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Being Punjabi In A Foreign Land

Phaji kiven ho?’ (How are you, brother?). Undoubtedly this three-word sentence is very common among ‘Punjabis’ to greet in Punjab and City Beautiful but it virtually ‘shocks’ when you see a Chinese or a foreigner saying the line to welcome you (a Punjabi) in Winnipeg (Canada), where the number of Indian population is just a few thousand.

Firstly, I didn’t believe my ears when Shan, a Chinese salesman, serving in a renowned multinational company, dealing in household items, spoke the most common Punjabi line to welcome us (I was accompanied by my wife and family of my pal, Deepak Kalsi who is also a Punjabi) in his store. “What you said”, I asked Shan to be doubly sure whether he spoke Punjabi, or I heard something else. With a big smile, Shan continued: “Theek thaak ho”. Indubitably, those were his salesman skills to speak with a customer in the latter’s native language but the two lines in Punjabi were enough for us to establish a quick rapport with the foreigner. Kevin, another salesman in a car dealership, also managed to attract all our attention with his, ‘hor phaji’ (what’s up), greeting style. ‘How do you know that we are ‘Punjabis’ was my curious probe to this foreigner and his reply certainly made us very proud. “Punjabis can be easily recognized by their appearance and gestures. They are known to be large-hearted people and spend lavishly on swanky cars and classy houses, here. I am learning more Punjabi words as I feel that my profession demands it, you know,” Kevin asserted.

The impact of Indians/Punjabis in Winnipeg was witnessed again when I was strolling in a local market lane of Osborne (where I live), the favourite place of youngsters for hanging out. A hippy-like youngster, having a large-sized cigarette in his hand and snake tattoos on his biceps, approached me, making me think that he would ask for light. He wished me good evening first and before I could react, he left me amazed with his sentence: “Samay bematlab hai bro” (Time is useless brother) and vanished.

No matter where you are in the world, you will always find Punjabis grace their presence!

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