July 30, 2014

The Dummy's Guide to Being Punjabi (according to Bollywood)

Have you always wanted to be Punjabi? Were you born into one of those communities that frowns upon alcohol, dancing and being an idiot? There's no need to worry. Bollywood has been taking it upon itself to show you -one movie at a time- how to be Punjabi. Because if there's one thing we can rely on, it's Bollywood's penchant for accurate depictions of communities.

Baby I was born to run... Through sarson ke khet.

To be a Punjabi...

You must have one of each of the following:
1. Bebe (n., bay-bay): A grandmother, white haired and frail, but energetic and happy. White attire (on account of widowhood) is optional but preferred. In recent times, bonus points if she makes sly jokes with double entendres. Her role in your life is to tell you, "Sab theek hi hona hai" and "Kinna kamzor ho gaya hai"... and to state the obvious (e.g. "Beta, main vi teri bebe hoon.")

2. Veerji (n., veer-jee): An elder brother, but only if you're female. (If you're a guy, you need a sister who ties her hair in a braid and wears a salwar-kurta.) Your veerji exists to protect you no matter what (never mind if you don't need protecting), to be the first guy to lose his temper at any occasion and to finally somehow help your boyfriend in becoming your husband.

3. Bauji (n., bow-jee): Your father, who wears a turban and looks formidable, until one day he loses it and starts dancing in a song (usually when we're 80% through the movie).

4. A home in/around Patiala / Ludhiana / Jalandhar / other such town: Always, always, always with a farm of your own, which is attached to it (farm ideally grows sarson or wheat). Which brings us to...

5. A tractor: Preferably red in color, seats 2 or 4, can be driven by anyone, even if they've never seen a tractor, and useful for driving through the farms.

6. If you don't have 4. or 5. above, a palatial house in London or New York and also a terrible aching for the motherland: Because otherwise how will your kids (who are usually the leads) have a crisis in the plot line?

You must know all of the below:
1. Bhangra (n., bhung-daa): A folk dance where you put both arms up in the air, then down, then up, then down... And do the same motion every now and then with alternate legs. To be done whenever anything good happens. Sister gets engaged? Bhangra! Jaswinder visiting from London? Bhangra! Mummyji ne kheer banayi? Bhangra!

2. How to use a hand pump: If you're a woman, you wear a salwar kurta and put a steel bucket under it in the morning. If you're a sexy woman, you wear a salwar kurta and your dupatta slides while you put a steel bucket under it in the morning. If you're a man, you want to rip it out of the ground.

3. Singing in Punjabi (even if you grew up in the US of A): Because we all know that the true hallmark of Punjabiness is being able to sing a song which is at least half Punjabi, no matter if you've sported a thick accent until then.

You must possess all the following qualities:
1. Never being able to control your emotions: Let the joy, anger, tears, jealousy, revenge, just flow. In real life that shit can get you into deep trouble. In reel life, it makes for the best masala.

2. Forgiving at the drop of a hat: Blanket forgiveness, along with kindly smile. Practise your *complete bliss* face and be prepared to do it immediately after the bhangra.

3. Falling in love at first sight, often in a rather creepy manner: As in, "Tujh mein rab dikhta hai". This is the Indian version of Call Me Maybe, and it basically goes,
Hey I just met you
And this is crazy
But here's a ring,
Put it on baby.
It's hard to look past
Your superficial beauty,
So here's a mangalsutra,
And call me your pati. 
4. Being very rich (if you're from a city) or very poor (if you're from a village): Your family's ethics are inversely proportional to their money, but yours are always spot on (commendable when a really twisted family produces an offspring that burps rainbows).

5. Mentioning you're Punjabi: This is critical. If you cannot wear a turban, you must sport an accent or just say it out loud in the first few minutes of meeting anyone, "Ludhiane se." (Note: Saying Ludhiane, and not Ludhiana, is what makes you bona fide Punjabi). If all else fails, next time you're singing a song, make sure it has the words "Balle balle" or "Shava shava" thrown in so people know.

And finally, a short dictionary of the critical words:
A is for aaho. This is how Punjabis say yes.
B is for bebe. This is the woman who makes lassi.
B is also for balle balle, which is what you say in songs and when you're happy and when you want people to know you're Punjabi.
C is for Canaydda, where you go before you establish yourself in the US of A.
D is for dhol, the instrument that makes you get your bhangra on.
E is for enu, eda, ede and other words that are basically variations of pronouns. Advanced level.
F is for fukrey, which is what all guys are before they find the love of their life.
G is for gaddi, the vehicle you drive and often coax a girl to get into (even when it's a tractor... especially when it's a tractor).
H is for hun, another word for now.
I is for inna, another way of saying itna.
J is for Jaspreet, Jaswinder, Jaspinder, Jaswant and various other names that may or may not be unisex.
K is for kudiye, which is what a Punjabi guy calls you if you're a girl. Only this and sohniye and acceptable forms of address.
K is also for khasma-nu-khaaye, roughly translated to eat-your-spouse, which constitutes generic mild cussing.
L is for lassi, a magic elixir served in foot-high glasses which makes you even more Punjabi than you are.
M is for mundeya, which is how you address all single men if you're an older person, or if you're his girlfriend singing to him.
N is for naal, as in, along with.
O is for oye! and oho! and o-teri!, generic exclamations which occur to you at least five times a day.
P is for pind, which is where you have your home and farm and tractor.
Q is for qaaynaat, the whole wide world. Not technically Punjabi but to be used whenever you're feeling poetic (i.e. everyday).
R is for rab, or God, whom you invoke regularly (rab de vaaste, rab di mehr, rab jaane and of course the most bizarre tujh mein rab dikhta hai)
S is for sarson, which covers 90% of the land mass in Punjab.
S is also for sohneya and sohniye, which is what you call a good-looking male / female of the species in Punjabi.
T is for twadda, which is not slang from the underground, but just means yours. Being Punjabi, you only use this is the context of my heart being twadda, my life being twadda, yada yada.
U is for utthe, as in 'right there'.
V is for vich, as in, within.
W is for whisky, which you love.
Y is for yaar, which is what everyone is after two drinks.
Z is for Zorawar, which is what your grandfather or the sarpanch of your pind is called.