My heartfelt tribute for the hearty Sardarji

As per available data points, the majority of the world’s 26 million-odd Sikhs live in India. While the demographic contribution to the headcount is less than 2%, the impact is sincerely more

Shivaji Dasgupta
08 Nov 2022
My heartfelt tribute for the hearty Sardarji

Kolkata: On November 8, the birthday of Guru Nanak, a tribute to the Sardarji is surely in order. A community with both significance and sincerity of influence, that is a valuable benchmark for every emerging Indian.

As per available data points, the majority of the world’s 26 million-odd Sikhs live in India. While the demographic contribution to the headcount is less than 2%, the impact is sincerely more, and that surely has been experienced by most Indians. What’s most startling is the width of involvement in society, applicable to gravity and levity in equal proportions, from inspirational Maharajas ( Patiala), and pioneering Air Marshals (Arjan Singh) to domineering rap music.

But, as a minor growing up in Calcutta, the ubiquitous symbol of the community was indeed the taxi driver, trustworthy and formidable. We were trained to look out for the Sardarji-navigated Ambassador on hire, for that was indeed a guarantee of assured fulfilment. Integrity is a formidable stock-in-trade, and thus safety is a foregone outcome.

As we grew older, the delights of the dhaba cuisine were too exquisite to refute. The outpost at Ballygunge Phari, where the chicken butter masala (egg-embellished) was as silken as Amul butter, while the egg tarka was a presentable illustration of organised chaos. Much before the tigers of Punjab (Sher-E-Punjab) took over the culinary firmament, in tandem with the timeless Balwant Singh, the de facto epitome of the Santkutia Gurudwara. When I eventually travelled to Amritsar, the revelation was totally complete, as everything from the langar feast to the vegetarian ensemble and the fried fish tasted utterly divine.

As I grew older with a clutch of friends from the community, their zest for living became totally addictive. From the mellifluous Patiala Peg, born out of a glorious legend, to a certain undefinable celebratory zest, it was quite effortless to be remarkably influenced, as the sentiments were pan-human and not religion specific.

A feeling that comes to life splendidly in the Golden Temple itself, which to my limited but spellbound sensitivities, is a universal celebration of brotherhood.

Over time, with the proliferation of the internet, we heard many tales of how the community conducts free kitchens across the world, wherever a crisis seems to occur.

In fact, the Sardarji with the headgear became an easy marker for Indian identity, from the Commando Comics to international film productions, leaving no room for facial ambiguities. During the emerging years in Calcutta, we were flummoxed how scorers in football, like Inder Singh and Harjinder Singh, could head the ball given the routine appendage, till we were reliably assured by a knowing elder that headers were indeed a function of the dynamic forehead.

In the context of such effortless chemistry, the riots of 1984 does not make any sense, nor does the separatist movement that preceded it, clearly, the rapid dissolution of the latter proves its ill-informed origins. Attempts at resurrection are destined to fail equally hastily, as in 2022 India is certainly far better equipped to handle the stray dissidents naughtily aided by chirpy neighbours.

As felt by all, most certainly, the inclusive-exclusive nature of the Sardarji makes him most inspirational - a tight set of traditional values breaking bread with a demonstrable lust for fulfilling living. Well rooted in a proven foundation of physical well-being, bullish nationalism and a cultural ethos spanning both music and dance. All of the above are sufficiently neutral to welcome all from every other community, to discover their chosen meanings from the association, as best exemplified by the gurdwara experience.

On this and every other day, it is worthwhile for every significant other to get suitably inspired by the ubiquitous Sardarji, an omnipresent and deeply significant member of many modern societies, across the globe. Lest you think I forgot, the Sardarni too demonstrates much of these qualities including a few other unique traits, but that discussion may well be left for another innings.

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