Is there a bit of Punjabi inside you?

A break from the norm of L&D type posts brings me to wanting to write about my culture. Sparked by some bhangra being played on my way into work this morning! It’s important to immediately clarify that there is a difference between being Sikh, and being Punjabi. Already confused? Sikhi is a religion, and as some of you will know, I am Sikh. Those who practise Sikhi, have defining characteristics such as the clothes they wear, and typically look something like this:

I, clearly, am not a practising Sikh. I hope to be some day, though.

Being Punjabi, though, is quite different. Punjab is a state in North India, with borders on Pakistan, close to the Himalayas and has a population of approximately 80 million.

Historically, Sikhi originated in the Punjab area, and as such many Sikhs are Punjabi. However, being a Punjabi, doesn’t mean you are Sikh. Those living in Punjab are also Hindu, Muslim and Christian. So, the commonality they share is the Punjabi identity.

I want to give you some insight into what it means to me to be Punjabi.

The music. Bhangra. That’s what it’s all about. Traditional bhangra is played on simple instruments such as a tumbi or a dhol. And there’s normally someone who will sing lyrics. The lyrics are normally meant to be quite tongue in cheek, taking a poke at Punjabi stereotypes, and also often about wooing a girl. Lyrics aside, for me, it’s the rhythm produced from the instruments that I love. You grow up learning how to dance to the music, your social circle encourage it, at parties everyone’s doing it, and it’s contagious! Not many artists have managed to break into UK mainstream music except for Punjabi MC, with Mundian To Bach Ke. Since then there have been others, but not in such a big way. Anyway, every time I hear a good bhangra song, I want to dance. It’s dangerous when sitting at my desk when listening to a good song as I’ll be mentally bopping away, trying to refrain from physically doing the same, and trying not to look like I have ants in my pants.

The food. I love Punjabi cuisine. It is awesome! Every part of India has a different style of cooking. Sure they’re all spicy, but they tend to have very different consistencies. Typical Punjabi food tends to be quite thick and/or creamy if it’s curry based, quite dry if it’s meat, and quite spicy if it’s vegetarian. You may recognise saag, tandoori chicken or matar paneer. MMMmmm… A very traditional meal for families on Sunday’s is to have parathas… oh mama. These things can fill you up for a day.

The culture. Punjabi’s are a very social people. Everything is about socialising and needing an excuse to socialise. That’s why parties are so big, not because we know that many people, but because we love being social. Sure there might be alcohol free flowing, but that’s more of a gradual happening over time. It’s all about throwing a big bash to show off how well you can socialise. Cynicism aside, it creates for a wonderful atmosphere where everyone mucks in and enjoys themselves. Even if it’s a home dinner, you can expect 3-4 different families. And in some cases this is a weekly affair!

And those three things are at the heart of why I love being Punjabi. I’ve talked specifically about Punjab here. This isn’t to say the other states in India are vastly different, it’s akin to describing why those from North England differ from those in the Home Counties to those in London to those in West Country.

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>You’re a xenophobe, admit it

>I was reminded today about the importance of getting names right. But not only getting names right, being able to look at a name and get an immediate sense of that person’s potential nationality, culture and often their religion.

I’ve been fortunate in the many temp jobs I did while at uni that I was exposed to a lot of people who were from a variety of backgrounds. I also worked in different NHS offices for a time which exposed me to the myriad of names and cultures that came into contact with the NHS. The biggest thing this taught me was the importance of getting names right.
I have never shied away from trying to pronounce a name that was new to me. I’ve always wanted to get it right. And I’ve always wanted to find out more about names – what they mean, where they come from, what culture they are from, and then further questions about the person and their background. It’s one of the things I love about my job. I come into contact with such a variety of people, that understanding names makes interacting with others so much easier.
A lot of names can tell you what nationality a person is, what religion they are part of and in most cases what sex that person is. Indian names for example present all this information in their name. For example, Akshay Kumar is a boy’s name (Akshay), most likely Hindu, most likely Indian (Kumar). Asma Begum is a girl’s name (Asma), most likely Muslim, most likely Bangladeshi (Begum). Anthony McDonald is a boy’s name (Anthony), most likely Christian, most likely Scottish (McDonald). I can tell these things partly because I am Indian but mainly because I have seen and met enough people to notice these things and learn about them.
And trust me, I have had countless versions of my name used and abused – Suhki, Suki, Sucki, Suk, Pabla, Pabila, Pabail, to name just a few. All wrong. I’ve learned to accept that a lot of people are just that thick. I will tell people if they’re consistently making a mistake how my name should be spelled or pronounced.
What pisses me off is when others don’t bother. And I have met far too many people who just haven’t bothered getting names right. They’ll make assumptions about how a name is said, think they’re right and confidently say a name wrong. What complete fucknuts (pardon my language but it really does anger me). And, AND, when told they are saying it wrong, and they are corrected, they still believe they are right.
This doesn’t relate to professionalism or political correctness or diversity or any other unrelated adjective. It’s about courtesy. Plain and simple. It’s horrendous that people are either that ignorant, arrogant, careless, thoughtless and/or rude that they don’t take the time to address someone correctly. Do us all a favour. Admit you’re a xenophobe. Then try and say names right.