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.