in Bengali, Tamilian, Gujarati etc speaking households where everyone from grandparents to the 5 year olds speak in their mother tongues, Punjabi kids are rendered clueless. Whenever it comes to conversing, we kids resort to English or Hindi.
The Punjabi Paradox
The irony, however, is that this very lot, which is seemingly aloof of the vernacular, is wildly indulgent of Punjabi music. Perhaps the majority of our Punjabi vocabulary comes from Honey Singh, Badshah, Gurdaas Mann and now even Guru Randhawa.
On the one hand, speaking one fluent sentence in Punjabi during a conversation becomes close to impossible, but on the other hand, mouthing a fast-paced Punjabi rap is a cakewalk.
I have attempted to understand this dichotomy. Perhaps the one observation that is highlighted is that no one (cue: our parents) ever spoke to us in Punjabi during our formative years.
Not to entirely put the blame on them, but we never woke up to a “Kiddan” or a “Tera prah kithe hai”. When questioned, their go-to response is “our parents also never spoke to us in Punjabi”.
To be fair, that argument also holds true. While my father speaks impeccable Punjabi, my mom falls behind a little.
When you come to think of it, this lack of conversational knowledge, with respect to Punjabi has led to a feeling of shyness. A feeling where we shy away from something that is such a major part of our identity.
As a Delhi-born Punjabi, I’d like to have a code language. The Maharashtrians have Marathi, Bengalis have Bangla, Keralites have Malayalam.
I’d like to believe that it’s not too late for me to start talking in Punjabi, but can I go beyond, ‘Lambhergini chalaye janne ho’? That perhaps, only time will tell.
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