LUDHIANA - Punjab, India: Part 2
We both had fun imagining what life probably would have been like had we been born and bred in the pind. But we're valaiti, i.e. foreigners, born and raised in London; maybe that's why it’s so easy for us to enjoy an innocent game of ‘make-believe’.
We casually stroll past the lush green fields - our silver anklets tinkling - on our way to collect water from the well in our clay pitchers. The cool morning breeze flirts with the chunniyan draped around our necks. After engaging in a brief banter with other women at the well (discussing the latest village scandal and admiring/envying the jewellery of Preeto’s daughter-in-law) , we head back home - but not after we take a quick rest under the shade of the pippal tree.
It’s here we start a conversation about our prospective marriages (ideal husbands, how many kids etc) when two strapping young Gabhrus (Punjabi Lads) catch our gaze. Our families know one another already, and we know the two young men to be absolute gentlemen: respectful and kind. Their respective moustaches are on point. The sleeves of their kurte/tunics are rolled up to the forearms. Their puggha (turbans) co-incidentally match our own salwar kameez. They are on their way to toil in their respective labours - Jatt/Tharkhan…we have no care for the caste system. Our elders on the other hand have a whole different opinion on this matter, obviously.
We have butterflies in our stomach. Is this what they call love? Perhaps, but we have no time to think about such a profound and mysterious matter; so, we casually adjust our chunniyan and straighten our kameezan to head on back home. The pitchers full of water rest gently on our hips. The blaze of the morning sun beats down on our backs. We wipe a trickle of sweat off our upper lips with the end corner of our chunniyan. Eventually, the dusty soiled earth beneath our leather slippers leads us to the open gate at the entrance of our home. We are welcomed to the warm aroma of fresh rotiyan proudly puffing up on an iron tavaa, which heats over the amber flames of charred, smoked paathiyaan (cow dung patties).
This is the kind of stuff Punjabi love stories are made of - eat thy heart out Shakespeare!
Although, this isn’t really how we’d live our lives: Sukhman wouldn’t be awake before the crack of dawn to fetch water, no way. She’d be having a lie-in. Plus, she wouldn’t wear flat leather shoes, because she’s got plantar fasciitis. Hernoor wouldn’t be envious of Preeto’s daughter-in-law’s jewellery because she has her own collection of enviable jewellery pieces. She also wouldn’t take a rest under the shade of a tree, ‘cos she’s a hardcorde fitness freak so she’d probably be toning her arms/abs or working on her glutes instead.
On a serious note though: is this what pind/village life would have been like for us, had our Nanna Ji (Maternal Grandfather) not moved to London in the 1960s? Rab Jaane/God only knows.
We asked some of the residents of the village if they’d ever visited London, and if so, would they trade places with us to live the valaitee/foreign life? Two of the young boys, who had been to London, surprised us with their answer. They said they were happy with their village life, because everything is too fast-paced in London and they’d miss the freedom of driving leisurely around the village on their scooters. Fair point.