What’s so special about Baisakhi? After all spring harvest festivals aren’t unique to Punjab, the rest of the country has its own regional new year celebrations to take care of. Well, to begin with, this is when it all began. It’s the day the Khalsa was founded, back in 1699, which doesn’t sound very long ago when pitched against other, older religions. But which is of extreme importance to the Sikhs as the birth of their own clan. It’s the day, you get it? And it’s here, April 13.
Admittedly, Udta Punjab has altered the reputation of the state, maybe irreversibly. On one hand it has embarrassed a whole bunch of Punjabis. “The film makes it seem like we don’t even talk, like instead of dialogue we just exchange long lines of curses!” they exclaim. On the other hand it has piqued our interest. Hang on, who knew there were so many people getting opiummed out in the sarson fields of Simran and Raj?
I’ve been contemplating a visit there myself. But I suspect it isn’t going to be a walk in the park. So I called up all the Punjabi friends I could muster on my Whatsapp list and compiled some real good advice for us novices with wild travel plans. Read on before you book that ticket!
- First of all, know that you will inevitably come across a wedding somewhere in Punjab. Second of all, please avoid gatecrashing it, as tempting as it may seem with all the expensive whiskey on the house. You don’t want to get your head blown off your body by a drunk uncle ji. Apparently it’s a routine thing!
- Don’t get confused when you encounter gothic gargoyles leading into Sanjay Leela Bhansali style ornate staircases. This is called Punjabi architecture. With buffaloes and BMWs parked outside. And dentists and engineers chilling inside. Which is known as Punjabi culture.
- Bizarre water tanks, if you don’t already know about them, are all the rage. It’s the ultimate manifestation of the resident patriarch’s creative instincts. Look out for eagles, tractors, footballs and roosters propped large over lavish homes. You can even expect tanks up there, as in tanks of the war fame. Boom boom types.
- Don’t go prancing in the saffron fields, even if you’re just looking to score. It makes the locals wonder if you’re off your rocker. Or if you’re pumping syringes into your veins. Also, those plants prick (you might even acquire newfound respect for Kajol).
- Butter chicken is delicious. Especially in Ludhiana, regardless of what Pankaj Mishra says. But even better is the Amritsari fish, which is thankfully found in most towns besides Amritsar as well.
- It’s rude to not finish your lassi. And to not accept the 18th paratha on your plate. Stuff it down please, the lady of the house will beam with joy.
- Of course, you can’t be in a place like Chandigarh and not looking out for cheap liquor. But being Baisakhi, there’s something more novel on offer and it’s much healthier. Sugarcane juice fresh from the fields. Ever tried it? Ever tried it spiked with vodka? (Do it at your own risk. And away from the fields!)
Image Credit: Nikhil Mudaliar